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Young Adult Fiction Magical Realism

The River Troll

A Story About Love in Color

by (author) Rich Theroux

Durvile Publications
Initial publish date
Feb 2022
Magical Realism, Art
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2021
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2022
    List Price

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The River Troll is strange and darkly comic illustrated Y/A novel featuring a nameless protagonist we call “friend.” Late at night our friend wanders a little and ponders quite a lot on a long walk along a river looking for a reason to keep on living. He meets up with a troll and a few other all-night ghouls as he drifts along, searching for purpose. They all find it amazing our friend can negotiate his way through the day posing as a junior high school art teacher.

About the author


  • Winner, Book Publishers of Alberta
  • Winner, Gold Prize, Teen category, COVR Awards

Contributor Notes

Besides being a cave-man, Rich is a genius talent at painting and drawing. His art hangs here and there in prominent homes and galleries but he prefers not to boast about it. Rich is founder of Rumble House and happens to also teach junior high school art. He is the author and illustrator of Stop Making Art and Die, and the co-author of the poetry book, A Wake in the Undertow, along with his partner Jess Szabo. Intriguingly, he calls himself a tomato can. He and his tribe exist/co-exist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

Excerpt: The River Troll: A Story About Love in Color (by (author) Rich Theroux)


Under the bridge is a different matter. Under the bridge is the River Troll. He’s so ugly you can’t look him in the eye. You’d need to climb up his chest to look him in the eye, but you can’t because his clothes are slimy from a thousand years of eating sweaty children. He won’t eat me, I’m too salty.

What good do you do me, he says.
He’s not as British as you’d expect.

What good do you do me? I ask in my deepest voice. To show him I’m not afraid.

Bah, I should eat you, he answers.

Buzz off, you ugly clout, I say.

He smiles. I think I will eat you tonight.

I spit at him, near him, but not on him. If I hit him, he’d kill me. But I find the closer I get, the harder he laughs.

Tell me a story you dirty beast, I say.

What story tonight? He growls back.

Tell me a story about how true love is like a butterfly, I say.

And why should I tell you such a story?

Because I’ll tell the children and it will make them happy and I know you like the taste of happy children best. Tell me a butterfly story and I’ll tell the sad children at school and they will make better meals.

It’s a lie, none of your children ever come my way, he says.

I can’t lie to a troll. I tell the children to stay away, it’s true. But he can imagine how good they would taste if they choose not to listen.

You’re a mean little man, he says.

Go on, I say.

He sits. Strangely when he sits under the bridge his head is still near the roof, wasn’t his head touching the roof when he was standing? He sits. He still fills the space.

I’ll tell you a story, but you better send a tasty child my way or I’m not telling you any more.

It’s a story about love. And how to love. The troll holds out his giant hand.

This hand is love,

See? And you puny people really have no idea how to love.

See? He asks this as he pushes the palm of his hand into my face.

Now this is being loved, he says as he lowers his hand.

A bird-like moth flutters into his bloated hand.

You love the butterfly see? he asks.

As the moth chews at the algae in the cracks of his skin he says, you love the pretty butterfly.

That’s a moth, I say.

You love the pretty butterfly, but it’s a butterfly it’s not a buttersit.

On cue the moth flies away and the troll sits palm open. He explains the butterfly’s job is to fly away, but that we do not understand love.

That’s a shitty story, I say.

Just wait. So we wait.

We wait a very long time and the moth flies back and the troll says, so you wait and you keep your hand open and the butterfly comes back.

But only when it chooses to. And then the moth flies away.

This happens several times with no explanation, but the troll is patient and I’ve got nothing better to do. Finally, the moth comes back and
the troll says, you … your kind doesn’t understand love.

He squeezes his fist shut, veins and sinew gnash, you hold onto love like this, he says, opening his hand to the juicy mess in his palm. He licks it off, curls his finger back with his thumb and flicks me a hundred meters away.


Editorial Reviews

Rich Theroux drops this piece of surrealism … a darkly comic and deeply strange illustrated fable that has a nameless protagonist coming across interesting characters in late-night walks. They include the titular River Troll, who is huge, naked, ornery and a bit violent. There’s the condescending Clever Monkey. There’s a one-eyed “giantess.” Baba Yaga, a supernatural figure that comes from Slavic folklore. There are dragons who wear armour and glide through the city on tracks like trains … the art is surreal and dreamlike.

ERIC VOLMERS, The Calgary Herald

Other titles by Rich Theroux

Wisdom River

Meditations on Fly Fishing and Life Midstream

edited by Larry Kapustka & Chad Okrusch
by (author) Rayelynn Brandl, Pat Munday, Kaitlyn Okrusch, Doris Daley, Al "Doc" Mehl, Paul Vang, David McCumber, John McKee, Kayla Lappin, Jim McLennan, Jerry Kustich, Mike Forbister & Greg Allard
photographs by Tim Foster
foreword by Greg Shyba
illustrated by Rich Theroux

Embrace Your Divine Flow

Evolvements for Healing

edited by Julian Hobson & Lorene Shyba
illustrated by Helena Hadala
by (author) James R. Parker, Marlene Yellow Horn, Raymond Yakeleya, Rich Theroux, John Heerema, Hilda Chasia Smith, Audrya Chancellor, Kayla Lappin, Islene Runningdeer, Mar'ce Merrell, Lynda Partridge, Antoine Mountain & Alex Soop
foreword by Elizabeth Rockenbach

The Rainbow, the Midwife & the Birds

4 Dene Tales

by (author) Raymond Yakeleya
illustrated by Samantha Gibbon, Rich Theroux & Antoine Mountain


Tales of the Northern Sasquatch

by (author) Red Grossinger
foreword by Raymond Yakeleya
illustrated by Rich Theroux

Go Ahead and Shoot Me! And Other True Cases About Ordinary Criminals

And Other True Cases About Ordinary Criminals

by (author) Doug Heckbert
afterword by Debbie J. Doyle
foreword by Howard Sapers
cover design or artwork by Rich Theroux
general editor Lorene Shyba

Ducks Redux

Fueling Flames in Oil Land

by (author) Lorene Shyba & C.D. Evans
illustrated by Rich Theroux

Do or Die Filmmaking

edited by Rich Theroux & Lorene Shyba

RumbleSat Art from the Edge of Space

Art from the Edge of Space

by (author) Jim Parker, Lorene Shyba & Rich Theroux

RumbleSat Art from the Edge of Space

Art from the Edge of Space

by (author) Jim Parker, Lorene Shyba & Rich Theroux

A Wake in the Undertow

Rumble House Poems

by (author) Rich Theroux & Jess Szabo