"A wily thriller-fantasy . . . Each discovery sounds like the voice of a storyteller reminding us of how the gods play with our fates." New York Times
Winner of the Finlandia Award, Troll: A Love Story is an enchanting novel that has become an international sensation. Angel, a young photographer, comes home from a night of carousing to find a group of drunken teenagers in the courtyard of his apartment building, taunting a wounded, helpless young troll. He takes it in, not suspecting the dramatic consequences of this decision. What does one do with a troll in the city? As the troll's presence influences Angel's life in ways he could never have predicted, it becomes clear that the creature is the familiar of man's most forbidden feelings. A novel of sparkling originality, Troll is a wry, beguiling story of nature and man's relationship to wild things, and of the dark power of the wildness in ourselves.
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I'm starting to get worried. Martes's face seems to be sort of fluctuating in the light fog induced by my four pints of Guinness. His hand's resting on the table close to mine. I can see the dark hairs on the back of his hand, his sexy, bony finger-joints and his slightly distended veins. My hand slides toward his and, as if our hands were somehow joined together under the table, his moves away in a flash. Like a crab into its hole.
I look him in the eyes. His face wears a friendly, open, and understanding smile. He seems at once infinitely lovable and completely unknown. His eyes are computer icons, expressionless diagrams, with infinite wonders behind them, but only for the elect, those able to log on.
"So why did you ask me out for a drink? What did you have in mind?"
Martes leans back in his chair. So relaxed. So carefree.
"Some good conversation."
He looks at me as if I've exposed something new about myself, something disturbing but paltry: a bit compromising, but not something that will inexorably affect a good working relationship. It's more as if my deodorant were inadequate.
"I have to tell you honestly that I'm not up for it."
My heart starts pounding and my tongue responds on reflex, acting faster than my brain.
"It was you who began it."
When we were little and there was a schoolyard fight, the most important thing was whose fault it was. Who began it.
And as I go on Martes looks at me as if I weren't responsible for my behavior.
"I'd never have let myself in for this ... if you hadn't shown me, so clearly, you were up for it. As I've told you, I'm hot shit at avoiding emotional hangups. If I've really no good reason to think the other person's interested I don't let anything happen. Not a thing. Hell, I don't even think it."
Memories are crowding through my mind while I'm sounding off — too angrily, I know. I'm recalling the feel of Martes in my arms, his erection through the cloth of his pants as we leaned on the Tammerkoski River bridge railings that dark night. I can still feel his mouth on mine, tasting of cigarettes and Guinness, his mustache scratching my upper lip, and it makes my head start to reel.
Martes reaches for his cigarettes, takes one, flicks it into his mouth, lights his Zippo and inhales deeply, with deep enjoyment.
"I can't help it if I'm the sort of person people project their own dreams and wishes onto."
In his opinion nothing has happened.
In his opinion it's all in my imagination.
I crawl home at midnight, staggering and limping — it's both the beer and the wound deep inside me. Tipsily, I'm licking my wound like a cat: my thought probes it like a loose tooth, inviting the dull sweet pain over and over again — dreams and wishes that won't stand the light of day.
The street lamps sway in the wind. As I turn in through thegateway from Pyynikki Square, sleet and crushed lime leaves blow in with me. There's loud talk in the corner of the yard.
A loathsome bunch of kids are up to something in the corner by the trash cans — young oafs, jeans hanging off their asses and their tattered windbreakers have lifted to show bare skin. They've got their backs to me, and one of them's goading another, using that tone they have when they're challenging someone to perform some deed of daring. This time it's to do with something I can't see, at their feet. Normally I'd give thugs like these a wide berth — they make my flesh crawl. They're just the sort that make me hunch up my shoulders if I pass them in the street, knowing I can expect some foul-mouthed insult — but just now, because of Martes, because I don't give a damn about anything and with my blood-alcohol count up, I go up to them.
"This is private property, it belongs to the apartment building. Trespassers will be prosecuted."
