Titelly-Lotta by Stanley Bloom

Long, long ago there lived in a far northern land, the loveliest maid you could wish to behold. Her eyes were brighter and deeper than the clearest sky, her skin the colour of purest cream, her hair like the golden grain at harvest time, but fine and fragrant, soft and silky. Even on her tail. Yes, her tail—for this was no ordinary person, but a young lady troll.

Now before you jump to hasty conclusions, let it be stated once and for all that there are trolls and trolls, and this fair damsel represented all that was best in troll upbringing and tradition. None of those disgustingly rude noises some trolls can make, no stealing things from under human noses or behind human backs, and certainly no running off with human babies, or any of the thousand and one other mischievous tricks certain individuals have been known to get up to, giving a bad name to one and all.

Indeed, once she was so upset when an uncle of hers, a nasty, naughty troll if ever there was one, made off with a poor, sweet, human girl, that she went straight to the mountain lair where the unhappy child was imprisoned and released her while that rapscallion of a relative was away on unknown, but doubtless unmentionable, business. Never had she cast a spell in anger, nor harmed a single hair on the head of man or beast. In fact, a nicer being you could not wish to meet. Her name was Tittelly-Lotta.

Not far from where Tittelly-Lotta dwelt, there appeared one day a big brown bear. Yet no one was afraid of it. On the contrary, those who saw the animal simply laughed. They teased it, poked fun at it and shouted abuse, for this Bruin was old and lame and moved in the most comical manner. His hind legs were ridiculously long, his front paws far too short, his tummy exceedingly round and large, his head at least two sizes too small, his eyes but tiny buttons. And patches of raw, bare skin showed through his fur. In short, he was quite the most extraordinary bear in all the realm, a far cry from most of his mighty and much-feared brethren who roamed the country’s wilds.

Word quickly spread to nearby villages that a great and stupid beast had arrived, the funniest creature imaginable and the best entertainment seen in those parts for many years. Before very long, the bewildered creature was surrounded by a jeering, jesting crowd, mostly young men who had left their work in the fields and woods to join the fun.

“Hello, you bald old beast!”

“Come on, let’s see some tricks.”

“Who’s afraid of the big, bad bear?”

The poor animal turned to left and to right without seeing a way out. Had he been able to run, he would have made good his escape well before the crowd had encircled him. As it was, he slowly twisted round and round in despair until he eventually tripped over one of his over-large legs and fell flat on the ground—amid cheers and roars of laughter.

“More, more!”

“Let’s have some more!”

“Do that trick again!”

“Come on, up you get! We’ll have that one again!”

The bear rose unsteadily, but was soon on his back once more. And this time he lay there, unable, or unwilling to rise and face the tormenting crowd again.

Now Tittelly-Lotta had been on a distant errand. On her way back, however, she heard the noise from afar and hurried to see what on earth could be happening. Such a din she could not recall since the last great troll wedding in a huge far-off mountain lair. But this must have been out in the open. And the voices were unmistakably human. She quickened her step.

When she arrived on the scene, the bear was still on the ground, a trickle of blood running from one of the bare patches on his side. A sharp-edged stone lay close beside him.

“Get up you lazy old bear!”

“You’re going to get up and dance for us! Or else!”

“Don’t think you’re going to sleep here, you great lazy bag of bones. Come on, get up and dance!”

The colour rose in Tittelly-Lotta’s pale cheeks as another stone flew through the air. It was well aimed and struck the hapless animal slap on his paunch. But to everyone’s amazement it bounced straight back towards the thrower, falling at the feet of a farmer’s lad, who bent down to pick it up.

“It’s a piece of cheese!” he gasped in amazement.

“And who d’you think’s going to believe that?” someone called.

“You’re joking,” cried another.

“No I’m not . Look for yourself. It may have bounced back like a rubber ball, but it’s turned into a piece of cheese!”

His friends crowded round to see what he held in his hand. Then others started throwing stones at the bear, who had raised his head, but remained on the ground. He held up his paws to shield himself as stones rained down on him. But each one bounced straight back again! The onlookers could hardly believe their eyes.

“It’s cheese!”


"They’ve turned into cheese!”

“All of them!”

“Here, hang on. I’m going to get the biggest lump of rock you ever saw and drop it on that lazybones bear. I’ll have cheese to last a month!”

“Here, let’s have a bite.”


“My teeth!”

As soon as the lads tried to eat the cheese, it turned back to stone.

“There’s something funny going on!”

“I don’t like this. Not one bit!”

“I’m getting out of here.”

They realised there was magic in the air, magic that was not going to do them any good. In seconds, everyone had departed, except Titelly-Lotta and the bear, who peered cautiously between his paws wondering how he had been rescued. Tittelly-Lotta, walked slowly towards him.

