A Troll named Orsk

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Trolls are not well known in Africa yet there is no doubt in my mind that they do exist, together with the Tokoloshe and other spiritual beings of African folklore.

Although my story is set in rural England and took place long, long ago, I was only reminded of the events quite recently.

At eighty-three and a retired engineer, (of sound mind and body might I add,) I was busy clearing out an accumulation of junk in my garage when I found the box that contained what I hope is all that is left of a troll named Orsk and his family.

I admit that my blood ran cold as I remembered crudely carving the trolls strange name on its wooden lid so many years ago.
Born and bred in London the annual highlight of my childhood was undoubtedly spending time with my grandmother in the country. She was no ordinary woman and had spent much of her life in native Scandinavia.

Now living alone, she managed a small cottage in Dorset on the edge of the New Forest. Flaxen haired and as strong as an ox, she pumped water from an artesian well thirty feet below the cottage, cooked food on an open fire, and illuminated her cottage with oil burning lamps.
Apart from her odd way of life, Helga, and that’s what she bade me call her, my Grandmother gave me the kind of complete freedom that an eight year old boy would delight in.

My first holiday with Helga will remain in my memory forever. Grandma met me at Bridport railway station as arranged. I expected to see her in a taxi or other such motor transport. Imagine my surprise when I saw a pony and trap drawn up at the station plus a glamorous looking flaxen haired Grandma, complete with whip and riding breeches, ready to escort me to her cottage in the forest.

After settling me beside her and taking my baggage, together with the fruit cake that my Mom had baked, she took the reigns of the pony in both hands and clicked her tongue, “Gid-up,” she cried. With my heart flying higher than a kite, we took off down the highway. No wonder people stopped and stared open mouthed at us.

Grandma Helga was a sight for sore eyes for the un-initiated.

I was eight years old, my mop of blonde hair matched that of Grandma`s single plait that hung beyond her waistline. Almost before we reached the cottage, my heart had warmed into love and beyond for Helga, my Norwegian Grandmother.

I can`t remember getting into bed that night, but I remember getting up in the morning. A little after five and before the first fingers of light had touched the horizon I heard the sound of chopping wood. Moving the curtains aside I watched the swinging axe and listened to the sound of splitting logs as Helga began her day.

Not fully lingual, Helga gave me instructions almost without using her limited vocabulary.

“You Jeff, pump water.” she would say.

“You Jeff, wash hands.”

“You Jeff, wood on fire.”

Grandma Helga`s cottage was brick built and comfortably roomy. Lounge, kitchen, pantry and two bedrooms. The whitewashed walls were plastered with sepia photographs of bygone days.

Of snowy slopes, toboggan riding kids and old aunties dressed in lace and strings of beads. Uncles with handlebar moustaches and dressed up to the nines and wearing bow ties and top hats graced the chimney-breast.

Pewter mugs lined the shelves, chestnut roasting pans and bed warmers hung from copper nails on every wall. A galaxy of knickknacks lay on every table and kept me enthralled with curiosity each minute of the day.

We spent most of our time outdoors, for there were chickens to be fed, goats to be milked and Korsten the gelding horse to be exercised. To my delight there were no fences or walls to pen me in, the whole forest was open to me.

When bath-time came, and that was not too often, Helga lowered a huge galvanized iron bath from an outside wall and filled it with tepid water.

“Jeffrey,” she would yell. “I make you clean.”

Then she proceeded to scrub me from head to toe. After her treatment I emerged like a butterfly from its chrysalis, my body glowing and my soul warmed by her exuberance.

At bedtime she read me stories from a monster edition of the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales. Enchanted, I listened to her every word. Of fairies, gnomes, goblins and best of all, trolls.

A week went by, and then two, and I knew that it would soon be time for me to head back to my parents in London. The arrival of a postman to my grand-mother`s cottage bearing ill tidings was to change my life forever.

Helga read the telegram several times. I knew something was wrong, very wrong. “What`s happened?” I asked, staring up into her sapphire blue eyes.

No tears appeared in my Grandmothers eyes however. She sat on her haunches until she came level with me. “My Daddy has passed away Jeffrey, and I have to attend his funeral, I have to go away, one maybe two days, perhaps three.”

