A BRIDGE TOO FAR (Billy Goats Gruff)

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The Once Upon A Times presents the first in a series of special reports from the front lines of the war between the Pleasant Kingdoms and The Most Dreaded and Odorous Realms. Under neutrality of the press, we have been granted access to observe and interview forces from both sides...

Trolls Baiting Billy Goats Into Deadly Traps

Charred Crossing, Borderlands – There they were, gallantly galloping across a seemingly sturdy bridge. Their horns glistened. Their muscled hindquarters waggled. Their bearded chins were held high—and with reason—for this was the First Royal Billy Brigade, a riderless cavalry unit undefeated through twelve battles against foes from the Odorous Realms.

But the next moment, every single one of those goats was plunging into the acidic waters of the Offal River. The bridge had collapsed under their hooves and a horde of trolls were bubbling up to ambush them.

Only the brigade commander, Sir William Gruff, survived yesterday's ambush. "I take full responsibility for the catastrophe," he said, following his retreat. "I had heard rumors of bridge attacks and should never have attempted to cross."

How did such a disaster come about? Sir William's brigade spied numerous sacks labelled Fair Trade Grain on the far side of the bridge. Assuming they were surplus supplies left from another Billy Goat Brigade, they began to cross. However, they were playing right into the trolls' gnarly hands. Bridge trolls, whose thick skin is impervious to the Offal River, were waiting under the water with fire salamanders sealed in watertight bags. They surfaced, laid the salamanders on the bridge supports, which quickly burned through, collapsing the entire structure.

"WE NEVER USED TO LIKE SALAMANDERS. TOO SCORCHY. BUT NOW WE TEAM UP," said Undabrig, a troll captain. "WE ARE HAVING LOTZA SUCCESS. EVERYONE THINKS THEY CAN BAIT US BECAUSE OF OUR APPETITES, AND SURE, SOMETIMES WE EAT OUR OWN BAIT... OR OUR NEW RECRUITS... BUT MOSTLY, WE WAIT TO TRICK THE GOATS."

Over the next week, your correspondent witnessed three more troll victories. They have proven dangerous on stone bridges as well as wood. The trolls camouflage themselves as stone supports, standing on each other's shoulders, then swing themselves over the sides to pincer the crossing goats.

"THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PLEASANT CREATURES COME INTO OUR HOMES, SPRAYING THEIR SMELLY PERFUMES AND PLANTING PRETTY FLOWERS. THEY TELL US DRESS THIS WAY, ACT THAT WAY, BUY THE LATEST HAIR CARE PRODUCTS. JUST LEAVE US BE, OTHERWISE, WE FIGHT BACK!"

The Pleasant Kingdoms may do well to heed Undabrig's advice. In the meantime, the troll soldiers will continue to tell their favourite joke, which is proving all too true: "WHY DID THE GOATS CROSS THE BRIDGE? ... THEY DIDN'T. WE ATE THEM."

From the Norwegian folktale, The Three Billy Goats Gruff, as collected by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe

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Enjoying The Once Upon A Times? We think you will also love Words In Living Color, a podcast about adapting children's books to the stage and screen. Find it on Apple podcasts or by clicking on the external link at the bottom of the page!

 Find it on Apple podcasts or by clicking on the external link at the bottom of the page!

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And tune in next Tuesday for another special report from the front lines of fairy tales...

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