Once upon a time, three routes which crossed three bridges, separated a family of goats from the mountain where the grass grew long, and the flowers were perpetually in bloom. The mountain, it seems, loved songs and stories responding to these by becoming more fecund and productive. The goats loved to make these. Each bridge crossed a fast moving river that none could swim. The water crashed and cascaded down rocks as sharp as razors, a watery desolation inhabited by none.
The goats set out together, hoping soon to climb and feast in the lush hillsides of the mountain beyond the river. They sang songs and told each other stories as they wound up the narrow valley alongside the river. When they reached the first bridge, they saw a great lumbering shadow lurking in the dark beneath the stones and mortar that spanned the river which foamed and frothed with the sound of a thousand angry wasps far below.
“Troll,” called the oldest of these goats for he was brave and experienced in the ways of trolls. “We wish to cross this bridge so that we may tell our stories and feast on the mountain of lasting blooms.”
The troll beneath the bridge grumbled and spat, the sound of rolling and cracking rocks echoed down the valley. The goats cowered at the terrible sound and were humbled by the great lurking beast. “What would you give me as tribute then? For this is my bridge, and none shall reach the mountain of flowers and tall, tender grasses without first making an offering,” uttered the lurking troll.
Sensing an opportunity to easily pass the bridge and climb the mountain the oldest goat neglected his family and spoke to the troll alone. “I would give you some part of the feast that I intend to eat for there is much and everyone hungers. And it is true that a great lurking troll, such as yourself, must have an enormous appetite.”
The troll in the shadow of the first bridge and the oldest goat struck an agreement. In exchange for eighty-eight percent of the tasty flowers and lush grass the oldest goat created with his stories and songs, the lurking troll would let him pass.
The wizened goat walked over the span and onto the sides of the mountain of song and stories where he toiled, for the troll’s appetite was very great indeed.
The two remaining goats walked back down the first valley approaching the mountain intending to try the another passage. As they climbed the second valley, they sang to each other and told each other stories. When they approached the bridge that crossed the chasm where the water roared far below a troll stepped onto the path before the road. His long legs stretched from one side of the broad trail to the other, and he folded his long arms across his chest and chuckled at the goats.
“Goats,” said he. “I have heard from my brother troll that you wish to reach the mountain where flowers bloom and grass grows for those who bring the gifts of story and song.” The trolls voice rang out aginst the walls of the narrow valley like a thousand crystal chimes. His face was fair to look upon, and he was clothed in finest robes. “My bridge prospers, but I do not have the gift of rhyme or tale. For only a small part of your telling, I will let you pass beyond the abyss.
The oldest of the goats that remained looked up, squinting into the glare of the sun for this troll was very tall and lean, and said, “Great and beautiful troll I would cross your bridge, but I wish to keep seventy percent of all the flowers and grass my stories should grow. When my brother crossed the first bridge, I did not, for twelve percent did not seem fair.”
The tall troll standing in the sun smiled widely; his fangs sparkled in the light. “To this, I will agree, but know brother goat that my bridge crosses to the mountain at a particular place where many have gone before, and many now abide telling stories and singing songs. The flowers still bloom, and the grass still grows, and from this throng, I keep my thirty percent, but the goats even now fight amongst themselves for a place in the fields of the mountain.”
The second goat crossed the span and set off for the mountain where he toiled, for the heard on this side of the mountain was vast, and he struggled to hold his place amongst the multitude.
The last goat left this bridge and made his way to the last and least approach to the mountain of blooming flowers and lush grass. As he went, he sang to himself and spoke the stories of his heart.
Soon the valley narrowed and the only way to proceed was across a stone bridge which spanned the gorge. The kid, for this was the youngest of the family of goats, sniffed around the sheer abutment on the near side of the course. As he approached the bridge, he had not seen or smelt a troll.
His sensitive muzzle and tender nose discovered the presence of the guardian of the bridge near the crumbling cobble of the bridge’s base.
“Troll,” he tentatively called into the shadow of the arch. “Are you there troll? For I wish to cross your bridge so that I may sing and tell stories on the back side of the mountain of lush grass and perpetual blossoms.”
“Hrumph,” said the troll as it lumbered toward the goat. It was ugly and unkept and as it came near the kid curled his nose at the stench. “You may pass goat. You may pass, but let me be done with you. And know this, before you cross, I do nothing to keep this bridge. It is little more than my roof, and it leaks rain on my head these days. See the abutments of the arch across the span; they are weak. See the voussoir crumbling with time and neglect. Cross if you must, but do so quickly, for this bridge will soon decay and my not be here if you ever decide to return.”
“Thank you troll,” said the last goat. “Don’t you want to negotiate a deal with me, for I intend to sing and tell stories to the mountain and will soon feast on all that it grows?”
At the goat’s question, the troll scoffed? “What use are flowers and lush grass to a troll? I eat razor sharp rocks and sip the crystal clear water of this valley. To me, these things are only made better by your desire to reach the mountain and since no goat but you has come this way, they have turned to dust and ash in my mouth.”
You can read this and other parables of publishing if you follow the valley to the backside of the mountain.