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Troll Bridge

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"Stop! Who approaches the Bridge of Death must answer me These Questions Three..., ere the other side he see."
I'm the grumpy old troll who lives under the bridge (Hey!)
I'm the grumpy old troll who lives under the bridge (Who's there?)
If you wanna come over
All you have to do is this
All you have to do is this...
Solve my riddle!
The Grumpy Old Troll (who lives under the bridge), Dora the Explorer

The Hero and his companions are on a quest to find a MacGuffin, stop the Big Bad, and Save the World. In order to get to the MacGuffin Location, they have to cross a bridge. But wait, there's someone guarding the bridge, and they won't let The Hero past until they pass a test.

Usually a troll of one kind or another, these bridgekeepers more often than not demand that anyone who wants to cross has to answer a riddle.

Similar to crossroads, the relationship between bridges and the supernatural has existed in world folklore for centuries, representing liminal and transitional spaces that defy natural obstacles and connect two places that could be isolated otherwise; so in the same way bridges intersect two different areas, they'd also be a place of intersection between different worlds, like life and death, and the natural and the unnatural. However, the association of this otherwordly antagonism with trolls in specific might come from the publication and English translation of the Norwegian fairy tale Three Billy Goats Gruff, collected by Asbjørnsen and Moe in the anthology "Norwegian Folktales". The story was one of the first introductions of trolls to 19th century Britain and portrays one who lives under a bridge and threatens to eat the three goats that have to pass through it, thus influencing many posterior appearances of trolls in Victorian literature and art.

Related to Riddle of the Sphinx. Compare Only Smart People May Pass and Only the Worthy May Pass. See also Take It to the Bridge for situations in which bridges are relevant to a story in general due to their symbolism.


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    Fan Works 
  • The four encounter a variant of this during the quest for the third part of the Vasyn in With Strings Attached. In this case, they're in a narrow canyon and they have to pay a toll to a troll in order to pass. The troll wants flesh to eat, specifically George (who's a horse at the moment). When they turn it down, it jokes that it'll wrestle one of the rather feeble-looking four for the chance to continue on. Things do not end well for the troll, or at least its self-esteem.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
    • The old man from scene #24 who guards The Bridge of Death in asks anyone who wants to cross five three questions, although the questions' difficulty varies wildly. Anyone who can't answer is flung into The Gorge of Eternal Peril. The catch: If you ask him a question and he can't answer it, he gets thrown.
    • The Black Knight may also count as a troll, though instead of asking riddles, he just challenges anyone who approaches his bridge to a fight to the death.
  • Labyrinth: In order to pass Sir Didymus's Bridge, you must first best the little creature in a fight ... or ask his permission.
  • Played for laughs in Mel Brooks' Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Little John refuses to let Robin and his group pass over the bridge unless they can beat him in a duel. The other characters then point out that the waterway that the bridge crosses "Ain't exactly the Mississippi" and can just as easily be jumped over without trouble. Robin fights Little John anyways, as It's the Principle of the Thing. This of course is a parody of the scene in every other version of the myth.