“To London?” I asked, expectantly.

“To Oslo,” she said quietly.

My heart sank. “But…but that`s miles and miles away.”

“Yes, it is far. You must be very brave and look after my house while I am gone.”

My grandmother explained that she must leave immediately. “I will tell Mr. Hanson my neighbor to come and look after you on my way to the station.”

Devastated, I managed a single nod of my head. There were a thousand questions that I could have asked. Somehow none came to mind.

In minutes flat, Helga had packed a carpetbag and stood at the front door.

“Jeffrey my boy, I must tell you something. Please to listen. Never, never, NEVER open this door at night, not to anyone. This is important, you hear me?”

I thought her request strange, yet sensible enough. I was just a kid after all, and handing me the responsibility of looking after her house more than boosted my ego.

“I understand Helga.” I said smiling bravely.

“Then I go now. Please you be good when I am away, yes?”

“Yes`m.”

I stood glued to the spot for several minutes. Helga`s sudden departure didn`t really sink in until the evening shadows deepened into night and the cottage got dark.

I lit the oil lamps and had intended to cut a slice of bread when I heard someone knocking hard on the front door. Icy fingers ran down my spine. “Who could this be?” I thought, and at the same time remembering that my Grandma had told me never to open the door at nighttime.
Trembling I asked in a quaky voice, “Who is it?”

I was so relieved when the voice at the other side of the door cried out, “It`s all right lad, its you neighbor, Mr. Hanson, I`ve come to see if your alright.”

Throwing the two iron bolts to one side, I opened the door wide and peered into the darkness. No one was there.

Puzzled, I enquired, ”Mr. Hanson, are you there?” Walking a few meters to the cobble stoned driveway I called again, “Mr. Hanson where are you?”

To my utter dismay, the front door of the cottage slammed shut and worse, I heard the iron bolts sliding into the door jam.

I was locked out.

I ran to the door yelling, “Mr. Hanson…Mr.Hanson…open the door…open the door.” Then I thought I heard a chuckle

“That can`t be Mr. Hanson,” I thought. I heard the chuckle again.. A long throaty, rippling with mirth chuckle that I knew couldn`t be coming from the fully-grown, fifty year old farmer that lived next door. More than puzzled, I ran to the window I peered through. My heart raced as I stared at the blazing fire that now burned mysteriously in the hearth.

Next came the sound of splintering wood and the crash of glass. I hammered on the window with my fists. “Mr. Hanson, Mr. Hanson……..please let me in, what are you doing in there?”

More crashing and breaking came from inside the cottage and a chair leg suddenly hurled itself into the fireplace. Mouth open wide I watched the kitchen table being turned over. My porridge bowl and spoon, my cup and saucer smashed noisily onto the floorboards.

“Stop that!” I yelled in alarm. “Stop it, stop it…….please…..”

I was beside myself both with anger and bewilderment. At eight years of age I knew little about life and knew I hadn`t the physical strength to tackle the situation. I did what my Mom and Dad said I must do, and that was to pray. Placing my hands together I knelt beside the window and whispered softly, “Dear God.”

I hadn`t expected a miracle to occur. In fact I didn`t think anything would happen, but it did. In the winking of an eye the noise had stopped. Completely amazed I stood up facing the window. The roaring fire had vanished, the kitchen table layed ready for supper was all intact.
My mouth gaped open. “What the…”

Then all was made clear to me. I remembered Grandma`s bedtime stories. The Brothers Grimm, and their tales of goblins, gnomes and pixies remained very much in my memory, but what was that other fiendish creature that was so full of evil deeds?

I ran to the front door hoping against hope that it would be opened for me. Alas, it was still very firmly closed. Sinking to my knees I began to sob.

Cold and hungry and not really knowing what to do I lay curled up for some time until I heard the bolt at the top of the door spring open and with it, the sound of my name. “Jeffrey…Jeffery…Jeffrey,” it called.

I sat up. “Who`s there?”

“Jeffrey…Jeffrey…Jeffrey.” it chanted again.

I faced the door, “Who`s that?” I enquired.

“Me.” Came the answer I might have expected.

“Who is me?” I asked.

“Orsk.” Came the reply.

“Who?”

