Fol rol de ol rol.
I first read Neil Gaiman’s Troll Bridge in his short story collection, Smoke and Mirrors. In typical Gaiman fashion, it’s a story that is both familiar and disquieting, one where you feel like you’ve heard it before but you’re still surprised by events. In that way I’ve always found his writing to be a little like a nightmare, but one that I can’t stop myself from wanting more of. I’m not sure that this entirely makes sense, but it does convey the fact that I’m already familiar with the tale and that I find the original work terribly moving and upsetting (again, in a good way. It’s so hard to accurately describe this without the weight of word connotation misconstruing my meaning. Gaiman makes me have to redefine language.).
I won’t spend much time with the story, but it’s very much a fairy tale in the style of the Brothers Grimm (the originals, not the cleaned up Disney constructs). There’s a fantastical element within that exposes the bad moral choices of the human character and a sense of inevitability that pervades the world. There’s not much I can say plot-wise about the story without giving away the essence of it, but it’s a tragic tale in more than one way. There’s a lovely lesson within it that strikes true each time I’ve read it. This new collaboration makes it all the more poignant.
Colleen Doran takes this amazing work and creates beautiful imagery around it. The artistic style is very fantastical, with a soft watercolor feel that would feel right at home in any classic fairy tale adaptation. The soft focus of the lines and colors provoke the feeling of gazing through a veil, separating our reality from the one on the page which has a seemingly counter-intuitive effect of making it seem much more real, as though our world was sectioned from this magical other simply by the thinnest of gauze.
The heart of the work is how well she manages to elevate and support the original story, translating the wondrous metaphors and impressions of Gaiman’s work and serving it entirely. So much of it felt as though she had taken the images straight from my own mind when I read it; it was incredibly recognizable. There are some parts of the story that are vaguely sexual, and impressions of that come through in the work as well; she doesn’t shy from or mitigate the underlying intimacy present in the text and serves it as faithfully as every other aspect.
This is one of my favorite short stories by an author that I find terrifying and wonderful, and I think that adaptation not only hits every note perfectly but allows another way to interact with it. I love this work, and if you’re a Gaiman fan or just love fantasy when it is allowed to have both light and dark, then you will, too.
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