  • The troll in the story of "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" threatens to eat the goats that cross the bridge he lives under. The fairy tale might as well be the reason why trolls are often portrayed as obstacles in bridges, since it was between the first introductions of these beings to the British mass public.
  • It appears in the The Bible. The Angel of Death appears at a ford to prevent some guy from crossing it.
    • Also in The Bible, Balaam gets held up by an angel that only his donkey can see.
  • In Discworld this is a traditional Troll occupation. It is extremely impolite to mention the Three Billy Goats Gruff.
    • The Discworld short story 'Troll Bridge'' naturally features one of these. While Cohen originally was going to fight him, the two end up reminiscing together over how the world isn't as accommodating to heroes and monsters as it once was.
    • A Troll also has a legitimate job as a toll taker of a bridge into Lancre. It's mentioned that people crossing the bridge pay a certain amount to cross, and 10,000 gold pieces to bring a billy goat across. A footnote mentions, "Trolls may have been slow, but they didn't forget in a hurry either."
    • In Raising Steam the railroad employs trolls to maintain many of the new railroad bridges that are put up on the lines. Since the trolls in question are perfectly happy to live under the bridge the designs are modified to include housing for them.
  • One of Jim Butcher's short stories in the Dresdenverse that was included in Side Jobs, called "Restoration of Faith", has an interesting take on a Bridge Troll... in Chicago, even.
  • In Septimus Heap, both the bridge to the House of Foryx as well as the House itself are guarded by a Toll-Man and a DoorKeeper respectively.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire (and its TV adaptation), the main bridge across the Green Fork is fortified and guarded by two castles known as The Twins that are the seat of the feudal house Frey. The Freys extort variable payments from whoever wants to cross their bridge, which can get absurdly high if the traveler is desperate enough. The Lord of the Crossing, Walder Frey, is also one of the biggest Trolls on the continent.
  • In the Black Blade series, there are numerous places in Cloudburst Falls that are the home of various monsters that will attack people if not given some token toll, like a candy bar or some loose change. Lila defeats the villain of the first book by tricking him into crossing a lochness bridge on foot without paying the toll, at which point said lochness eats him.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Barbarian and the Troll stars Evan, a young troll prince quitting his job as a bridge troll to become a bard, literally burning his bridge down in the process. As trolls run all the tollbridges in the kingdom of Gothmoria and run them on a "Pay or Slay" system, he and Brendar are forced to go back to his disapproving father to get the special "Troll Pass" for free movement through the troll tollways that don't involve slaughtering his old schoolmates.
  • Parodied, minus the bridge, in "The Nightman Cometh" episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, where Charlie's play has Frank demand a "troll toll" from the Nightman.
  • On Lost Girl, a between-seasons webisode has Kenzi searching for a druid and being stopped on a bridge by a short, scrawny guy who demands that she pay a toll. Turns out the guy was an internet troll but got demoted to bridge duty as punishment. However, when Kenzi and her companion try to ignore the troll and cross the bridge without payment, the troll attacks and beats them up. Despite his puny appearance, he is still a troll and has incredible strength. In the end Kenzi's companion agrees to take over the troll's bridge duty for a month so Kenzi can pass unmolested.
  • Mad TV 995 had a sketch about a "Gap Troll" that asked riddles of customers to The Gap.
  • Merlin had something like this, with Warwick Davis playing the bridge-keeper, who simply wanted to impart some cryptic advice before letting Arthur, Merlin, and Gwaine carry on their way.
  • Appeared in Northern Exposure in the episode when Fleischman leaves the show.
  • Once Upon a Time: The Enchanted Forest has a troll bridge, which is matched by a decrepit toll bridge in Storybrooke.
  • An animated segment on Sesame Street went like this: "STOP!" *thunder* "I am The Bridgekeeper!" He requires crossers to answer questions about shapes (and sometimes to play a tune) before they can pass him and cross.
    • There were several versions of the segment and the exact rule for crossing varied, but as mentioned it generally involved shapes in some way. In one segment, when a man arrives at the bridge he's told that the rule is "any circles you carry today must be eaten or thrown away". As it turns out, the man does have several circles (cookies, a pizza, a section of watermelon) in his bag. After the man eats these, the Bridgekeeper tells him he may cross, but the man doesn't want to cross ... he only came to deliver the Bridgekeeper's groceries.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Oedipus encountered the Sphinx, who required all travelers to answer her riddle before letting them continue on their journey. If they failed, she ate them.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Changeling: The Lost has, in its Grim Fears supplement, the character of Long Tooth Tom, who has a tendency to pick out suitable bridges and live under them, demanding tribute from anyone who would cross. He usually demands food or drink, since he doesn't give a damn about material possessions (he's more likely to want the leftover takeout in your back seat than your car). Those who refuse soon discover that the alternative is getting their asses kicked (and possibly eaten) by a giant Ogre.

