Three Billy Goats Gruff

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Yesterday’s local sports’ headlines included ‘Rupp and Skipp in the Canaries’ engine room’. For the uninitiated or disinterested it referred to Lucas Rupp and Oliver Skipp, who play football for Norwich City. I like the idea of a canary with an engine.

‘Rupp and Skipp’ reminded me of a song I heard many years ago on the radio: ‘Hop and skip, hop and skip, over the rickety bridge.’  It was part of the ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’, an old Norwegian fairy tale, told by Frank Luther, about three goats and a ‘big bad troll’.

This troll lived under a bridge and would threaten to eat anyone who crossed it. The first two goats are threatened by the troll. The third ‘great big billy goat gruff’ butts him with his horns over the bridge. The troll’s never seen again.

It’s a traditional story of good opposing and defeating evil – detectives and criminals, George and the dragon, God and the Devil, goat and troll.

The threat of the ‘big bad troll’ of Covid-19 continues.

But Covid isn’t a single troll that threatens us. He brings with him a pack of other trolls – loneliness, depression, increasing domestic abuse, destructive addictions…; the physical troll of sickness is joined by psychological trolls and emotional trolls.

Sadly these trolls can’t be kicked over the bridge never to be seen again. We can avoid the bridge and pretend they don’t exist; we can allow fear of the trolls to scare us into submission.

Or, together with our fellow goats, we can engage with and challenge the trolls.

Those of us with faith are eternal optimists. The Christian narrative is of a victorious troll-defeating God; we can’t defeat trolls alone, but with God’s help we can… and eventually all trolls will be defeated.

In the meantime I think that an active goat with horns is more effective than a canary with an engine.

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