Troll Bridge is another fairytale retelling included in the collection Smoke and Mirrors. It’s an adult version of The Three Billy Goats Gruff (and upon realizing that, it really brought me back to my kindergarten—also known as my “wilderness”—days. Didn’t like that fairytale that much back then; I preferred the Three Little Pigs over it, but remembering the story sent me really nostalgic).
This time, instead of goats, a boy named Jack crosses the Troll’s bridge thrice—in his childhood, adolescence, and adulthood—and decided in the end what he wanted to do with his life by switching places—and bodies—with a Troll.
Darkly twisted like the previous stories, Troll Bridge is as well a virus of sorts like Snow, Glass, and Apples because I’m sure I’ll never read or remember the original story ever again without being reminded of this retold version.
I generally don’t like tales told in the first person point of view but this is an exception. I think the strength of the whole tale lies on the voice of the main character. It’s quite short but through the boy’s words and tone, you’ll really feel that he’s growing. My favorite stage would be when Jack was in his childhood. Gaiman has this knack of writing the children characters in any of his stories spot-on (like Bod Owens in The Graveyard Book and Coraline)—a thing which most writers failed at doing. Most of the children in modern literature (that I’ve encountered that is) sound a tad too precocious.
I suddenly hope this master prestigitator revisited more fairytales and twisted them in a deliciously dark way. I’m loving them very much, and realizing that there are only two retellings in the collection makes me a bit sad. :(
Troll Bridge was nominated for a World Fantasy Award (1994) and is included in the comic book A Distant Soil by Colleen Doran.