Trollbridge is a quirky collaboration between a mother/son team: author Jane Yolen and musician Adam Stemple.
An amalgamation of the fairytales “Three Billy Goats Gruff” and “The Twelve Dancing Princesses” (with a bit of Scandinavian folklore thrown in for good measure), it involves chapters that alternate between driven music protégée Moira Darr and trio of brothers Galen, Jakob and Erik Griffson, a burgeoning boy-band who have managed to wrangle a weekend away from their stage-managing parents. At different points each group arrives at a bridge in the small Minnesotan town of Vanderby: first Moira, who is among the annual Dairy Princesses chosen to have their likenesses carved into butter sculptures (a real Minnesota tradition) and then the Griffson brothers, enjoying the freedom from their overbearing father.
Both have a shock waiting for them at Trollholm Bridge: Moira witnesses the other Dairy Princesses caught up in an immense wave that sweeps them away, and Jakob and his brothers are later snatched by a terrible troll called Aenmarr. With the girls intended as brides for the troll’s sons and the boys intended for the cooking pot, Moira and Jakob must work together to free the captives and escape from the dangerous troll realm. Helping them is the talking fox Fossegrim, who may or may not have an agenda of his own.
Trollbridge is an odd little book: almost experimental in nature, it’s entertaining enough, but not hugely memorable. The characters are likeable without having a huge amount of depth, and the story plays out like a familiar fairytale with a few modern twists. Along the way, the chapters are interspersed with original song lyrics and the wry commentary of a couple of radio DJs who speculate on the disappearances. For the record, I found these clueless DJs were by far the most entertaining element of the story!
It was a stroke of genius to set the story in the American Midwest, where the first Swedes and Norwegians settled and where the butter heads of the Dairy Princesses is a real annual tradition (and used as an important plot-point here). With an emphasis on the importance and beauty of music, there are also a few grisly passages involving decapitation and cannibalism. The lyrics to all the songs are collected at the back of the book, though there is some difficulty in appreciating such things without the music to go with them — perhaps Trollbridge would have worked better as an audiobook in which Stemple could contribute his song-writing skills to a listening experience. On paper, it doesn’t really work.
But while it lasts, Trollbridge is a fun, original read, as well as a companion piece to the authors’ other collaborative effort Pay the Piper.