Travel Log: Norway
For some reason, no one ever asks me what the most difficult funeral to perform is. If anyone ever does though, I wouldn’t have to think hard for the answer. It’s troll funerals. Always troll funerals.
Fortunately, I’ve only had to conduct one in my lifetime. Probably because there aren’t that many of them and the bloody things live so damn long. Hundreds of years, in fact. (Some might claim to be over a thousand, but I think they’re full of it.)
It wasn’t the traveling that made things difficult, though it certainly was a hike in and of itself just to find them. Trolls lived in remote isolated parts of Norway where there were often no roads or means of transportation other than walking. It was beautiful, though, and the journey allowed me time to clear my head. But the traveling was linked to why troll funerals were so difficult. The reason they stayed so far away from human civilization was on account of their size. Trolls were huge by any stretch of the imagination.
Unlike people, trolls continued to grow after childhood all the way up to their death. A newborn troll is about the size of a tall human. Most adults hover around the height of a two-story house. But some legendary trolls have reached as big as mountains. Tulgar Yorin just happened to be one such troll. In fact, when I walked up to his clan of about a dozen or so gathered at the base of a cliff and asked where he was they just pointed to the cliff. Turned out it was his toe. To be fair, we were in an actual mountain range. So it was an honest mistake.
How does one perform a funeral for something so big? The same way you would for most creatures. You bury them. Now the obvious follow up question is how do you bury them? That is a little trickier. In the olden days troll clans would spend years if not decades toiling up the ground to get the job done, all while chanting and performing other cultural ceremonies. Over time the earth would settle and become mountains. Chances were hundreds of climbers looking for a good time have even scaled a summit not realizing the peak was in fact a dead troll.
But who really wants to do that kind of manual labor of digging and moving rocks in the modern age of cell phones and spaceships? Not even trolls have that kind of time anymore. That was why Tulgar’s clan called me. To figure out another way, and I did with just one word: avalanche.
The plan was simple: detonate charges at the top of the mountain causing a rockslide that would roll over Tulgar’s body. It was dangerous, but luckily, I was able to clear this with the Norwegian government beforehand, who have been aware of trolls’ existence for centuries. Every couple decades or so there would be a debate on whether or not to make the trolls public. Many politicians argued it would be a boon to the tourism industry, but the last thing they needed was as international incident because some obnoxious American got eaten. I think they made the right decision.
I had hoped that one of Tulgar’s relatives would happily give me a lift to the top of the mountain if not help me plant the charges. All they had to do was pick me up and scale what to them was no more than a tiny hill. But the ugly giants insisted on staying with the body, leaving me to scale the crag all by my lonesome.
I got started right away and it wasn’t long before my mind was already wandering. I had some experience mountain climbing. Before his untimely demise, my father bestowed upon me an important part of being a monster mortician was having a wide variety of skills. Since monsters came in many shapes and sizes and resided in all corners of the globe, it helped to be prepared for anything. From hiking through the desert to swimming in the middle of the ocean. And yes, even climbing up the side of a mountain. The key was patience, persistence and—
NOT SLIPPING LIKE MY FOOT JUST DID!
I only freefell for a second, but it was enough to make my throat clench. I was grateful the rope caught me. Except…I hadn’t hammered in the next nail just yet.
It wasn’t until I looked down and saw a rounded troll face staring back at me that I realized what actually happened. I was caught. The face wasn’t that big, either. This troll must’ve been a child.
“Thanks for the save, kid,” I said after a long grateful sigh.
“You got it,” he replied in a surprisingly chipper voice. “Want me to take you the rest of the way?”
I looked up the mountain and saw I was only about halfway. “If you don’t mind.”
His smile grew even wider. “Top floor. Coming right up.”
The young troll starting climbing the mountain with ease. I felt almost embarrassed that it would take me nearly an hour to scale something he conquered in a single step. It made me wonder why I even had to climb this far by myself in the first place.
“How come you didn’t offer to take me when I asked the first time?”
The troll’s lumpy face looked ugly when it frowned. “My parents wouldn’t let me.”
I looked over his shoulder and recognized some bit of resemblance to the dead troll lying on the ground far below. “You’re Tulgar’s grandson, aren’t you?”
“Yup,” he said, turning the frown back into a smile. “Name’s Ekon.”
Most of Tulgar’s clan spoke slow and had trouble putting emphasis on the right words, but if I didn’t know any better, I could’ve mistaken Ekon for a regular kid. “You don’t really sound like a troll. Anybody ever tell you that?”
“All the time. I don’t want to be a troll, either. I want to go to the city and hang out with people. But no. I have to stay here and eat rocks for the rest of my life.”
I didn’t realize how much the climb made me nostalgic for my father. I haven’t thought about him much since he died, but swap out the “being a troll” and “eating rocks” parts and that could’ve been something I said to my old man when he was still alive. The thought made me chuckle.
“Hey!” the troll snapped, bashfully. “Don’t laugh at me!”
“I’m not laughing at you, Ekon. I’m laughing at myself.”
His face twisted in confusion yet he never broke his stride. “Huh?”
“You just remind me a lot of when I was your age. My dad wanted me to be a monster mortician like him, and I didn’t want to be. I wanted to go to movies and play sports. And you know what I learned?”
“Humans are boring. Being around monsters and creatures like yourself is what makes the world an interesting place. You should be proud of who you are.”
Ekon smiled again, but it was softer and relaxed, more natural. He felt genuinely happy. Something I don’t usually experience from customers in my line of work.
“Now come on,” I told him. “Let’s bury your grandpa.”
A few more steps and we reached the summit. From there I had to walk the ridgeline setting charges for demolition. Properly handling explosives was NOT one of the things my father taunt me during the course of my training, but a three hour class and I was as about as certified to blow up the side of a mountain as I was going to get. Come to think of it, the ease of the whole thing kind of made me nervous.
Ekon asked several times to help, and his long reach would’ve cut the time in half. But I wasn’t exactly about to hand explosives over to a kid, even one that was probably older than me.
By the time I was finished the sun was just about to set. I took out my radio to call down below and tell them I was ready. Tulgar’s clan obviously couldn’t respond, but they heard me well enough and gave a wave. It was show time.
Ekon took a seat on the peak and lifted me up onto his shoulder. It was actually quite comfortable and gave a great view of the mountainous countryside.
“You ready?” I asked.
Ekon gave a strange half-smile, half-frown and nodded.
I nodded back and pressed the detonator. All at once, small pops erupted out from the side of the mountain. They weren’t large explosions, but big enough to dislodge a wave of hefty rocks and boulders. The avalanche cascaded fast down the cliffs, eventually tumbling over Tulgar’s body. The gargantuan troll disappeared beneath a cloud of dust, and when it finally dissipated into the twilight sky, the troll was nowhere to be seen. There was a just a mound of rock, what seemed nothing more than an outcropping of the mountain itself.
“Goodbye, Papa Tulgar,” Ekon lamented through his sorrowful expression, a tear dripping down his lumpy, rounded cheek.
Being a monster mortician, I often fall victim to the antics of the supernatural or find myself stuck in a dilemma I never asked for. There are haggling goblins and drunken orcs. Arrogant elves and high-maintenance vampires. But not every adventure has to be a disastrous one. Sometimes a funeral is just a funeral. Watching Ekon, I’m reminded of why I do what I do. That no matter how ostracized or scary, everyone, even monsters, deserve a chance to say goodbye.