The Spring Troll
A Concerned Parent
Day after day Alffina did her chores early, and as quickly as she could, so she would be able to hurry down to the river to listen to the wonderfully fantastic stories that the Troll Sirik recited to her. Each and every story that he told her seemed more incredible than the last, and unlike the tales that Father Lefvini read from the scriptures, these Eddas spoke to her through the Gods and the people of their Northern lands, and not those of a desert people whose names and customs were not those of her folk.
Along with the sweet root tea, and delicious honey biscuits, Alffina learned how Loki tricked Hodr, the brother of Balder, into killing the ' Shining One ' with a wooden dart made out of the fragile plant mistletoe, which as it turned out was the only thing in all the nine worlds that Frigga, Balder's mother, had not gotten a pledge from not to hurt her fair son. Sirik then recounted how Balder's death would lead to the end time known as Ragnarok, when many of the Old Gods would be killed. The Troll skald imparted to her what he knew of how Surtr, the great Fire Giant, would paint the skies red with flames, and how Odin would be killed by Fenrir, the great wolf beast. He carefully explained how Odin's son, Vidar, would avenge the All - Father's death by killing the wolf, while Thor would kill the Midgard Serpent named Jormugand, but die after taking just nine steps backward from the serpent's poison.
Seeing a look of concern on Alffina's face, Sirik assured her that these events would not happen for quite some time, and that her people would find shelter in Hoddmimir's wood in the form of a man and a woman named Lif and Lifthrasir. These two remaining humans would repopulate the world of Midgard, which would then be ruled over by the returning Gods Balder and Hodr, and the sons of Odin, Vidar and Vali, and Thor's sons Magni and Modi.
Alffina was fascinated by the Gods of Asgard and Vanaheim. Sirik described each one in great detail and told her their place in the Asgardian hierarchy. She was especially intrigued by Odin's ability to shape - change into serpents and eagles, and how he from time to time would journey to Midgard to wander among his children in the guise of a weary traveler. She gasped in horror, however, when the Troll told her that Odin could awaken the dead with powerful spells and speak to them.
The stories Sirik taught Alffina were so real and inspiring that she actually became jealous of Thjalfi and Roskva, who were taken by Thor as servants after Thjalfi accidentally hobbled his goat. She pouted and threatened to leave if she too could not join the farmer's children on Thor's journeys.
Of course this tantrum lasted only as long as the next story. This tale was about the beautiful Vanir Goddess Freyja, who could mesmerize men, Dwarves, and Gods, with her great beauty, or kill them just as quickly with her powerful magic called seidr. Alffina giggled and clapped her hands with joy when she learned that Freyja rode through the skies in a golden cart pulled by felines. And she laughed even harder when she heard that Thor sometimes traveled in a cart pulled by goats named Tanngrisnir ( Teeth - barer ), and Tanngnjostr ( Teeth - Grinder ).
Alffina was as frightened about Niflheim as she was enchanted by the female Goddesses. The images of Hel, as both half alive and half dead, with pale flesh covering only half of her body, while her skeleton showed through the other, gave her nightmares. And the thoughts of beasts such as Garm, and Nidhoggr, did nothing to improve her sleep habits either. What terrified her most, however, were the tales about where people who broke oaths, or murdered, were sent. This horrid place, Sirik told her, was called Nastrond. Here, in a filthy hall, with serpents woven together to form a roof, was where Nidhoggr sucked on the corpses of people who had committed the most heinous of crimes. And it was here that the great wolf tears men to shreds everyday for eternity. The thought of such a place made her shiver.
As time went by Sirik began to tell his stories faster and faster, and he made Alffina stay later and later. When Alffina asked why, the Troll answered her honestly :
" I am a Spring Troll and cannot tolerate the ill effects of Sunna's awesome power. Therefore, soon, ....very soon, I will have to retreat into the earth below to shield myself from her shining face. " he explained to her.
Alffina responded with a sad pout.
" Are you really going to leave me ? " she asked.
Sirik smiled and patted the child gently on the head.
" Do not fret so little one ! I will come back next spring ! " he assured her.