“Orsk.”

“Orsk?”

“Yes boy, Orsk…I`m a troll.”

My heart sank. Out of all the creatures imaginable, a troll could only be my very worst nightmare.

“A….a troll?”

“Yes boy………a troll.”

“You are behind the door?”

“Where else would I be?”

I thought carefully and remembered trolls were usually found in soggy marshland and beneath bridges.”

“In a marsh or swamp perhaps?” I ventured.

The chuckling I had heard previously began again. This time in real earnest.

“What`s the matter, why are you laughing?”

“You catch on fast my boy, now where do you think you would rather be, in a swamp or a dirty boggy marsh………….or a large cosy cottage with a fireplace and food in the larder?”

He had a point. “So please Mr. Troll, let me in.” I pleaded.

“Orsk,” he said. “My name is Orsk boy.”

“Mr. Orsk please let me into the cottage, I am tired and hungry.”

“What will you give me if I let you in?” The troll asked.

I thought this a bit strange, after all the cottage was mine. “Give you?” I began, I haven`t anything here to give.”

The troll cackled. “You can give me your clothes boy, that’s all you`ve got.”

“My..my clothes…but…”

“No buts boy, give me your clothes and I will let you in.”

“But its cold out here and besides….”

“Give me your clothes, you must throw them through the window after you have taken them off.”

I was very hesitant at first. The idea of stripping was against all the things I had been taught. Besides which, it was getting cold and it had started to rain.

I tried to persuade the troll with other offers. “Please Orsk, I can give you my cap pistol and caps if you let me in.” I begged.

I heard the familiar sound of tiny explosions coming from behind the door.

“My boy, I have already got those….now off with your clothes if you want to come in.”

Very reluctantly, I stripped down to my underwear, “I have taken my clothes off now Orsk, open the window and I will throw them through.”

Somehow the troll knew that I was not completely bare. “Your shoes my boy, and your socks and…and I see your red underwear.”

Now completely stripped, I called again. “Please, everything is off, open the window.”

Magically, the window at the side of the cottage opened wide and I threw everything I wore that day through the opening.

The window slammed shut as my shoes clattered onto the floorboards. Then the trolls dreadful laughter began. Orsk shrieked with mirth.

I hammered on the door. “You have my clothes now let me in.” I called.

“Ha..ha..ha..hee..hee…hee…ha…ha..ha…hee..hee” Orsk continued his laughter, but the door remained firmly shut.

“Please Orsk, you promised.”

Through his laughter I heard him shout, “Never, never…never…. trust a troll my boy. Never trust a troll.”

Wet through, cold and hungry I curled up into a small ball on the front doorstep and fell fast asleep.

I woke to the sound of a motor car driving up the cobbled path. I decided not to move and act mute. It was Mr. Hanson, the farmer who lived next door to my Grandma.

He greeted me with something like, ”What in the name of goodness are you doing out here with no clothes on boy, you`ll catch your death!”

“What explanation could I give?”

“It`s a troll Sir, he took my clothes and locked me out the cottage and…”

Mr. Hanson roared with laughter. “A what?”

“A troll sir, his name is Orsk, he did this, said I could go inside if I gave him my clothes.”

“You best pull the other one, its got bells on.” he quipped.

“Really Sir, you try the door, its locked on the inside.”

The farmer walked past me to the door and flung it wide open. Worst was yet to come, my clothes shoes and socks had all been placed in a neat pile on the doormat.

He bent down and picked up my underpants. “You best put these on before you catch a cold lad. Have you eaten?”

I shook my head.

Glancing towards the kitchen table I was shocked to see the terrible mess the troll had left. Breadcrumbs, pickles, jam and sugar, mustard and raisins, butter and ham were scattered about the table. Much was thrown on the floor.

“What have you been doing in here son, just look at this mess!”

I gulped and was unable to speak another word.

“You best tidy this mess up my lad. I`m coming back again this evening, so get to it, your Grandma will have a fit if she sees this mess.”

I watched Mr. Hanson walk back to his car and drive off while I, feeling totally dejected began to dress.

Then the chuckling began. Orsk was still there just as I knew he would be. His raucous laughter soon filled the cottage until I wanted to scream.