A few heads turn — they sneer — and then their attention goes back to whatever's at their feet.
"Afraid it'll bite?" one asks another. "Give it a kick."
"Didn't you hear? This is private property. Get the fuck out of here." My voice rises, my eyes sting with fury. An image from my childhood is flashing through my brain: a gang of bullies from an older class are towering above me, sneering at me, and goading me in that same tone — "Afraid it'll bite?" — and then they stuff my mouth with gravelly snow.
"Shove it up your ass, sweetie," one of these juvenile delinquent coos tenderly. He knows I've no more power over them than a fly.
"I'll call the police."
"I've called them already," says a voice behind me. The ornery old woman who lives on the floor below me and covers her rent by acting as some kind of caretaker has materialized behind me. The thugs shrug their shoulders, twitch their jackets, blow their noses onto the ground with a swagger and dawdle away, as if it was their choice. They shamble off through the gateway, manfully swearing, and the last one flicks his burning cigarette butt at us like a jet-propelled missile. They've hardly reached the street before we hear anxious running feet.
The lady snorts. "Well, they did do what they were told."
"Are the police coming?"
"'Course not. Why bother the police with scum like that? I was off to the Grill House myself."
The adrenaline's cleared my head for a moment, but now, as I struggle to dig out my keys, my fingers feel like a bunch of sausages. The woman's on her way to the gate, and that's fine, because my pissed brain's buzzing with a rigid, obsessive curiosity. I wait until she's off and start peering among the garbage cans.
And there, tucked among the cans, some young person is sleeping on the asphalt. In the dark I can only make out a black shape among the shadows.
I creep closer and reach out my hand. The figure clearly hears me coming. He weakly raises his head from the crouching position for a moment, opens his eyes, and I can finally make out what's there.
It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
I know straight away that I want it.
It's small, slender and it's curled up in a strange position, as if it were completely without joints. Its head is between its knees, and its full black mane of hair is brushing the muddy pavement.
It can't be more than a year old. A year and a half at the most. A mere cub. By no means the huge bulk you see in illustrations of the full-grown specimens.
It's hurt or been abandoned, or else it's strayed away from the others. How did it get to the courtyard of an apartment building in the middle of the town? Suddenly my heart starts thumping and I swing around, half expecting to see a large black hunched shadow slipping from the garbage cans to the gate and then off into the shelter of the park.
I react instinctively. I crouch down by it and carefully bend one of its forearms behind its back. It stirs but doesn't struggle. Just in case, I twist the strap of my bag all around the troll so that its paws are fastened tightly to its side. I glance behind me and lift it up in my arms. It's light, bird-boned, weighing far less than a child the same size. I glance quickly at the windows. There's nothing but a reddish light glowing in the downstairs neighbor's bedroom. The glamorous head of a young woman pops up in the window, her hand drawing the curtain. Now.
In a moment we're in my apartment.
It's very weak. When I lower it onto the bed it doesn't struggle at all, just contemplates me with its reddish-orange feline eyes with vertical pupils. The ridge of its nose protrudes rather more than a cat's, and its nostrils are large and expressive. The mouth is in no way like the split muzzle of a cat or a dog: it's a narrow, horizontal slit. The whole face is so human-looking — like the face of the American woolly monkey or some other flat-faced primate. It's easy to understand why these black creatures have always been regarded as some sort of forest people who live in caves and holes, chance mutations of nature, parodies of mankind.
In the light, its cubbishness is even more obvious. Its face and body are soft and round, and it has the endearing ungainliness of all young animals. I examine its front paws: they're like a rat's or racoon's, with flexible, jointed fingers and long nails. I untie it, and the cub makes no move to scratch or bite. It just turns on its side and curls up, drawing its tufted tail between its thighs and folding its front paws against its chest. Its tangled black mane falls over its nose, and it lets out that half-moan/half-sigh of a dog falling asleep.
