The troll who lived in the lake
by Don Arthur Torgersen

Trolls have lived in the mountains for as long as anyone can remember and for a lot longer than that. They are as old as rocks and older than the roots of the oldest trees. Forest rangers have been known to dig under pine trees, firs, and aspens to root out trolls, but
they have never been able to get rid of them.
Trolls have a way of slipping into the shadows of the forest and hiding in the crooks and crevices of the mountains so they cannot be seen. Some only wander around at night, but others are much bolder, and you might actually bump into one during the day.
Trolls are creatures left over from the battles between the frost giants and the old Norse gods. Somehow, and it really can’t be explained, they survived the doom that all creatures of the past had to face. And, since then, trolls have wandered the earth for ages and ages and found places to stay in mountains, forests, and even in the lake country. Some trolls have been known to inhabit ponds and streams, and some live under waterfalls.
It used to be that trolls were destined to cause trouble in the world. But some of them learned to face human beings, and that changed their habits and way of life. Some went from bad to worse, but others went from worse to good.
There were three boys—Ross, Buck and Danny—who lived at Cattail Cove in the lake country between northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. They were really surprised on a hot summer day they went fishing—because they discovered something at Grass Lake that nearly scared them out of their wits.
Grass Lake is a large freshwater lake. Its shores are covered with tall reeds and bulrushes where red-winged blackbirds like to roost. Large rafts of lotus pads grow close to shore. Crappies, bluegills, bass, and colorful sunfish feed beneath the lotus leaves—leaves that float on the surface during the day and roll up at night. Great blue herons wade in the shallow waters, hunting for tadpoles, frogs, and small fish. Sandhill cranes build secluded nests in the marsh near the lake and brood their young.
Ross, Buck, and Danny were getting ready to go fishing at the lake. They were searching around in their tackle boxes for bobbers, sinkers, and hooks. Buck carefully tied a hook to the end of the line on his fishing rod and said, "That’ll work."
After Ross tied his hook, he said, "Come on, you guys, I’ll show you how to catch a muskie."
"There are no muskies in Grass Lake," said Danny. "You have to go to the deep lakes in northern Wisconsin. Grass Lake is fairly shallow. The water gets too warm for giant pikes."
"Oh, yeah? replied Ross. "When my dad took me fishing last year, I caught a muskie six feet long. Its mouth was filled with razor-sharp teeth. It was a record catch."
"Okay, Ross, what did you do with that six-foot muskie?"
"My dad put it back in the lake, and it swam away."
"Well, there ain’t no muskies here," insisted Danny.
"Then I’ll catch the biggest fish in the lake," bragged Ross, "because I know all the angles of a fisherman."
Buck and Danny knew that Ross loved to brag and invent improbable stories, so they just laughed at him.
The three boys took their fishing poles and rode mountain bikes down to the lake. They dug for worms with sticks and baited their hooks.
Buck said, "My grandpa told me a troll was once seen wading in this lake."
Ross tossed a stone into the lake and said, "If there’s troll in the lake, you’d better get out or I’ll whack you in the head with an oar."
"What’s the matter, Ross," said Danny, laughing. "Are you afraid of trolls?"
"No way!" said Ross. "If I see a troll, I’ll grab him by his nose and shake him so hard his teeth will rattle. Then I’ll twirl him around by his tail and toss him over the trees."
"Ha, ha!" laughed Buck. "If you see a troll, I’ll bet you’ll run away, friend or foe, like a fraidycat.
"My grandpa said if you want to make friends with a troll, just scratch his head. Trolls like to have their mossy heads scratched. I wrote a verse about scratchy-headed trolls:

Trolls who fight from dusk to dawn
Can raise a hullabaloo.
So scratch their heads,
And make them friends,
Then trolls won’t frighten you.

The three young anglers pushed a small rowboat from shore and rowed out into the middle of the lake. They cast their lines into the water and waited for the fish to bite.
Ross had to wait a long time.
Danny yelled, "I’ve got a nibble, I’ve got a bite! Buck was already pulling a small crappie into the boat..
Ross kept staring at his bobber. "You guys can have all the little ones, I’m only going to catch the big one."
Buck and Danny kept on catching fish, but Ross didn’t even see one twitch on his bobber.
Ross stood up in the boat and pointed to a crop of lotus pads floating in the water. "Hey! Look at that giant bullfrog in the middle of the lotus pads."
What they saw sure looked a lot like a bullfrog, but it really wasn’t. A giant troll was sitting on the bottom of the lake with only his head peering above the surface. His large, froglike eyes were staring straight at the three boys in the boat, watching every move.


Beneath the water, wrigglers and crayfish were swimming around in the troll’s hair, in and out of his long, flowing beard.
His beard was streaming in the water like the long strands of eel grass. That’s the kind of grass that grows in the lake and slithers
around the ankles of people who go wading in the water.
The troll’s name was Muddlepuddle because he liked to swirl around in the lotus pads and muddle in a puddle.
Muddlepuddle was worried about the three young boys fishing in his lake and did not want them to catch too many fish. The small sunfish swam through the troll’s long hair and his beard, keeping it combed and groomed. The sunfish ate the snails, wrigglers, and crayfish that made knots his hair and got caught in the strands of his beard. Fish like that were good friends.
"Hmm," muttered the troll. "If those kids catch too many fish, then there won’t be enough fish left in the lake to make my beard look beautiful. It’ll look like a tangle of elf knots and eel grass."
Buck and Danny caught more fish and strung them on their stringers. Ross sat there glumly, catching nothing.