“Stop it, please stop it and go away,” I shouted.

With a very heavy heart I cleared up the mess and tidied up the place as best as I was able. . Thunderstruck, I remembered I hadn`t milked the goat nor fed the fowls.

Placing six handfuls of grain into a bowl I ran to the chicken run then stopped dead in my tracks. There wasn`t a fowl to be seen! The feeling of overwhelming panic swept over me. What would my Grandma say if I lost all her fowls?

Without having to think, I ran to the barn where the goat was housed. She too had seemingly vanished into thin air!

I searched the yard, the hedgerows, the barn, every far corner of the small holding all to no avail. There were no chickens, and there was no goat.

I ran back to the cottage yelling “Orsk, Orsk…what have you done with my goat and chickens?” at the top of my voice.

As I entered the cottage I heard the odd sound the hand-pump made as it pumped water. Thinking the troll was in the scullery, I slipped off my shoes and crept towards the open doorway. One step into the scullery made me shudder. Water washed over my feet. The place was inches deep in well water!

“Oh no!” I cried.

My eyes almost popped out of their sockets as I watched the hand-pump working completely on its own. I sloshed my way to it and made an attempt at stopping the handle from cranking, but I knew in my heart that no mortal hand could stay the strength of a troll.

The water was now ankle deep and I feared the well would soon run dry.

“Orsk, what have you done, stop the pump, please stop the pump, the scullery is flooded with water.” I yelled.

I heard Orsk chuckling from somewhere near the wood- pile but as soon as I got there, the chuckling came from the coal scuttle.

”Please Orsk, stop the water pump from working.” I pleaded.

“What will you give me?” The troll enquired craftily.

“Give you?” I gasped. “Why should I give you anything, you made it happen.”

“Of course I made it happen, that’s what trolls do, they make things happen.”

“Then please stop the pump from pumping and bring back the fowls and my goat.”

Orsk chuckled, “First things first my boy, come over here in the shadows where I can see you.”

“Can`t you see me here in the light?” I enquired.

“Stupid boy, the light blinds my eyes, now come here by the fire-place in the shadows.”

Gritting my teeth I walked towards the hearth then stopped. “How is this?”

“Come a little closer my boy.”

I took another step forward. All that I could see was the dead ashes from the log fire Grandma made the previous night.

“And now?”

“I see you boy, can you see me?”

I stared again. “No, where are you?”

“Stupid, stupid, stupid,” screamed the troll. “You are almost treading on my foot!”

Looking towards my feet I saw a small flat pebble about the size of a penny.

“I don`t see anything at all,” I began, “There`s just a tiny pebble….”

“That`s me fool, stand back and I`ll show you.”

Not knowing what to expect, I stood back. A slight wind ruffled my hair and with it, a soft plop. I stood face to face with the troll.

Orsk was the ugliest creature that I had ever seen. Twenty inches tall, the man beast or whatever that stood before me had a huge bulbous nose which dominated his entire face. Two jet black eyes twinkled at me through whisks of unruly coarse hair. No lips, mouth or opening were apparent. I supposed that they were hidden within the multitude of creases, cracks and crevasses that made up his hideous countenance.

Tattered skins hung from his shoulders covering a huge pot belly.

I shuddered and blinked my eyes, not believing what I saw.

Orsk danced a little jig and chuckled. “Now you see me…now you don’t”, he announced and promptly turned back into the stone.

“Hey.” I called. Another `plop’ and he was back.

“Listen carefully to all I say, and I will restore the cottage and the farm animals. Twixt twelve at night and one in the morning is the time when trolls sleep within the stone they were created from. At that time tonight you will go to the wooden bridge that you cross to get to the cottage. You know the one?”

“Yes Orsk, I know the one.”

“In the stream you will find four small flat pebbles just like mine. Take them out the stream, place them in a small wooden box and bring them to the cottage. When the clock strikes one, open the box and place them beside me here on the hearthstone.”

My thoughts raced. “Who are they?” I asked.

Orsk chuckled, “No questions boy, do it and all will be restored.”

I remembered that trolls are notorious cheaters and tricksters and are never to be trusted. “You restore the cottage and farm animals now or the deal is off.”

The troll mumbled beneath his breath then sat down on the open hearth, his tail lolling onto the carpet.

