One cloudy and rainy morning, three travelers arrived at a bridge that spanned a deep gorge. The first was a man on a horse. Behind him was a richly-dressed man, followed by a little girl carrying a small dog in her arms. As the horse set foot on the bridge, an ugly and evil-looking troll bounded out of the bushes, scaring the horse, which bolted and threw its rider to the ground.
The troll, dark-skinned and sporting long black dirty hair, yelled at the fallen rider. “Where do you think you’re going?”
The man got on his feet. “I am going across this bridge. I need to get to the city of Koram beyond those hills.”
“There is another bridge. Why don’t you use that one?”
“The other bridge was destroyed yesterday during the storm when a large tree fell on it. This is the only way to Koram now.”
“I see,” replied the troll. “This is MY bridge, and there is a toll to get across, but seeing as this is now the only bridge left, I see that I can raise that toll, and people will have to pay it. Three gold pieces and you can cross.”
“You are insane! This is a public bridge. I am coming across. Stand aside!”
As he said those words, he pulled out his sword, but before the man had a chance to wield it, the troll had his own sword out and smashed the man’s weapon to the ground, then placed the point of his own sword at the man’s throat.
“Three gold pieces, turn back, or taste my sword,” snarled the gnome. “Which one will it be?”
Reluctantly, the man fished into a small pouch at his side and produced the requested money. He grabbed his horse’s reins and crossed the bridge. The troll next turned his attention to the opulently-garbed gentleman.
“Three gold pieces, sir, and you certainly look as if you can afford it!”
“Put your sword away, evil one. I am not a fighter. I carry no weapons, and I have important business in Koram. Here is your money!” Without another word, he proceeded across the bridge.
The troll next turned to the little girl. She was dressed in an obviously old but neat red dress, and her long blond hair was braided down the left side of her face. The troll couldn’t tell exactly how old she was because she kept looking down. The dog in her arms appeared ill. The troll stared at her.
“Well, little girl? Are you trying to go across my bridge too?”
The girl’s voice was trembling, and sounded close to tears. “Please, Sir Troll. I must get to Koram. My dog is dying, and there is a wizard there who is said to be able to cure all animals of illness. Won’t you let me pass?”
“I care NOTHING about your dog! Do you have three gold coins?”
“I am without money, Sir Troll. I just want to save my dog’s life.”
“That doesn’t concern me. I want money! And look at me when I’m talking to you!”
The girl’s face turned up slowly. The troll noticed, strangely, that she suddenly appeared older, and then his gaze fell upon her eyes. They were large, deep blue, and peaceful. All at once, the troll felt some of the rage he had leave him, and he was uncomfortable. She spoke softly.
“Sir Troll, you are very handy with your sword. Are you a warrior?”
“I was, once,” he admitted, “then one day I betrayed my platoon for money, and my king banished me, but not before his wizard turned me into what I am now—an ugly gnome.”
“Is there no way back for you?”
“The wizard said it would be part of my punishment that I would never know how to get back to normal.”
“That is sad. What’s your name?”
“I was once known as Torin.”
The girl extended a hand and placed it on the troll’s arm. “Torin, please let me pass and save my dog…..please?”
The troll sighed heavily as he looked into the girl’s eyes. His lips quivered, then he stood aside. “You may pass, girl.”
As he said those words, a bright light seemed to flow from the girl, and when it subsided, the dog had become a winged horse, and the girl was a tall, beautiful woman, also adorned with wings. Torin was astounded, and fell to his knees. He asked, fearfully, “Who are you?”
“I am Beth, a fairy sent by your former king to see if you had repented and were capable of kindness. Are you willing to go back to his kingdom and live out your normal life?”
“I would be,” Torin cried openly, “but I would be an outcast, looking as I do.”
Beth touched the troll’s head, and he felt a tingling sensation going through him. When it was gone, he was handsome, and dressed in fine clothes. Beth took his hand.
“My winged horse will take you back to your old homeland, and by seeing it your king will know you have repented. Go, Torin, you are free to live a normal life.”
The former troll mounted the flying horse and flew off as Beth floated away in the opposite direction, her wings creating a rainbow in the newly emerging sunlight.
MORAL: There is some good in everyone, and sometimes all a person needs is an opportunity to show it.