Wicked Witch of Troll Cave
Don Arthur Torgersen
was the notorious witch of Troll Mountain. She lived in a cave with
many chambers near the old western town of Tumbleweed. Many years
ago, miners and speculators had gone into that cave to search for
silver and gold, but never struck it rich. Instead, they brought
back stories of fools gold and tales of fabulous creatures
seen inside the cave. The miners called the cave Trollcoven.
old miners claimed that trolls, gnomes and spelunkers had entered
the cavenever to be seen again. What happened to them was
a matter of gossip and endless curiosity. The miners said a paleontologist
once entered the cave to search for fossils, but all that was found
of him was a skull and a few bones.
was feared and detested in Tumbleweed because of all the mischief
she caused. She was as nosy as a pack rat and managed to steal off
with many things that did not belong to her. People hated the barbs
of her temper and the stings of her tongue. Never satisfied, she
was always ranting and raving and craving for more.
was so keen-eyed she had eyes in the back of her head. She sat on
a large stone throne inside the cave, plotting ways to feed her
greed and get filthy rich from the work of others. A white panther
named Potto sat alongside the witchs throne. The white panther
could see in the dark and often hunted for runaway gnomes at night.
climb into caves to explore them. Those who dared to enter Trollcoven
did so at their own risk. The passageways held many mysteries. Some
of the chambers were the homes of bats and beetles, spiders and
salamanders. There was widespread belief that the witch
who had taken over the cave had the uncanny power to cast spells
and turn gnomes, trolls and spelunks into stone.
walls of the cave were shaped from the fossil remains of ancient
trolls. Limestone figures hung from the ceiling and others stood
in fixed positions on the floor. These grotesque shapes were formed
by the curse of slow drippings that seemed endless without time.
Geologists call the figures on the ceiling stalactites and those
rising from the floor stalagmites. But what do rock hounds know
about trolls and gnomes? Stalagmites might have been stalactites
had they held tight to the ceiling.
band of gnomes lived in the hollows of the mountain. They were the
guardians of precious stones and metals. The gnomes wore red caps
and red boots and worked with small picks and shovels. Many were
hundreds of years old and had grown beards. Although small in size,
the gnomes were capable of great works and marvelous industry.
gnomes were not free to come and go. Ravencraven kept them locked
up in a chamber that was glittering with gold. She forced them to
work the abandoned mine to regain their freedomand this was
done to fatten a witchs greed. The only entrance to the chamber
was a long mine shaft, and it was blocked by a large rock.
morning, Ravencraven rolled the rock away from the shaft to see
how much work the gnomes had done during the night. She wanted to
find out and how many nuggets and pieces of gold were dug out of
the walls. If one of the gnomes tried to escape, Potto, the white
panther, would chase after him. The panther would track the gnome
until he found him, then carry him back to the mine by the scruff
of his neck.
had a counting table. She stacked gold coins into piles and counted
them over and over again. This gave her countless hours of pleasure.
When she was through fingering the gold pieces, she would store
her private treasure in a secret hiding place called the witchs
day, while the gnomes at work, Ravencraven was sitting on her stone
throne, trimming her toenails. Potto was stretched out on the ground
alongside the throne, purring and licking his fur.
said, "Im bored," I think Ill go outside and
kick over dead trees. Maybe we can track down students who play
hooky from Tumbleweed School. The kids can hide, but well
seek them out. Right, Potto?"
and Potto left the mountain cave and walked down the trail toward
town. When she saw a dead tree, she kicked and kicked at it until
it fell down. She liked to hear the cracking of the wood and the
sound of the crashing tree. She laughed and scolded the crows and
jays that scattered out of the branches.
soon grew tired of kicking over dead trees and scolding the birds.
She climbed up into an old, gnarled tree and sat on one of the branches.
She told Potto, "I wish I could think of something to do. Im
tired of beating dead wood. I havent cast a nasty spell in
a ravens age."