Josh is my best friend from high school who now attends Florida State University in Tallahassee. He related to me a neighborhood legend from his childhood – the troll under the bridge.
“When I was little I was basically traumatized by this story my dad always thought it was funny to torture me with. In Virginia, especially where I grew up, it’s pretty forest-y. There’s woods literally everywhere and around my house they’re pretty dense. There was a paved path that ran right up against the fence around our backyard that led to a creek which was about a half-mile down. When I was a little kid I used to love to play in the woods, climbing trees and playing hide-and-seek and building dams and splashing around in the creek and all that kid stuff. My parents were pretty lenient about letting me and my sister go off on our own – as long as we stayed in the neighborhood and were back by dinner. Whenever they would come out with us though, to go on a walk or whatever, my dad would tell a story about this troll. There was a bridge, this little wooden bridge that went over the creek bed kinda at the point where Oakton Glen turned into Clearfield which was the other neighborhood where we weren’t supposed to go by ourselves. So whenever we got to that part of the path when we were on walks with Dad he would tell us about this troll that lived under the bridge. Apparently this fat wart-covered green stinky creature that somehow lived in the concrete base of the bridge and would come out after dark and eat kids for snacks. I don’t remember exactly the story of what it was supposed to have done besides that – he made up a million different stories about that freaking troll cause – I mean I was like five or six but I completely one hundred percent believed his dumb stories and I think he got a kick out of watching me squeal and cry like a little [baby] whenever he would try to make me walk over it or whatever. It kinda spread throughout the neighborhood – all the kids knew about it, but no one was more spooked by it than me. Later, whenever my friends would want to go down there during high school to get away from parents for a little bit at night or whatever I would either make up excuses not to go or just be [pooping] my pants the whole time. All my friends would be laughing and call me a little [baby] and all I had was this stupid troll to blame. It still freaks me out. So yeah. Thanks Dad.”
As traumatic as the urban legend of the troll may have been, the story served a deeper purpose than simply to scare the living daylights out of little kids. The place where the bridge was located (and the troll was said to live) was at the boundary between the neighborhoods – the place where his parents explicitly stated they did not want their children going. As well-behaved as they may have been, children are known to disobey, and rather than risk their children roaming too far from home, it seems as though his father used the story as a way to scare the children into obedience. It came from a place of good-intent – if the desire to stray no farther than the bridge and to get home plenty before the sun set came from the children’s own fear rather than a nagging parent, it would be a more effective way of maintaining discipline.