On the day the new Capricorn River Bridge was to be dedicated (and paid for), the mayor of the happy little village of Goatville absconded with the money.
The Bailey-Gruff family of trolls had worked over a year on the bridge. Lugger Bailey-Gruff was the architect and brains of the family; his brother Lunker and sister Michelle did most of the heavy lifting. The Capricorn River Bridge was Lugger’s masterpiece. It spanned the deep gorge in a majestic arch of multicolored stone. The villagers loved their new bridge. But how would they pay for it?
“Nobody crosses until it’s paid for,” said Lugger Bailey-Gruff. “You can keep walking the five miles to Sheeptown and cross the bridge there.”
So the goatherds kept walking the five miles to Sheeptown and crossing the bridge there to take their goats to pasture on the opposite side of the river. This went on for some while. Mumbling was heard in the village, and then grumbling, and soon shouting. “How dare those trolls not let us use our bridge!” shouted some. “It’s not ours until we pay for it!” shouted others. It was not the happiest time Goatville had ever known.
Then, one night, Lugger had an idea. A crazy idea. A crazy, genius, unheard-of idea. The next day he told his idea to the new mayor.
“Go ahead and do what you have to do,” said the mayor.
Word spread in the village that on Monday the new bridge would finally be open.
All that weekend Lugger, Lunker and Michelle worked to build a small booth at one end of the bridge.
On Monday, when the first goatherd approached the booth, Lugger stepped out and barred the way. “Stop,” he said. “To cross the bridge you must pay one copper grizzold.”
“I’m not going to pay you,” said the first goatherd.
“Then you cannot cross the bridge,” said Lugger. “Please move aside; a second goatherd is coming behind you.”
“Oh, all right,” said the first goatherd, paying the toll. “But the mayor is going to hear about this.”
“Thank you,” said Lugger.
When the second goatherd approached the booth, Lugger again stepped out and barred the way. “Stop,” he said. “To cross the bridge you must pay one copper grizzold.”
“Fat chance,” said the second goatherd.
“Then you cannot cross the bridge,” said Lugger. “Please move aside; a third goatherd is coming behind you.”
“Fine,” said the second goatherd, paying the toll. “But the mayor is going to hear about this.”
“Thank you,” said Lugger.
When the third goatherd approached the booth, Lugger once more stepped out and barred the way. “Stop,” he said. “To cross the bridge you must pay one copper grizzold.”
“In your dreams, troll,” said the third goatherd.
“Then you cannot cross the bridge,” said Lugger. “Please move aside; a fourth goatherd is coming behind you.”
“Very well,” said the third goatherd, paying the toll. “But the mayor is going to hear about this.”
“Thank you,” said Lugger.
This went on until all twenty-five of the village’s goatherds had crossed the bridge.
As the sun started to set that day, the goatherds began to return. Once again Lugger collected a single copper grizzard from each goatherd. They complained bitterly, but they paid.
Once the goats were settled for the night, the goatherds converged on the mayor’s house. They banged on the door and demanded that he come out. After they had filled his ear, he said, “The old mayor stole the money, but that is not the trolls’ fault. We still owe them for the bridge. Mr. Lugger says we can pay them one day at a time. Once he has the full price, you won’t have to pay any more.” The goatherds returned to their homes, still grumbling.
Back at the booth, Lugger sat counting the coins. He counted them once, then counted them again, then counted them a third time. “There should be fifty coins,” he said. “Each goatherd went across the bridge twice. That’s two grizzolds per goatherd, times twenty-five goatherds, equals fifty grizzolds. But we only have forty-nine grizzolds.”
“We counted twenty-five goatherds in the morning,” said Lunker, “but we didn’t bother counting them coming back.”
“One of them must not have come back!” said Michelle.
They grabbed lanterns and raced out to look for the missing goatherd. Just then a wolf howled. There was a reason the goatherds brought their goats back over the bridge each night. The goatherd and his goats were in great danger!
The trolls ran up and down the gently rolling hills, looking. The howling of the wolves was getting closer.
Just as they were about to give up and go for help, they saw a herd of goats huddled in a circle. When they gently moved the goats aside, they found the goatherd Bert lying on the ground. He had stepped in a hole and broken his ankle. How surprised and relieved he was to see the Bailey-Gruff trolls! Lugger and Michelle lifted him and carried him back to the village. Lunker came behind, driving the goats.
Back in town, Bert’s wife Melinda was getting more and more worried. She was deathly afraid for his safety, not to mention that of the goats. She had gathered the goatherds together and they were about to set out when the Bailey-Gruff trolls walked into town carrying Bert.
When Bert had told his tale, the goatherds saw the trolls in an entirely new light. “We will be happy to pay to cross your bridge!” they said. And now you know how the toll bridge was invented.
The next day was proclaimed “Troll Day,” and there was a great celebration. Lugger and Lunker and Michelle were given crowns to wear, and were presented with a flagon of the village’s best wine (which to be honest wasn’t very good) as well as many goat-wool blankets (which were very good indeed).
Once again the happy little village of Goatville was very happy.
Copyright © 2010-2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.