The Troll Under the Bridge

The Troll Under the Bridge
By Wayne Limberger

This “story-telling” spread is loosely based on the Norwegian fairy tale “Three Billy Goats Gruff.” The spread is suitable for introducing young children to tarot, but it is also effective for seeking meaningful advice about any contemplated course of action.

It is read as a kind of "board game," in which the spread positions are populated first in the order shown, and then the "Traveler" (aka "Significator") card is moved from position to position up to the "Arch" of the bridge (Card #3) and read in combination with the card at each position to see if progress at each stage of the journey is easy or difficult. The "Troll under the Bridge" may be encountered at this point in the narrative. If the "Traveler" successfully crosses the bridge without being eaten by the Troll, the story continues at Card #6. Once all adventures have been braved, "Home," Card #8, shows arrival at the destination. The moral of the story, assuming it is read for guidance and not simply for fun, is that it might be better to stay home. Some days you eat the Troll and some days the Troll eats you!

Choose the “Traveler” card randomly from the deck before shuffling and laying out the spread. It makes no difference that this removes a card from the layout because all cards are read in combination, so the “Traveler” already embodies the essence of the chosen card and carries it along on the journey.

After making a “story” of all two-card combinations up to and including the “Arch” position, sum the values of the “Traveler” and the “Arch” card (use 11 through 14 for court cards) to see if the total is “even” or “odd.”

If it's even, read the “Traveler” card in combination with the “Big Billy Goat,” Card #4, to see what if any aid it provides in getting across the bridge. Sum the values of the “Traveler” and Card #4 (maximum possible value is 41) and divide by 2. If the result is greater than 10, continue the narrative at Card #6 – the Troll has been avoided. If it is less than or equal to 10, move the “Traveler” to Position #5.

If the sum of the “Traveler” and the “Arch” card is odd, assume that the “Traveler” stumbles and encounters “Trevor,” the Troll under the Bridge. Read the “Traveler” and the “Troll” card together to see what manner of adversity will be placed in the path. Next, sum the values of the “Traveler” card and Card #5 (maximum possible value is 41) and divide by 2. If the result is greater than 10, continue the narrative at Card #6 – the Troll has been vanquished. If it is less than or equal to 10, “Trevor” eats the “Traveler” – end of story! Find a different path or wait for another day.

Note that the “maximum possible value” for the addition assumes that the two highest-numbered cards in the deck – Judgement and the World – are part of the combination. Division by 2 produces a result of 20.5; a calculated value of “10” was chosen as the “break- even” point for both succeeding in the initial “crossing” and for “escaping the Troll.”

To add more depth to the narrative, Elemental Dignities can be applied to Cards #2, #3, #6 and #7. Cards #4 and #5 should not be used as EDs for Card #3. This will either increase or decrease the potency of those position cards in combination with the “Traveler” card. Another option you might want to consider is using the “base” or “shadow” card to populate the Troll position; just draw from the bottom of the deck when you lay out Card #5.

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