I stand at the bedside, looking at the troll-cub and taking in a strong smell — not unpleasant, though. It's like crushed juniper berries with a hint of something else — musk, patchouli? The troll hasn't moved an inch. Its bony side heaves to the fast pace of its breathing.
Hesitantly I take a woolen blanket from the sofa, stand by the bed a while, and then spread it over the troll. One of its hind legs gives a kick, like a reflex, swift and strong as lightning, and the blanket flies straight over my face. I struggle with it, my heart pumping wildly, for I'm convinced the frightened beast will go for me, scratching and biting. But no. The troll lies there curled up and breathing peacefully. It's only now that I face the fact that I've brought a wild beast into my home.
My head and neck are aching. I've been sleeping on the sofa. It's ridiculously early; still dark. And there's nothing on the bed. So that's what it's all been: a fantasy that won't survive the first light of day.
Except that the blanket lies crumpled on the floor by the bed, and there's a faint little sound coming from the bathroom.
I get up and walk slowly, in the light of the streetlamps filtering through the window, creeping as quietly as I can to the bathroom door. In the dusk I can see a small black bony bottom, hind legs, a tufted twitching tail, and I realize what's happening. It's drinking from the toilet bowl. The juniper-berry smell is pungent. Then I spot a yellow puddle on my mint-green tiled floor. Naturally.
It has stopped lapping up water and has sensed that I'm there. Its torso is up from the bowl so fast I can't see the movement. Its face is dripping with water. I'm trying to convince myself that the water is perfectly clean, drinkable. I'm trying to remember when I last scrubbed the bowl. Its eyes are still dull, it doesn't look healthy, and its pitch-black coat is sadly short of gloss. I move aside from the bathroom door, and it slides past me into the living room, exactly as an animal does when it's got another route to take — pretending to be unconcerned but vividly alert. It walks on two legs, with a soft and supple lope: not like a human being, slightly bent forwards, its front paws stretched away from its sides — ah, on tiptoe, like a ballet dancer. I follow it and watch it bounce on to my bed, effortlessly, like a cat, as though gravity didn't exist — then curl up and go back to sleep again.
I go back to the kitchen for a cereal bowl, fill it with water and put it by the bed. Then I start mopping up the bathroom floor, though I've got a splitting headache. What the hell do trolls eat?
Back in my study, I leave the door open, boot up my computer, connect to the Internet and type TROLL.
Troll (older forms: hobgoblin, bugbear, ogre), Felipithecus trollius. Family: Cat-apes (Felipithecidae)
A pan-Scandinavian carnivore, found only north of the Baltic and in western Russia. Disappeared completely from Central Europe along with deforestation but, according to folklore and historical sources, still fairly common in medieval times. Not officially discovered, and scientifically classified as a mammal, until 1907. Before then assumed to be a mythical creature of folklore and fairy tale.
Weight of a full-grown male: 50–75 kg. Height standing upright: 170–190 cm. A long-limbed plantigrade, whose movements nevertheless show digitigrade features. Walk: upright on two legs. Four long-nailed toes on the hindlimbs, five on the forelimbs, both including a thumb-like gripping toe. The tail long, with a tuft. The tongue rough. The overall color a deep black, the coat dense, sleek. A thick black mane on the head of the males. Movement only at night. Main nourishment: small game, carrion, birds' nests, and chicks. Hibernates. Cubs probably conceived in the autumn before hibernation, the female giving birth to one or two cubs in spring or early summer. About the behavior of this animal, however, so extremely shy of human contact, there is very little scientific knowledge. Extremely rare. Supposedly there are about four hundred specimens in Finland. Classified as an endangered species.
