Once upon a time, a happy little girl named Autumn was on her way to an indoor playroom to celebrate her birthday with family and friends.
As she walked with her father Marshall and his girlfriend Chloe toward their truck, they passed a big bush that started to rattle.
“What’s the matter with that bush?” Autumn said.
“I think someone is hiding inside it,” said Marshall. “Who goes there?”
The bush stopped rattling. All was quiet.
“Maybe there’s nobody in there,” Autumn said.
Two big feet, which looked more like hooves, poked out from the bottom of the bush.
“Oh, gee, look!” Autumn said to her father. Then, to the feet, “Come out so we can see you!”
But nothing did.
“Maybe it’s scared,” Marshall said.
“Are you scared?” Autumn said.
The bush rattled again.
“You have no reason to be scared,” Marshall said. “We won’t hurt you. We just want to know who you are, and what you are doing here.”
The bush stopped rattling. Slowly, the feet emerged from the bush, connected to a large torso, connected to two arms and a large head.
It was a troll, with a sad face.
“Uh, oh,” Marshall said. “I’m not sure I want to know what a monster like this is doing here. Perhaps it should go away.”
The troll’s face grew sadder.
“It’s okay, Daddy, I know why the troll is here,” Autumn said. Then to it, “You’re lonely, aren’t you?”
“Wuf,” the troll said.
“Do you want to go to my birthday party?”
The troll nodded its head.
“Sweetheart, I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” Marshall said. “This monster is big, maybe mean. Someone at your party could get hurt.”
“I think your father is right,” Chloe said. “Shouldn’t this troll be keeping to itself on a couch?”
But Autumn wasn’t so sure.
“You promise not to hurt anyone at the party, right?” Autumn said.
The troll nodded its head.
“Wuf, wuf, wuf!”
“See, Daddy,” Autumn said. “He doesn’t want to hurt us. He wants to be friends. He’s a nice troll.”
“Well, you’re the birthday girl,” Marshall said. “As you wish.”
The three rode in the pickup truck to the indoor playroom where the party was to be held. The troll sat in the open back cab, with a big smile, as the wind whistled through its mangy hair.
They arrived at the playroom before guests, and that was probably a good thing, judging by the astonishment of Autumn’s mother, Lauren, busy preparing the party.
“Oh, my!” Lauren said. “There will be too many little ones running around to allow such a big creature on the loose. Look, it can’t even get through the door!”
Sure enough, the troll was stuck as it tried to enter the playroom. Its face grew sad again.
“Here, try this!” Autumn said, and she, her father, her mother and Chloe grabbed the troll by its arms and pulled.
It worked. Once free and inside, the troll smiled.
“Well, I guess we can make do,” Lauren said. “No stomping or eating other guests, okay?”
“Wuf!” the troll said.
Autumn ran and clasped the troll’s leg, hugging it.
“I believe in you!” she said.
With that, mother and father did, too.
Soon the guests arrived, boys and girls and their parents. Autumn was so excited.
The troll stood in the center of the playroom. It was frozen with fear. It had never seen so many happy people before. It didn’t know what to do.
The boys and girls mistook the troll for a play thing, like the slides and swings and tug-o-war rope of the playroom. They climbed its arms, clung to its back. This tickled the troll and made it laugh.
“Wuf, wuf, wuf!” it shouted, filled with joy.
This time the boys and girls were frozen with fear, as well as their parents.
No one knew the troll was alive. They thought it was a giant toy, and they mistook its joy for rage. They thought it was mad, and they were scared.
Kids cried. Parents panicked. They ran and tripped over each other. Some, feeling courageous, tried to use the tug-o-war rope to tie down the troll.
The troll tugged back, playfully, lifting a few children and parents into the air, swinging them round and round the playroom.
“Wuf, wuf, wuf!” the troll shouted.
The children and parents were dizzy. They felt silly as they landed. They laughed.
There was no reason to worry. The troll was fun and safe after all.
The parents watched as children played with their new friend.
Autumn’s birthday party was a great success.