The troll who trod on a seal

Once upon a time an evil symbol appeared on the great seal of a sunny, palm-treed kingdom known as El Lay. It was noticed by an angry old troll who grunted in surprise and disgust and hobbled off as quickly as he could to share his surprise and disgust with Aclu, a shining lady in pure white clothes who hated evil symbols.

“Come quick,” puffed the troll, spraying the air with spittle and gesturing with his crooked cane, “evil stalks the land!”

Aclu, who was crocheting doilies containing nondenominational environmental designs, backed off a bit, put her work down and stared hard at the troll, who was as ugly as a gopher but astute enough to spot evil.

“Whither?” she demanded in the idiom often incorporated by persons of purity.


In addition to being ugly and uncommonly dirty, the troll also wasn’t too bright, and “whither” confused him for a moment. Then a little lightbulb appeared in a balloon over his head and he realized that Miss Purity meant “where” in the argot of the refined, as in where’s the evil.

“On a kingdom seal!” he shouted, spraying.

Aclu wanted to ask “Whence?” -- meaning, of course, when did he see it -- but this would just have prolonged the conversation, so she said, “Show us,” utilizing the royal plural.

The troll puffed down the lane he had just traversed, with Aclu striding behind him with great dignity and refinement, picking a golden daffodil for her hair along the way.


Then suddenly the troll stopped, pointed and said, “Hence!” which he remembered from earlier evil discussions with Aclu.

It was indeed the Great Seal of El Lay depicted on the side of the Great Building of the Board, where members of the Grand Board enacted laws and played poker and scratched themselves in unlikely places.

“I see no evil symbol,” Aclu said. But as she peered closer, she saw what the troll had observed and pulled back in horror. “Great Gondola,” she said, her eyes wide with fear, “it’s a circle!”

Indeed it was, a teeny-tiny circle just below the foot of the Great Image of Gondola, who was the nonintellectual and religiously unaligned symbol of the kingdom, a plain figure of uncertain gender said to be fashioned after the country’s first celebrity.


The dreaded circle was the icon of a group that believed in the sun, the moon and other circular things. They often met to pray to the image and to dance and sing and say dirty things. Aclu believed, as did the gopher-like troll, that the mere presence of the icon violated the Laws of Non-Commitment that were the very foundation of El Lay.

When Aclu entered the Great Building of the Board, the Grand Board members stood with respect, although Gonzalez kept his eyes surreptitiously on his down-facing cards, which concealed a full house, kings high, and Karoslevsky quickly hid the non-flavored, label-free beer he’d been drinking.

“Welcome, oh Pure One,” said the High Glory of the Grand Board, as the position was called, as Aclu glanced reprovingly at the ace of hearts that had just fallen out of the sleeve of the Grand Board member Evening Summers, a woman known for her abilities to arm-wrestle to the table any man in the kingdom and to shoot an arrow through the eye of a passing crow.

Aclu did not waste time with whithering and whencing but got right to the business of the evil circle on the Great Seal of El Lay. It was mixing evil with purity, she intoned with the aristocratic accent she had developed after traveling through the shire of Angluv one summer, and it was wrong.


She demanded that the symbol be removed by moonset or she would smite the Grand Board with a holy condemnation, whose validity would be considered by the Ultra Grand Court, a body of scary old men with the power to determine piety, remove symbols, cash checks and turn otherwise comely El Layians into goats and manatees.

The very idea terrified the Grand Board, because they knew of what punishment the UGC was capable when prodded by the very epitome of goodness, Aclu the Pure.

“We will remove the circle instantly,” said the High Glory with a tremble in his weak and whiny voice. “Perhaps we will put the leg of a sheep in its place to honor food or a teardrop to recognize sadness.”

Aclu thought about this for a moment, her clear blue eyes deep in concentration, and then said, in a voice of pronouncement as well as aristocracy, “There will be no symbol at all and no seal at all, simply a blank square that will symbolize nothing and thereby offend no one.”


That was all right by the Grand Board, because that’s exactly what it was all about. The vote was unanimous. Aclu blew them kisses, and so did the ugly troll, whose kisses were immediately thrown back in disgust. He went on searching for evil and Aclu went back to crocheting politically acceptable symbols into her unremarkable doilies, as passionless love and noninvolvement settled over the uncommitted land.


Al Martinez’s column appears Mondays and Fridays. He’s at