    Video Games 
  • Baldur's Gate: Two Ogrillons demand a toll for you to cross the bridge leading to the gnoll stronghold. Paying the toll will lead them to attack, on the grounds that if you were willing to fork over that much money without haggling, there's probably a lot more where that came from. Then again, one of the Ogrillons carries the immensely powerful Gauntlets of Dexterity, so this is a desirable result.
  • Colossal Cave has a troll bridge, as do umpteen other Interactive Fiction games probably influenced by it.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: Reaper's Coast has two rival trolls who charge a cash fee to cross their respective bridges, each of whom would like you to kill the other. You can argue to one that it's illegally profiting from public property, but it will retort that the bridge clearly hasn't been maintained at all by the State and is open to adverse possession.
    Spirit of a Squashed Traveler: Shoulda paid... shoulda paid... always pay... Momma said... can't fool a troll... gotta pay the toll... always pay... shoulda paid...
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion references this for Gallows Humor in an Easter Egg: A dead troll in the river underneath one remote bridge carries a suicide note bemoaning itself as a failure because "nobody pay brijj tole".
  • A special event in Fallout 2 parodies the Monty Python scene above, in which The Chosen One's path is blocked by a bridgekeeper, who will only let him pass if he answers three questions. If he is unable to answer the questions correctly, he will spontaneously die. If he answers all three correctly, he is allowed to pass. However, if he answers the final question with a question, the bridgekeeper himself will be unable to answer, and thus will die (and drop his robes, which are equal to Combat Armor).
  • In a promotional video for God of War (PS4), a troll attacks Kratos and Atreus when they pass above the bridge he was under. In the game itself, the troll is fought in a different area instead, but if Kratos and Atreus go under that bridge, Atreus comments he was expecting to see a troll there, alluding to both the ad and the archetype.
  • In King's Quest I the player must get onto an island accessible by three bridges, all of which are guarded by a troll. Options are giving it treasure, or re-enacting "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" by coaxing a friendly goat to the scene.
    • In King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride, there are no riddles or tests to solve - the only way to get past the very unfriendly troll in front of the crystal dragon's cave is to knock him off the bridge.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, Link must joust a King Bublin on The Eldin Bridge on horseback.
  • That one puzzle in The Secret of Monkey Island. The Troll is George Lucas in a Mask, you need to feed him a red herring to pass.
  • In MySims Kingdom, Spookane resident Yuki stops you from crossing unless you bring her "shinies", found in the nearby ruins. If you don't, she'll bite your face! Okay, not really, but she really wants to!
  • Shadowgate has a bridge, guarded by a troll. Like most things in Shadowgate, messing with him is usually fatal, as he likes pulling the bridge out from under you and is too smart to be fooled by copper coins. Only gold will do.
  • Touhou Chireiden ~ Subterranean Animism has a bridge guarded by a jealousy-ridden, Ax-Crazy Bridge Princess. Three guesses how you get past her.
  • Prior to removal of the scenario featuring them in version 1.15, The Hammer of Thursagan campaign of Battle for Wesnoth has a scenario where the protagonists encounter a bridge guarded by trolls who demand them to pay the toll or die. Since the protagonists can tell that the bridge does not actually belong to the trolls, they simply kill the trolls.
  • In some old Ultima games, any time you step on a bridge, there's a chance that you'll get a Random Encounter made up entirely of trolls.
  • The Interactive Fiction "game" +=3 confronts the player with a bridge guarded by a Three Troll, who will not let the player pass (and thus win) until he's been given three things. An intentional Guide Dang It! written to illustrate that a puzzle can be "logical" and still utterly confounding: the player is holding only one item, but he can give the troll the clothes he's wearing to make up the difference.
  • Phantasy Star II's North Bridge is guarded by a serial killer named Darum, and Rolf refuses to face him until you rescue Darum's kidnapped daughter.
  • In Chapter 1 of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings there is a troll who keeps a nearby bridge and demands tolls. The townspeople are happy to have him: he keeps the bridge in good repair and the tolls he charges aren't really that costly (the governor notes that it would cost far more to hire a human crew to maintain the bridge.) The problem is that recently he's developed a drinking habit over the murder of his wife and turned violent and lazy. The governor needs him returned to his normal, sober, bridgekeeping ways or killed so that a proper (and expensive) maintenance effort can begin.
  • The Discworld MUD has several bridge trolls; the one on the bridge to Lancre asks players if they have any contraband. If they answer "no", he asks if they want to buy some.

