In The Beginning & On War and Death (Mythic Fiction)

in #fiction2 years ago (edited)


The following was written for a tabletop role-playing game I wrote for a contest before, called "Troll Lands". In this game, lands are comprised, literally, of "trolls", colossal beings, and the tribes that live on top of them. This story, and the one that'd follow, are an exercise in writing mythic storytelling in the form of Rudyard Kipling's "Just So" stories. Enjoy.

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In the beginning there was only the Sun…”
“Grandpa, what is the sun?”
The old man sighed, “I told you, don’t call me 'grandpa', call me by my proper title.”
Little Grasshopper made a face at the proud old man, but since he wanted to hear the rest of the story, he complied, “Golden Strand Weaver, what is the sun?”
“The Sun”, the old man intoned, “As I was getting to it, was the beginning of it all; it is one big Troll.”
Little Grasshopper looked up towards the sun, squinted, and gasped in awe. “One? Are you sure, grandpa?”
“It is one, yet it is many. The Sun is no different than our home’s core. All molten lava, in it, all Trolls, (and there are as many as there are stars in the night’s sky) are as one!”
“So, what are stars, and what is the moon?” pried the young child.

On War and Death:
“My, aren’t you full of questions this morning.” The old man looked up, squinting his one good brown eye and his white-blind eye which he gave their Troll when he became its Speaker.
“Very well, I will tell you of the Troll Wars. A sad tale, a lesson we and the Trolls of our land must not forget.”

“A very long time ago, there was another place like the land we now live in. There were people there, and they lived and fished, hunted and gathered food. Just like the people of our tribe do.
There were also Trolls, much like ours, like the one we live upon and live at the sufferance of. But these Trolls were much more active, and sadly, they were also much more into fighting with their brethren.”
The old man sighed and looked into the water of the nearby brook, before he returning his one good eye to his grandson, and resumed the telling of the story.

“When people such as us, or animals, fight, one side ends dead, and it was no different for the Trolls. The Trolls had died by the dozens, the people who lived on and around these Trolls had perished as the land itself shifted and rolled, killing both them and taking away their food sources!
The Trolls who did not participate in this slaughter of their own kind had watched the dead earth, the cold mountains where no life will spring again, human, animal, spirit or Troll, and had cast the mass-grave to the sky, where it remains to this day to remind us."

"Remind us of the toll of death, and that you must honour the dead, and know when to stop.
And this, Little Grasshopper, is why we do not hunt when we are not hungry, and why we pray to the spirits of the animals for forgiveness. We live here, but we are not alone.”

“And the stars? What of the stars?” the child asked, awe in his voice.
“When a Troll is weak, and can no longer sustain its land, it goes up, to give us its light when it cannot give us life. And when the stars fall, that is when the Trolls in the sky are strong enough, and return here, to give us life, and to take life from their enemies. But carefully, because they do not wish their own brothers death, they let them go up to the night-sky in turn, as they had done before, and may do yet again.”

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Art and flair courtesy of @PegasusPhysics

The image used is Sjøtrollet (The Sea Troll) by Theodor Kittelsen, 1887, and is public domain.

© Guy Shalev 2007.


I like the imaginative idea of tribes living on Trolls. The storytelling style fits this setting also. It is a style that can feel overdone at times, but used in the right way adds a lot (like with the Princess Bride).

There was one bit that was somewhat confusing to me. I feel like I get the main idea, but the wording makes me unsure:

“It is one, yet it is many. The Sun is no different than our home’s core. All molten lava, in it, all Trolls, (and there are as many as there are stars in the night’s sky) are as one!”

I am not exactly sure what you mean by "core" here, and the "in it" is a bit unclear. Could you explain this part a little more? Thanks.

The Princess Bride was definitely on my mind as I wrote this, I think. And yes, it was a worry, that I'd go too far in that direction, lean too heavily. But I feel that for mythic storytelling in particular, this style adds quite a bit.

Speaking of the molten core of Earth, and in it, merged trolls swim. Same for the Sun, or the Sun's core - that bit is ambiguous on purpose.

Glad you liked the idea. Ideas are easier, it's the execution of that game that needed some more work, but it was designed for a 24 hour contest or so, so it made sense.

A myth well woven. Especially enjoyed the dynamic between storyteller and child, and the tale behind the stars.

"Where do stars come from?" is the "Just So" story this one touches. And yeah, I really liked the dynamic between the child and the storyteller as well. It's so nice when people like what you like in your stories, as if they can tell what you went for :)

Glad you liked it! I expect part 2 (I only wrote two parts...) to go up tomorrow.

This is an awesome story!!! As a flash fiction enthusiast, this hits home for me!!

Thank you for sharing!

Glad you liked it! I enjoy your stuff too! Micro-fiction is great, in part because it leaves you room to think later. Well, good stories do too, but that's almost the point of micro-fiction.

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I like the American feel of the tale. I read a lot of westerns back in the day; not so keen about them as much as I used to be. I am now into fantasy, so I still find a connection with your story.

I also like the fact that it reads like a children story with so many amazing things that are quite difficult to believe and the grandson makes a perfect audience, a true replica of a child's innocent curiosity and willingness to believe anything. Beautiful @geekorner

Oh this one I like so much better than the western, but then I am not much of a western lover :) but I really loved this one :)