Harald was a troll who lived in a tree. This was quite unusual, as trolls usually dwelled deep in mountain caves or in the shadows of long wood bridges. But Harald always liked the trees. Even as a troll-child, when he was expected to carve rocks, break rocks, move rocks, eat rocks, he had instead gone into the forest to study trees, climb trees, talk to trees.
Harald had only been three years old and half-a-foot high the first time he snuck from the caves. He remembered gazing up at the towering woods in wonder, astonished at how they stretched on and on and up and up with no rock roof to smother their growth.
He remembered how delight had trumped fear when he discovered the life within and around those trees, even as it scampered away at his approach, peering cautiously with bulbous eyes and twitching ears from the safe cover of the brush.
Trolls were known to turn to stone in the sunshine—it was a fact solemnly taught in troll school in the troll caves—so when he finally returned home, he had found his mother weeping and wailing and smashing her head against the stone wall.
She fainted in surprise when he strolled back into the cave, and all the other trolls had gathered round to poke and prod him. In the end, it was decided that Harald was protected from the sun by the gods, and that the rest of them had better keep to their dark caves.
As tends to happen with those favored by the gods, Harald spent the rest of his youth feared and lonely; his only friends were the trees and the squirrels.
So, when he became of age, Harald waved goodbye to his mother, left his childhood cave, and set off down the mountain and into the forest to find the perfect tree.
He walked and walked for days and days as far as his little short legs could carry him. After a while, Harald began to wonder if he would ever find a tree to make his home.
Troll caves were all the same. They were dark, cold, damp, and your voice always answered you back, in case you forgot what you said.
So Harald was delighted to pass tall trees, short trees, green trees, red trees, happy trees, sick trees, sad trees, skinny trees, wide trees, bendy trees, new trees, old trees. Some trees were magic. Some trees had thorns. Some trees danced. Some trees laughed. Most of the trees liked Harald. A handful of them ignored him. There were only a few that Harald hurried fast and far away from. The problem was that every time he thought he found the right tree, none of them were interested in giving Harald a home. A troll live in their boughs! What a laugh.
But Harald supposed he was lucky—one must be lucky if one is loved by the gods—for just when he started to think that maybe he ought to turn around and go home, he met Ronan the Raven.
Squawk! A big black bird with one eye too many and a wingspan double Harald’s height landed on the breast of a boulder directly in front of the little troll. It observed him shrewdly. “Hello my troll-friend,” the Raven cooed, “What brings you so far from the troll-caves?”
Harald answered, “I’m looking for a tree to live in!”
The Raven cocked his head. “A troll in a tree!” he chuckled, “Well I’ll be!”
But Harald’s long tufty ears drooped to his knees. “None of them will let me, though,” he said sadly, “They think a troll in a tree is the silliest thing they’ve ever heard.”
“Don’t look so down!” cried the bird, “I know the perfect tree for a troll!”
Harald’s ears perked up, and he floated a few feet off the ground in excitement. When he touched back down, he gleefully cried, “Do you? Do you really?! I would be ever so grateful if you could introduce me!”
“Of course!” said the Raven, “Just follow me!”
And with a great whoosh of his wings, he took flight above Harald. Ronan soared on ahead, with the troll trotting behind. They wound around trunks, through bushes and ferns, over gurgling streams, down gullies, up hills, and on further still.
Having never been this far from the caves, Harald was astonished to see incredible creatures that flittered and fluttered and scurried and scampered. Some, like the squirrels and gnomes, were friendly and waved merrily. Others, like the fairies, were shy and only peeked out from behind big leafy bushes.
Just as Harald began to huff and puff, the Raven slowed up and swooped to the ground. They were nearly at the bottom of the mountain now, at the edge of a big wide clearing in the middle of which stood an ancient tree. Harald’s mouth hung open and his eyes grew round.
The tree was as wide as ten troll-caves side-by-side and reached up, up, up into the clouds. Harald's head spun just from gazing up so high. A kindly, benevolent magic hummed in the air, and Harald could see a tiny staircase, carved right into the trunk, which twisted up and around and disappeared into the lofty treetop.
Ronan croaked, “The elves used to live here, before they sailed away. She has been lonely without them, and I think would welcome a new tenant in her branches—even a troll!”
Harald hesitated, both in awe and intimidation, but Ronan hopped down the gentle slope towards the tree and squawked, “Well? Come on, troll-friend!”
So Harald followed the raven to the base of the tree, and put his hand on the smooth bark in greeting. At his touch, the tree creaked softly and the ground grumbled as she stretched out her roots in glee.
In no time at all, the troll and the tree made terrific friends despite their vast difference in size and in age. Harald danced all the way up the winding staircase to the very top above the clouds, where he found the most wonderful leafy living quarters. It was sunny and warm and everything Harald had ever longed for from the bowels of the black cold caves.
He thanked Ronan the Raven, who soared around and away back up the mountain, though he made sure to visit every now and then.
Harald settled in easily. He spent the rest of his days content and happy, and was possibly the first and only troll who ever lived in a tree.