January 29, 2014

Of trolls

Closeup of the Troll, photo by jotulloch, used under a creative commons license

I recently had the honor of being one of three storytellers asked to tell a story about a piece of local folklore: the troll that guarded the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge for 24 years after the Loma Prieta earthquake, on display at a local museum.

One of the other storytellers, Kirk Waller, asked me if I had ever created a story around an object before, and I said no. I had certainly told stories in museums before, but always fairy tales and folk tales that aligned with the exhibits on display, no originally created work. But then, upon further reflection, I had to admit:

Floyd, a troll, on campus in Evanston, Illinois
The very first story I ever told when I began my storytelling journey was, in fact, an original tale about a troll. 

When I was introduced to the art of storytelling in a literature class in college, my professor asked us to learn a story to tell at a local elementary school. Though most of my fellow students learned folktales to tell, I happened to have my own troll, and when I showed it to my teacher she immediately said, "you have to bring your troll and tell the children a story about him."

Why did I have a troll? I had spent much of my free time in dormitory with one of my buddies who had a how-to book on building monsters out of papier mâché. With coat hangers, newspaper, white glue, a discarded tablecloth, some modeling clay, and paint, he and I created a three-foot tall blue troll. We named him Floyd, and he promptly ended up having his own adventures at college. (Lesson learned: if you leave a three-foot tall blue troll out where other college students can interact with it, they will. And he might be gone for days or weeks at a time)

For my class assignment, I crafted a tale about a lonely monster who lived under a bridge (in fact, the Golden Gate Bridge). I don't recall exactly how the story went, although I recall using Ray Bradbury's 1951 short story "The Fog Horn" (aka "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms") as inspiration, but had a happy ending when the lonely troll found community with the monsters in residence at Industrial Light & Magic, the visual effects house then located in Marin County, just north of the bridge.

  Over the next few years I created a handful of other trolls, using the same paper and cloth mâché technique. Some I gave away as gifts. Two smaller ones, have stayed with me, and currently keep watch over my basement. (It may not be the most practical way to keep goats away... but it works! We've never had billy goats enter our house).

Sadly, Floyd and I parted about twenty years ago. I was out of the country, participating in North America's oldest and largest Fringe Festival, and upon my return, Floyd was gone.

The large dumpster outside of my rented house might have had something to do with it (I'd been evicted), but though I dove in and recovered many personal items from the dumpster, Floyd was not among them. I like to think he wandered off in search of a new home, and that he found a new bridge to call his own.

1 comment:

Donna Washington - Storyteller said...

I remember Floyd! I am sorry he is no longer with you. I loved that little guy!