    Web Animation 
  • The Little Painter: Pierre is sent to one as punishment for tricking King Croissant and Prince Deja Vu into thinking Princess Creme Brule is ugly.

  • In Digger, Surka the "honorary" bridge troll does this, though she's a bit more open to negotiation than most.
  • There was a troll on the Bridge Of Doom in The Heroes Of Middlecenter. The first three heroes manage to weasel their way out of being eaten by promising that someone meatier is coming after... who happens to be the party paladin. The troll didn't expect the meat to fight back... When they cross the same bridge back, it's now a crime scene and a cop asks three questions to said paladin.
  • At one point in Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic, a traveler gripes about having to cross a "troll bridge". His companion berates him for insulting toll collectors... only to discover the bridge actually is operated by a (very polite) troll.
  • One shows up in a strip from The Princess Planet.
  • The chasm beasts in Demon Street ask for riddles (or pose them) in exchange for granting passage.
  • Swords features a bridge guarded by the Bridge Bandit, a swordsman who always uses the same pattern of attacks to defeat those who challenge him. One determined adventurer tries to defeat the Bridge Bandit by memorizing this attack pattern, but gets defeated whenever the Bridge Bandit adds a new attack to his repertoire, forcing the adventurer to start over every time. He also refuses to just go to a different bridge.

    Web Original 
  • Tales of MU: The Campus Labyrinth of Magisterius University has a Troll Bridge. The troll doesn't let anyone pass unless they can exact change. "Most folks who isn't shapeshifters just change clothes with each other."
  • To acquire the secret knowledge of a forum, ye must first endure the wandering trolls and resist the urge to feed them with fire and attention.

    Web Videos 

    Western Animation 
  • Craig of the Creek has Roger the Bridge Troll, who looks like a disgusting hobbit who only lets kids pass if they solve their riddles (or he solves their riddles).
  • In the Star Fairies special, the titular fairies are blocked from flying and needed to cross a bridge, only to find it guarded by a large hairy creature who agrees to let them cross only if they can grant his wish, and makes them guess what the wish is. Whisper rightly guesses he wishes he didn't have to guard the bridge any more, and she conjures up an automatic toll.
  • Barbie & The Diamond Castle features a troll that guards a rainbow bridge that reveals itself only if travelers correctly answer his riddle. Otherwise, he eats them.
  • Tinker Bell And The Lost Treasure features a pair of trolls who block Tink's way, shouting, "None shall pass!" She manages to sneak past them when they get into an argument.
  • Dora the Explorer has a grumpy old troll who lives under a bridge.
    "I'm the grumpy old troll who lives under the briiiiiidge! I'm the grumpy old troll who lives under the briiiiiidge!"
  • Adventure Time: In the episode "Rainy Day Daydream," everything Jake imagines becomes real, so when they need to cross a bridge, he imagines a "riddle master" who won't let them cross without answering a riddle. Too bad Jake can't think of a riddle...
  • The Sofia the First episode "Enchanted Science Fair" features an ogre who guards the way to a magical flower and declares You Shall Not Pass! unless they answer his riddle. James tries giving him a peppermint instead, but substitutions are not allowed. In the end, only Sofia is allowed to go on, as she was the one to come up with the answer.
  • My Little Pony 'n Friends: "The Magic Coins" has Niblick, a grumpy troll who guards a drawbridge and forces anybody who wants to cross to give him treasure. In the past, he created a chest full of magic coins that grant wishes (one coin is used up per wish), and only he has the power to reverse the wishes. Since a wish made it stop raining and the land is suffering, the heroes beg him to undo it, but he says he will only do it if they can give him a treasure equal to or greater than the coins. After their first three attempts fail to satisfy him, Megan uses the last coin to wish for a friend for Niblick. Satisfied, he undoes the wishes and becomes much nicer.

    Real Life 
  • The Battle of Stamford Bridge (1066), where one Viking supposedly resisted the Saxon troops trying to cross the bridge, holding them off until the rest of the Vikings could prepare for battle. The Viking was defeated by one cunning Saxon going under the bridge and pushing his spear upward... There's a rather graphic illustration of this outside a nearby pub.