“All right, I will do as you say but if you fail to do my bidding you will forever be sorry my boy.” Seizing an iron poker from its stand and raising it above his head, the troll screamed, “Hasqvana, Hasqvanah riddle maree, Pump all the water back to the sea, Hasqvana, Hasqvana riddle maroat, Bring back the chickens, one horse and a goat.

There was immediate uproar in the small kitchen as Grandma Helga`s chickens flew in all directions and the goat began chewing the small mat set at the front door. Kirsten the horse neighed twice and bolted towards Helga`s bedroom. I wrestled with the pony and eventually got him out and back in the paddock.

Orsk rolled over and over cackling to himself. This might have been the biggest joke ever to him.

Staring with amazement I watched the pump miraculously reverse its action and begin to pump the water back down into the well beneath the cottage.

I spent the next hour settling the chickens whilst Orsk drank the goats milk almost as fast as I could milk.

All was well again in Helga`s cottage.

That evening Orsk and I sat together at the table and ate supper in silence, my mind set firmly on the plan that was to take place in the dead of night.

There was certainly a reason why the troll wanted those stone pebbles taken out from under the bridge and brought to the cottage. Were these perhaps members of the Orsk family, brother and sister…a Mom and a Dad?

Perhaps Orsk intend moving into Grandma Helga`s cottage, lock, stock and barrel?

All these thoughts ran through my troubled mind. Soon the clock struck twelve. Taking a storm lantern and a small wooden box than Grandma

Helga had given me earlier, I set off on my mission..

A bright moon hung in the night sky and soon I stood on the tiny bridge above the trickling stream. Setting the lamp down at my feet I peered into the blackness beneath the bridge then sighed with relief. Four flat round stones lay in the mud showing their faces to the moon.

As quick as a wink I ran down to the waters edge and plucked them up one by one and placed them in my wooden box.

As I returned to the cottage the clock struck half past twelve. Time enough for me to complete my mission. Orsk had returned to his stone and seemingly was asleep. I began placing the stones from the stream side by side. One, two, three, and then, my conscience pricking me, I stopped.

What if I kept the stones in the wooden box and arranged for Orsk join them? The box had a tiny lock, could I rid the world of these hateful creatures forever by locking them up within Its confines.

I was confused, and in my innocence placed my hands together and said another prayer. “Oh God I know you are busy, but please help me solve this problem before it is too late.”

My thoughts streamed to my Dad who was both old and wise. He had always told me that knowledge was the most valuable commodity and child could have.

Knowledge? Of course, I needed to know more about trolls. That was it.

I ran to Grandma`s bookshelf and paged through Grimms Fairy Tales.

I had less than ten minutes to go. “Oh Lord, let me find what I am looking for.”

Then my eye caught the words. “A troll wakes with the first light of dawn and his powers are returned to him or her.”
What if the troll doesn`t see the first light of dawn?

I had a minute to spare as I slid Orsk in beside his friends then closed the lid and locked it.

Sleep didn`t come that night and I found myself still wide -awake as the first light tinged the cottage walls a glorious pink.

No movement or sound came from the box that lay on the table beside me.

Later that morning I took my knife and carefully carved the word ORSK on the lid of the box, fearing that at some future time I might forget.

Grandma Helga returned the following day and I was glad to hear that my parents would be waiting for me at Paddington railway station on the following day.

Helping me pack my small knapsack that evening Helga noticed that I had carved the lid of the wooden box. “That`s strange,” she said smiling radiantly.

“Tell me Jeffrey, what made you carve the word stone on the lid?”

“Stone?” I gasped.

“Yes “ ORSK is the Norwegian word for stone.”

Lost for words, I stammered something like, ”Of course Grandma, because that’s what I am keeping inside it…stones, just you listen.”

I rattled the box convincingly, and at the same time was sore afraid that I would disturb the occupants.

Over the years and there have been many, I have lost the tiny key that could open the box and lately I have been tempted to bury the box and its contents deep in the bowels of the earth.

But somehow, when things go incredibly wrong, its far easier to blame it all on that scoundrel of a troll named Orsk.

  AUTHOR
Geoffrey Kennell
Off the cuff

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