This is making me no wiser. I click on SEARCH and come up with the following:
Because of their great outward resemblance to humans or apes, trolls were originally mistaken for close relatives of the hominids; but further study has demonstrated that the case is one of convergent evolution. Misclassified a primate, the species was first erroneously designated "the Northern Troglodyte Ape" (Latin: Troglodytas Borealis). Later it was observed that the troll belonged to a completely independent family of carnivores, the Felipithecidae, but the apelike attributions survived for a time in the nomenclature, Felipithecus troglodytas. At present, the established, scientifically accepted nomenclature of the species still bows to popular tradition as Felipithecus trollius. An interesting episode in the naming of the troll was a suggestion from the prestigious Societas pro Fauna et Flora: relying on the mythical and demonic connotations, they proposed the name Felipithecus satanus.
Only one other species of the Felipithecidae is known, the almost extinct yellow cat-ape (Felipithecus flavus), a roughly lynx-sized creature whose habitat is the heart of the Indonesian rain forest. The common ancestor of the species is believed, on fossil evidence, to have inhabited Southeast Asia.
Though, on the evidence of its mode of life and dentition, the troll is clearly a carnivore, many scientists consider that the species does not properly belong to the order of Carnivora. Theories exist that the troll is more closely related to the insectivores and primates than to the true feline predators, and this is supported by certain anatomical features.
It has been suggested that several other species whose existence has not been scientifically established beyond doubt (such as the legendary Tibetan "Abominable Snowman," or Yeti, of hearsay, and the mythical North American Sasquatch, or "Bigfoot") may also be humanity-shunning representatives of the Felipithecidae family.
Firm proof of the existence of Felipithecus trollius was not obtained until 1907, when the Biological and Botanical Department of the Tsar Alexander University of Helsinki received the carcass of a full-grown troll that had been discovered dead. There had been previous reports of firsthand sightings of trolls, but this legendary creature, oft-mentioned in folk tradition and in the Kalevala, was considered a purely mythical beast in scientific circles. Clearly, the occasional troll-cub encountered in the wilderness served to maintain myths of gnomes and goblins, especially in light of the theory that the trolls regulate any great increase in their population by abandoning newborn offspring.
The troll's ability to merge with the terrain, the inaccessibility of its habitat, its aversion to human contact, its silent night-habits and its hibernation in cave-dens, causing them rarely to leave snow tracks, may partially explain the late discovery of the species. The troll's zoological history is thus very similar to those of, for example, the okapi, not identified until 1900, the Komodo dragon (1912), and the giant panda (1937). In spite of abundant oral tradition and many sightings by the aboriginal population, accounts of these animals were long classified by scientists as myth and folklore. It is worth remembering that an estimated 14 million subspecies of animals live on the planet, of which only about 1.7 million are recognized and classified, less than 15% of all species. The relatively large cloven-footed animals, Meganuntiacus vuquangensis and Pseudoryx nghetinhensis, for example, were only discovered in 1994 ...(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Troll"
Copyright © 2000 Johanna Sinisalo.
Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic, Inc..
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Pretty decent quick read. The storyline is supplemented by exerps from various books and legends, which is a nice style but the story itself is nothing special. It was told from the perspective of 5 people which left too little time to build depth for any of the characters. Also, the main character has several names which is rather confusing at first.
As a lover of all things Scandinavian and a fan of everything folklore, this book caught my eye right away. I have never known anyone who read it or even heard of it. I opened it up expecting something totally different, and that's what I got. It is a freaky, touching love story. That yes, involves a troll. It's well written. The pace flows along and the dilemmas of the young protagonist pull you in. The characters, including the troll, are strong and sympathetic. The ending... wasn't everything I had hoped... but I would still highly recommend this book to any true literature lover.
