(just a little story I’ve been working on.)
A troll once lived underneath a bridge, and made its living challenging passers-by into arm wrestling matches for gold coins. The troll would typically jump out and insult the travelers until they got angry enough to take the troll up on its wager.
It happened one day that a paladin was making his way across the troll’s bridge. The troll jumped out and cried, “You there, old man! You’re a washed-up has-been, a shadow of your former self! Prove you’re still a man worth his salt and arm wrestle me, winner gets 20 gold coins!”
But the paladin simply smiled and said, “Good day to you, Troll,” and made his way across the bridge.
First this perplexed the troll. Then it frustrated the troll. Finally, it angered the troll.
When next the paladin crossed the bridge, the troll was ready with far worse insults than before. “You there, old man! Your mother has had so many sailors, she has barnacles! Her bloomers are the most visited site in all the kingdom! Now defend her honor and arm wrestle me, winner gets 20 gold coins!”
“Good day to you, Troll,” said the paladin, as he made his way across the bridge.
The following day when the paladin again crossed the bridge, the troll brought out the strongest insults in its arsenal, insults that would blister the bark off any nearby trees, insults so grave we dare not repeat them here. “Now!” it cried at last, “Arm wrestle me, winner gets 20 gold coins!”
“Good day to you, Troll,” he said.
“WHY WON’T YOU FIGHT MEEEEE?” The troll howled after him.
The paladin stopped, turned about, and fixed the troll with a long and thoughtful gaze. “I don’t believe you wish to hear my answer.”
“Yes! I do! Damn you, I must know why you won’t arm wrestle!”
“It would give me no pleasure to arm wrestle you,” the paladin sighed. “I have the ability to see the truth. I know that you engage people for arm-wrestling matches because, unlike the other trolls, you aren’t any good with riddles; indeed you’re only a passable arm-wrestler at best, but at least it enables you to scrape a few coins together. You’re a disappointment to your mother, under whose bridge you know reside, and to the rest of the trolls. You feel empty, lonesome, and without worth. And, you are down to your last 20 gold coins, and it would grieve me to defeat you and take them from you. That is why I will not fight you. Good day to you, Troll.”
“Ha!” the troll snorted after the paladin. “As if!” But the paladin was already well across the bridge by then.
The next day, as the paladin made to cross the bridge, out jumped the troll. “You are WRONG!” the troll cried. “I just can’t believe how very WRONG you are! You are the wrongest wrong person to ever wrong his way across my bridge! If there were a tournament for wrongness, oh boy, you would be the kingdom champion!”
“Would you like for me to just give you 20 gold coins? I can readily spare it.”
“NO! You stupid, wrong, wrong person! I want you to arm wrestle me, RIGHT NOW!”
The paladin held out his hand, but rather than arm-wrestle the troll, he kissed its hand. And through the paladin’s courtesy, a strange transformation happened. In seconds, the troll had turned into a pretty young princess.
The princess, who up until very recently was a troll, looked upon herself in wonder. “I’m… I’m a princess! At last my life can have meaning and worth! Marry me, good Paladin, and take me away to live in your castle with you!”
“Marry you?” said the paladin. “Heavens no. Troll or princess, you’re still an insufferable, insulting bitch. Good day to you, princess.”
And he made his way across the bridge.