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Trolls belong under the bridge

I wish they’d just leave trolls with the Billy Goats Gruff.

Trolls are in the news every day. As one who, at about age 4, met the troll under the bridge the Three Billy Goats Gruff were crossing, this has been very confusing.    

As soon as I could understand words, I was read to by my parents. And I was lucky to have another source of readers. We had the telephone office in our home and there was a switchboard operator there from 8-5 Monday through Saturday, always a female.

During long afternoons, there were long periods between calls, ideal for a little girl to hand the operator one of the small books she loved from a set of maybe 10, pull up a small chair beside her and beg her to read it to her – again and again.

“The Three Little Pigs,” “The Little Red Hen,” “Goldilocks and the Three Bears — all of them with a moral and, in the case of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” a scary, hideous troll lurking under the bridge.

“Who’s that tripping over my bridge?” roared the troll.

“Oh, it is only I, the tiniest Billy Goat Gruff,” said the billy goat with such a small voice.

“Now I’m coming to gobble you up,” said the troll.

“All the readers went to dramatic lengths to make the troll as frightening as possible — at least the first time they were reading it that day.

“Read it again!” I’d beg. With each re-reading, the troll get less dramatically bad.

“That’s enough for today,” they’d finally say, unless my mother had come in to shoo me out first.

So when I started seeing the word “troll” in news stories and hearing it on TV, I was confused and went online to learn it’s one who posts a deliberately provocative message with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument, sews discord by starting quarrels, and disrupts normal, on-topic discussion.

It was in 2012 that “troll” became a staple in our language and a lead character on the internet stage. I avoid social media, so I was slow catching on. Then, when the Russians were accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential election and became the subject of daily news and an official investigation, trolls were in our face 24/7.  When I visualize those trolls now, I see that grotesque illustration in the long ago children’s book.

Printable online synonyms are traitor, lecher, thief, sleaze, weasel, dirtbag, scum, sociopath, attention freak, traitor,   spy.

Whomever first picked the now nauseous word, “troll” to describe these pariahs must have also grown up with the old Norwegian folk tale, “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.”

What he could have done was, like the biggest Billy Goat Gruff, when threatened by the troll, poked his eyes out, crushed him to bits, body and bones, and tossed him into the cascade.

Or, in the interest of less violence, just left him under the bridge forever.

Mary McClure lives in Lawton. 

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