Accepting the premise that trolls really do exist, although they are rarely sighted, and little is known for sure about them, Johanna Sinisalo has created a beautiful love story, as the title suggests. The story is set in Finland one winter through to the spring.Mikael, a successful freelance photographer affectionately and descriptively known as Angel, for he is very handsome with his head of fair hair, rescues an abandoned and frightened young troll from the attack of a group of loutish drunken teenagers. With no other options, for as we all know an abandoned troll cannot be re-united with its parents; Angel takes the young troll home to care for it. He then embarks on a course of investigation and discovery as he secretly tries to raise the troll, which he names Pessi. At the same time Angel tries to juggle his relationships with his gay lovers: Dr Spiderman, a vet; Martes who is also his business partner and Ecke who absolutely adores the gorgeous Angel. While Dr Spiderman provides some advice, Angel¿s only other support comes from Palomita, the Filipino bride of the abusive brute who lives in the apartment below him.The story is told progressively by the various participants, but predominately Angel, and the narration is regularly interspersed with facts, information, and myths and tales, poetry and literature about trolls, sourced from various publications and the internet.It is truly a lovely story, the relationship that develops between Angel and Pessi is most heart warming as the young troll becomes submissive towards and fiercely and jealously protective of his newfound master. More mysteriously there is something else to the connection between Pessi and Angel, as it appears the young troll exerts a powerful influence that perhaps only a man who loves other men is susceptible to, it certainly has a physical affect on Angel.Events necessarily come to a climax as Pessi¿s existence inevitable becomes know to the authorities, but that is not to say that it is any way predicable, far from it. The conclusion of the tale is both moving and satisfying.NOTE REGARDING CONCLUSION added in repsonse to a question (do not read if you do not want to know the ending)I too wondered about Angel¿s outcome, especially as he was escorted at gun point to the trolls' lair; but then if the large male troll intended to dispose of him, why take him back to their cave? Then there is that almost tender moment when one of the welcoming trolls extracts the lighter from Angel¿s pocket, if its intent were malicious surely such a powerful creature would simply rip the lighter out of Angel¿s trousers.When the large mature troll found Angel and Pressi, Pessi was clearly delighted to meet his own kind, going ¿berserk with joy¿ and leaping up at the male troll. But Pessi is devoted to Angel; he has proved that by being so fiercely protective of him, he obviously does not see this large male troll as a threat. Pessi surely would not allow anything untoward to happen to Angel; the move he makes at the very last as he goes to Angel¿s side and takes his hand as they enter the cave seems to confirm this.There is also the idea revealed in the beliefs and myths surrounding trolls that they can live in harmony with and even marry humans; and have been known to take in young humans (pp29-30, 99 in my copy). In my mind I am quite confident that the trolls take in and care for Angel, and this seems morally correct (from the trolls¿ point of view), for Angel is a wanted man, wanted for a crime Pessi committed; the trolls have a duty to protect Angel. (And what alternative does Angel have, if he returns to his world it is undoubtedly to face trial for murder?)Of course one wonders why the need for the gun, but would Angel have gone with the mature male troll without the `incentive¿, would he perhaps have just left Pessi knowing he was back with his kind?I wonder at Angel¿s life with the troll¿s, but it must have its advantages; he probably lives in a state of near p
Why did I read it? It came up a few times on recommended lists and a book which featured a troll by a Finnish writer seemed like an interesting read, even when the synopsis hinted at sexual themes.What's it about? Mikael is returning from a gay club one evening and intercepts a gang intent on beating a cornered animal. Upon seeing the victim, it becomes clear to Mikael it is a young troll and, intoxicated by liquor and the beauty of the troll itself, he takes it home with him. Mikael attempts to restore the troll to health by reading all sorts of materials, but never seems aware of the intoxicating pheromones the troll exudes, and which come to mingle with his own scent.What did I like? It's a different kind of fantasy I suppose. The chapters were short, making it a quick read and, once again, the ending isn't neatly tied up. I was a little interested in the fate of the troll, and some of the snippets of information inserted between chapters were intriguing.The portrayal of the futility of attempting to tame an animal which thrives in the wild was quite well done. The story also highlights the increasing urbanisation of previously wild environments which is forcing many an animal/creature to adapt and survive on our terms, and how much mankind/humans are adverse to this encroachment by "wild things" on what they consider their turf.What didn't I like? "Not Before Sundown" as it's also known, just didn't grab me. I stopped caring about Mikael, or what fate awaited him fairly early in the story, when his tiresome selfish/self-centered personality was revealed. Eventually, the factual accounts, snippets of folklore and various bits of information regarding trolls which was inserted between chapters also became tedious. Thus, the book dragged itself, limping, to it's conclusion[?].Certain sexual aspects of Mikael's behaviour were also very off-putting; more particularly, his feelings towards Pessi, the troll. Would I recommend it? I can't say I would, mostly because I cannot think of anyone who should enjoy reading it; certainly no-one of my acquaintance.
