Nationality: Korean Chinese American
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: March 2012
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Chinese, Korean, Spanish
“There’s a young boy named Ashland who is out hiking in the woods one day. For a snack, he packed some bread and cheese. On the hike, he encounters a troll that demands that he tell who he is, as the troll is the ruler of the forest. Ashland is a brave guy, and identifies himself also telling the troll to take a look at a trick he has. He takes out his block of cheese, but tells the troll, “Look at this rock” and squishes the cheese, making the troll think he is very strong if he is able to crush stone so easily. The troll is impressed, and tells the boy he must come eat dinner with him, because a person who is that strong must eat a lot of food. Ashland agrees, but he has another trick up his sleeve. They begin to eat, but after a couple of minutes, Ashland picks up a knife and stabs his stomach with it. The trick is that he had put his backpack under his sweater so he could trick the troll into thinking he could eat more. The troll is so impressed that a small boy could eat as much as him, he demands Ashland tells him the secret. Ashland tells him its simple just cut open your stomach, and so the troll picks up a knife and stabs himself, and dies. And I guess that’s the story of how Ashland got rid of the troll.”
The informant says he learned of this story reading a book of fairy tales as a child. He remembers it well because he says the Ashland’s cleverness really impressed him and his way of defeating the troll without lifting a finger was unique.
This Norwegian story has all the parts of a rite of passage or initiation. Ashland is a young boy, presumably in his teenage years, and goes off by himself into an unknown part of the countryside. He faces a challenge, but with his wisdom and cunning, defeats it easily, doing the people a service and returning home either a grown man or a hero, inspiring others with his quick thinking and achievements. Seeing the explanation of the informant, it is easy to see how this story could have been written to inspire young people. Furthermore, we can infer that this story was created recently, as opposed to in ancient times, using the terminus post quem of the backpack, which was “invented” in 1920.