Of Trolls and Men

Standing off the shores in the cold arctic waters of Iceland are the stone remnants of two trolls, locked forever in basalt.

Some centuries ago, amongst the faint glow of starlight, these two trolls spotted a ship sailing off the coast of the black sand beach, Reynisfjara. Standing upon the smooth stones left from the chaos of temperamental lava flow losing its war against the frigid waters, the trolls eyed the vast sails of an old fisherman’s trawler bulging from the rush of the wind.  

It rolled up and down along the waves, passing the trolls resting outside their home at Reynisfjall as they skimmed volcanic stones across the tidal waters to pass the time. Trolls, you may not know, were exceptional at seeing through the dark of night, far better than any person could imagine. And as the waves continued to carry the trawler, the trolls could see, even from a distance, that the ship sat low in the water, its belly filled with a most prosperous catch.

Hungry from their slumber and irritated by the fortunes of others, the trolls hatched a plan to wade into the waters with the dark of night as their cover. The two would use their fearsome might to drag the ship across the open water, men and fish alike, for a feast like no other they had shared. It had been a hard winter. They were hungry and no man or amphibian should be spared from their attempt to satiate their desires.

Eyeing the stars, the trolls could see the constellations moving faster than they would care to acknowledge, the dim light of darkness in which deeds such as this belong was dwindling, and the sun would be breaking over the horizon in too soon a time. Trolls, if you are unaware, cannot abide the light of day and are cast forever in stone should they make the mistake of letting the sun find a home on their skin.

Now, as it was, after little debate, the two trolls declared the reward to be far greater than the threat and cast aside their worries as they waded into the turbulent waters off the shores of Reynisfjara. The two had waded many a time into the sea before, eyeing whales and seals alike, finding success at catching each. But this night, the water was agonizingly turbulent; the waves rolled in hard under their feet, eroding the ground beneath them as they sunk and slid their way into the water. They shared a glance of frustration, but neither spoke of the dangers this could cause. The men of the ship would not go lightly, and if the sea worked against them as well, it would take twice as long as they had anticipated to drag it back to shore.

Wading deeper into the water, the trolls pushed forward, undeterred and unwilling to acknowledge the risk as their troubles mounted. The seas became more restless as a black sheet was laid across the skies, and a torrent of rain began to fall upon them. Sparks of light lit the waves around the ship as the concussive force of mother nature erupted around them, the lightning offering a horrific glance into power even greater than theirs. But still, the trolls carried on until they were neck-deep, and staring longingly at the ship as it bobbed up and down over the waves, heading right toward them.

They took their place to each side and readied themselves to leap up and grab hold of the deck. Their arms held the strength of mountains and could lay waste to a horde of men without so much as making a full effort. Waiting for the ship to crest a wave, the trolls lurched out of the water, snagging it, one at each end, taking the crew by surprise as they had been focused on making their way through the storm.

A cry rang out amongst the sailors as the trolls roared their approval of the fear that gripped the men before them. Fighting against the seas and the persistence of life, the trolls turned the ship toward the shore, heading home to enjoy their feast. They laughed and spoke in their tongue of old, a language unknown to mankind, watching the crew fling themselves into the seas, more willing to take their chances with drowning rather than face the boiling pot of the trolls. It bothered the trolls little, as the sea would often wash to shore the life it refused to take the burden of.

Their laughter and mockery kept their minds occupied as the trolls waded against the raging water, forcing the ship against its rudder and command of the captain who begged for mercy. It was in this merriment that the pair had failed to realize the passing of time and the parting of the clouds. The constellations they depended upon to guide their nightly rituals had faded into the purple hues of an early morning revival of life while the sun broke slowly over the horizon. A mere 100 yards away from the shore, the trolls roared in anguish at their folly. Their howls lasted until the air had left their lungs for eternity. The trolls spoke no more, fighting against the pull of eternity.  

Their feet refused to obey their commands as they began to sink deeper into the sand, frozen in place. They cast their eyes upon each other, then their home once more, for the last time. They were so close, but they would never make it. Never. As the sunlight washed over them, they felt a moment of pure bliss. It lasted but a few seconds, the kiss of an angel turning into the grip of a demon. Their bodies gave way to the curse that beset their kind, and their bodies became stone. Standing tall, and facing their homes, the trolls were now monuments, forever at sea, never to return home.

The ship broke apart between the two trolls as the waves cast it back and forth against the stone monuments. The sailors left aboard flung themselves into the frigid arctic waters intent on surviving their fate.

Those who swam faster than the cold could freeze their limbs survived to tell of their tragedy at sea by the hands of the greedy trolls. In time, they would even begin taking weary travelers from all around to show them where they had escaped the grasp of the beasts who dared to challenge the rising of the sun.

Or, so the tale goes.

We can each make of this story what we desire, whether it be the cost of greed, the resistance against nature, or the dangers of the wickedness that pit us against one another. But I’ll let you search your soul for the answers you need in those respects.

What I would like to ask, what the basalt sea stacks left behind by the trolls, slowly eroding by the passage of time and tears of the sea, would compel me to ask is, what will be the story of your stone monument when your time for eternity comes, and who will tell it?

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