At first Elina was unconcerned with her daughter's sudden willingness to do her chores in a timely manner. A child of her young age wanted nothing more from life than to go out and play with friends, or enjoy the pleasures of enjoying the warm sunshine that all too often did not last as long as one hoped here in Scandinavia. Even during the toughest years, Elina convinced herself, a little girl had the right to simply be a little girl.
Slowly things began to change, however, and over time her parents noticed that Alffina seemed to be weighed down with a great burden. Often she appeared to be in deep thought, and her happiness seemed to be cloaked in a fog of uncertainty. Instead of the innocent carefree child that she had always been, Alffina appeared much like an adult who was trying desperately to work through a deep philosophical question.
Then one day, while helping to bring in some firewood, Alffina asked her mother a startling question.
" Mother, why doesn't anyone speak of the old Gods any more ? " she asked innocently enough.
Elina stopped dead in her tracks, and dropped the firewood she was carrying. Quickly she rushed over to Alffina and knelt down on one knee. With a look that could only be described as deep concern etched upon her face Elina grabbed her daughter by the shoulders and shook her.
" What do you know of the Old Gods ! ? " Elina asked hurriedly.
Alffina was confused by her mother's sudden outburst, and out of fear every muscle in her body tensed up.
" I know that Odin and his brothers killed the Giant Ymir, and used his body to form Midgard, and his blood to make the lakes and oceans,.... and I know that Balder's death will mark the beginning of the first of three fimbulvetrs which will signal the start of Ragnarok, ..... and I know that there are, .. oh,... I think about fifty Gods and Goddesses. " she replied nervously.
Then before her mother could speak she added quickly :
" Would you like me to name them ? " Alffina asked .
Elina's eyes widened, and her mouth hung open for a moment, before she was finally able to speak.
" No ! I most certainly would not ! " she blurted out.
" It is blasphemy to speak of the Old Gods,.... an act of treachery against our God, Jesus Christ, and our church ! " she explained to her daughter.
Alffina was not exactly sure what all that meant, but she knew that her mother was not happy with her. As tears filled her eyes she dropped the wood she was still holding and hugged her mom.
" Why mommy ?! " I don't understand ! Why is it wrong to talk about the Old Gods ? " she asked, not knowing why her mother was so angry.
Elina wrapped her arms around her daughter and held her tightly for a moment before pushing her away at arms length. As she wiped the tears off of her daughter's face she answered Alffina's question in a calmer voice.
" The Catholic Church does not take kindly to those who speak of the Old Gods. They brand them as heretics,... or even worse,.... as witches ! And that is why we must not speak of such things. " she explained.
Elina kissed her daughter on the cheek, and then frowned before asking :
" Where did you hear of such tales ? Did you hear the warriors speaking of the Old Gods ? " she asked her daughter anxiously.
Elina was surprised when Alffina, who was very sad only a moment before, suddenly smiled.
" No ! It was a Troll named Sirik who taught me about the Old Gods ! " she told her mother.
Elina was stunned by her daughter's revelations. She knew that Alffina had an active imagination, but her daughter had never let her fantasies get out of control before. With a sarcastic smirk on her face Elina asked :
" And where did you see this Troll ? "
Alffina sensed that her mother did not believe her, and it made her pout become etched deeper into her face before she answered.
" He lives under the bridge, down by the river, and he gives me root tea, and honey biscuits, while he tells me stories about the Gods. " she replied warily.
Elina shook her head from side to side out of sheer disgust. She did not want to discourage her daughter from having the fantasies of a child, but these were dangerous illusions, which, if heard by the wrong people, could get her daughter into a lot of trouble with the church. With that in mind she shook her finger at her daughter.
" Tomorrow I want you to take me to see your Troll friend, and I will show you that he does not exist ! " she told her daughter.
As she began to pick up the wood that she and her daughter had dropped Elina added :
" Tomorrow is the Summer Solstice, and I will not have this nonsense going on when there are fields to tend to, and crops to harvest ! " she told her daughter in an annoyed tone.
- End Chapter 6
- Next : Chapter 7 : Father Lefvini Hears A Rumour
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.