The human laughed. “Thanks guys for helping me carry this money from the bank to where I’d parked my horse. Now I can give all this money to poor people. Here’s your payment.”
He handed the trolls each a sandwich. Then, he started attaching the bags of gold to his horse’s saddle. The poor thing looked really weighed down.
The trolls started eating their sandwiches. “No meat,” Gark said.
“Of course not,” the man said. “They’re mustard sandwiches. They’re very good.”
“Ok,” Gark said. He took another bite of his sandwich and made a face.
“It’s like stealing candy from a baby,” the man said.
“What’s candy?” Gark asked.
“Oh, sweet things that children eat. They’re very good.”
“Like mustard?” Gark asked.
“No, more like the opposite of mustard. Well, I’m off,” the man said. And he jumped on his horse and rode away.
Now that their job was over, the trolls wandered away to sit under their favorite bridges. Gark’s bridge was in a lovely park. There were lots of pigeons to eat and a fountain where people left money behind. He fished out the money at night for his hoard.
Today, as he dozed and listened to the children screech their high-pitched lullabies, he thought about candy. Mustard was terrible. Was candy wonderful? Wasn’t wonderful the opposite of terrible?
And just then, as he pondered this deep philosophical question, a child dropped his cotton candy onto the rocks beside the bridge. “My sweeties,” the child wailed.
Gark turned and stared. Was this candy? The child said it was sweet. The child’s feet pounded across the bridge as he ran away. Gark darted out a hand, grabbed the cotton candy, and pulled it under the bridge.
It was very, very pink. And it looked like the part of sheep his mother said was not for eating. Gark was not sure about this. It seemed like a terrible idea. He reached out his tongue and touched the very tip of it to the candy.
His tongue was on fire. Gark tossed the cotton candy far away and dipped his head in the stream. It felt like his tongue was still burning. How could humans eat such things? If candy was the opposite of mustard, it was because mustard is edible and candy is not.
Finally, finally, Gark’s tongue stopped burning. He started to brush the water out of his fur, only to stop in dismay. His fur was now bright pink! How could he hide if he was bright pink?
He coated his fur in mud. It was cold and slimy and heavy. And then it dried and he couldn’t move until he’d managed to roll into the stream and soften the mud. And then he had to start the mud applying process again, because some of it had washed away.
It was a week before his fur faded and he could risk traveling to attend the next troll gathering. That week gave Gark plenty of time for thinking. He came to some surprising conclusions.
“What happened to your fur?” someone asked when he arrived at the meeting place. “The color is all wrong.”
“I have an announcement to make,” Gark said. “Candy is not very good. Candy is poison.”
“But the human said it was very good,” a troll said.
“Yes he did,” Gark said. “I have learned that humans can say things that are wrong on purpose.”
The trolls gasped. “But then how will we know if anything they say is right?” someone asked.
“Exactly,” Gark said. “I don’t think it’s worth the risk. I nearly died tasting candy.”
The other trolls yelled in outrage. “I will never work for another human,” a troll yelled. “Me neither,” another said.
And the trolls warned their friends and relatives. And that’s why you never see trolls anymore. They’re hiding from us.