“You can get up now,” she said in her usual gentle manner. “I don’t think they’ll bother you again.”

The bear stared at her and, like so many others, took her for a human being, for outside the home she always kept her tail tucked in and was neither the gigantic nor exceptionally small type of troll.

“Was it you who saved me from the mob?” the bear asked in a weak voice. “How can I thank you?”

Tittelly-Lotta smiled warmly. “It was nothing really,” she said modestly. “Think nothing of it.”

“But how did you do it?”

“Oh, just a little trick I once learnt from a relation of mine. He’s full of tricks. Gets up to all kinds of... things. Now, let's have a look at that side of yours... Hmmm... We’ll soon fix that. Just stay right where you are.”

And Titelly-Lotta went off to pick some herbs and petals to prepare a special salve, which she gently rubbed into the wound.

“There. You’ll be as right as rain in no time. Now let’s get you on your feet.”

She put her arms round the huge animal to help him up, for she was at least a hundred times stronger than you would have thought to look at her. The big bear rose slowly, but just as he stood upright, a strange and wondrous thing happened. In a trice, Tittelly-Lotta found herself no longer holding a great clumsy, old furry creature, but a tall and handsome young man.

“You really have saved me!” he cried jubilantly. “I was bewitched by a terrible old troll with ears like the wings of a bat and a nose so long it almost touched his toes. He turned me into that pathetic figure of fun just because I wouldn’t play blackjack with him, knowing full well he’d take everything I had. The only way the spell could be broken was for someone as beautiful as you to embrace me. And I didn’t think that would ever happen.”

The young man was so overjoyed, so overcome with gratitude and so taken with Tittelly-Lotta’s great beauty and charm, that he asked her to be his bride and go with him to the far off land where he and his family lived like lords. She would dwell in a castle, have maids to attend her and whatever her heart desired. Anything she wished for would be hers.

Of course, this put Tittelly-Lotta in an awkward position. She was very impressed with the handsome stranger, but how could she go off with him? Despite all their powers and the reputed wealth of some of their number, trolls cannot go off and live like lords with human beings. Neither did she want to dwell in a castle and be waited on hand and foot.

Almost before she knew it, however, Tittelly-Lotta had agreed to marry the tall young man. “But on certain conditions,” she added cautiously as soon as she’d had a moment to reflect.

“On any conditions,” he assured her. “Any conditions at all. What is it you want?”

I must decide where we live,” she said.

“Wherever you say.”

“We’ll have a modest little home, with no servants.”

“A farm,” the young man suggested.

Tittelly-Lotta shook her head in alarm. “There must be no ploughed fields anywhere near,” she stated. “And nothing made of iron. And you must never light a candle or a fire.”

The young man laughed. “Sounds like a perfect place for trolls,” he said.

“Do you promise?”

“If that is your wish, I promise.”

As you may know, trolls cannot cross ploughed fields and there is nothing so certain to keep them away as fire and iron. A broken scythe over the door and smoke from the hearth are probably the best protection you can have.

And so it was that Tittelly-Lotta and the young man were married in a quiet ceremony in the mountains. Naturally, she had to reveal her origin, tell him her secret, which was certainly a shock at first, but he soon got over it as nothing could alter the fact that Tittelly-Lotta was one of the kindest, gentlest beings on earth and as beautiful as a sunny summer’s day.

Sadly however, his parents refused to have anything to do with him. This grieved him greatly, but he was sure they would change their attitude if only they got to know their daughter-in-law. That he was cut off without a penny didn’t worry him. The pair had all they wanted and it is said they lived happily for many a year, though Tittelly-Lotta never told her husband who it was he had fallen foul of.

But a certain member of her family was not invited to the wedding—even though there wouldn’t have been one without him.


Stanley Bloom writes: I come originally from the UK (London), but have been living in Sweden for many years. For much of the time I was on the staff of Radio Sweden until turning freelance to give myself more time to write and also to travel—mostly to California, where I was recently stranded for more than a year because of the pandemic, during which time I and the family I was visiting had to be evacuated to escape one of the wildfires (!); and to New Zealand, where for some years I was a contributor to Radio New Zealand's then Viewpoint program. Am now back in Sweden, in my favorite location, which is on an island in the Stockholm archipelago.

Author's note

I wrote the story after a visit to the County Museum in the southern Swedish town of Jönköping. It is where the artist John Bauer (1882-1918) was born, lived and worked. The museum had an exhibition of his fanciful depictions of trolls, gnomes and other figures from fairytales and Scandinavian folklore, and it is for these that he is best known. The enchanted forest settings are said to have been inspired by the countryside around Jönköping, which is located at the southern tip of Sweden's second-largest lake, Vättern.