The first person perspective was a slightly confusing here. It was actually page 23 before I realized Angel was a guy! (should have read the back cover to refresh my memory before I started reading it) I loved the inserts of folklore stories, academic reports, and such; they made understanding the world where trolls are real and accepted at fact easier to slip into. I felt the ending was rather abrupt, though; there was a lot of build up and then it was over in only a few pages. I would have liked to read more about the aftermath among the humans like how much the police are able to figure out, and what happens to Angel and Pessi.
I really enjoyed reading this and really liked some of the characters. Found some of it slightly too weird, and I am not entirely convinced by the title, not convinced that it's a love story as opposed to a lust story. Then again, I don't read Finnish, so for all I know the title was completely made up by the translator.Speaking of the translator, the translation reads a bit clunky, particularly to start with, though one gets into it quickly enough.Finally, I found Sinisalo's extensive use of stylistic devices, such as excerpts from "academic papers" and mythology, somewhat heavy-handed and excessive.
This was a really odd book. The style of multiple narrators including excerpts from "other works" is not new (Dracula?) but it's unusual enough to make it interesting to read. Each section is also extremely short making it easy to slip into "one more chapter" mode and finish the book extremely quickly. By utilising this device to represent the main character's research into Trolls, Sinisalo ensures that we, as readers, are about as aware as the characters about the truth of Trolls in their world. I really enjoyed this book. Note for UK Readers - This is released as Not Before Sundown in the UK.
Troll A love story by Johanna Sinisalo is a twisted folk tale. Angel stops an act of bullying and rescues the victim who turns out to be a young troll. Though mythic, in this reality, Finnish trolls have been identified and classified by zoologists. Trolls are rare in the wild and almost never known in captivity. Angel keeps the troll and Johanna Sinisalo includes folktales and animal research as some of the resources that Angel taps to find how to feed and care for the troll. The story is disturbing, to me, in its sexuality. The sexual tension in Angel clangs alarms to me not only in that the troll is an animal but that the troll is immature. As Angel uses the troll for an advertisement photo campaign he is working on a parallel develops between his relationship (urg) with the troll and the abusive relationship of the couple downstairs. Betrayal, taming of animals, human nature or animal nature.... Angel's interaction with the troll leads him to view many people and relationships in different ways...seeing humanity where before he had glanced past with disdain.
Wow. This was not at all what I was expecting. I'm not sure what I was expecting at first. Though at one point, I'd gotten a glimpse inside the book and it looked like poetry. I thought I was going to be reading an English translation of a Finnish poem. Not at all my usual fare! But it's nothing like that at all. It's very readable to my American brain. And it's not chock full of poetry.The main character takes in a young wild troll. The troll is sick and first needs to be nursed back to health. Can a troll be domesticated? Tamed?And, well, it's so much more than that, but I kind of don't want to spoil anyone's first reading of it by saying more.While it doesn't completely disrupt the reader's thoughts of gender, it does have a few things to say about the subject between the lines. I can see why it made the Tiptree list.
Unusual and quirky read. Surprising and informative. Worth reading. Unexpected format and ending.
U HAVE BEEN TROLLED LOLOLOLOLOL
Idiott is openning a new bar at 'cbgb' all res! Read the description of each room. Is open 24-7!
I bark to say hello
"Throws my ninja stars at the camp and jumps off of the tree and walks in" How about all of you stop!
Why? Why? Nooooooo