June 16th – The Trolls of Claxoncliff Remembrance Festival

If you follow the coast around to the north of Buentoille, there is a point where it raises up, far over the sea, the Ceaen Moor granite reaching out over the waves as imposing cliffs. Atop the highest of these, Claxoncliff, are two large standing stones, the last remaining from a stone circle, most of which has fallen into the sea below. One is slightly larger than the other, which is leaning over, resting on the bigger stone. They stand right on the edge of the precipice. Below them, in the side of the cliff, a small cave has been revealed where the land has been cut away by the sea.

Yana Markosc had come to the stones many times when she was little, they were something of a tourist attraction, affording beautiful views of the surrounding sea, coast and moor. But more than the view, she loved the stones themselves. ‘Look, they’re in love,’ her father said to her, pointing at the way the stones leant into each other, on the first time they went up there as a family. The concept stayed with her for a long time. Later, when her life took a number of harrowing turns, Markosc returned to the stones; to her they were a place of solace.

Unfortunately for Markosc, she lived at a bad time for LGBT+ folks, and was persecuted for much of her life. Even before the coup of the Traitor King, there were festering parts of the City where ant-LGBT+ sentiment was growing, becoming more emboldened, correlating directly with the rise of far-right, monarchist groups which created the conditions for the coup to be possible. As a transgender woman, Markosc suffered more than her fair share of abuse, but under the rule of the Traitor King, things got even worse, her very existence being considered an affront to the new, xenophobic Buentoille the King was building. Many LGBT+ folks were driven underground through aggressive laws and the tacit permission to commit acts of violent hatred given by the new state to far-right militias. Because they were targeted so early, LGBT+ folks founded much of the armed resistance.

Markosc did her part in the Revolutionary struggle which eventually freed the City, but before that, in the days when the persecution she faced was less pointed, she wrote a book, called The Trolls of Claxoncliff. ‘Troll’ was a vile term of abuse used to describe transgender people, intended to cast them as something against nature, but through the book Markosc sought to claim the word as her own, to recast it in a more positive light. The book, written in the style of a folk tale, tells of two trolls who live in a cave cut into a cliff. They used to have a ‘delightful home in the village,’ but the neighbours accused them of stealing children, and had driven them out to this lonely point. They try to live a peaceful life, bothering nobody, but still the village abhor their existence, sending out groups of armed villagers who declare increasingly tight restrictions on their lives, ‘you cannot drink from the well,’ ‘you cannot plant crops on the land,’ ‘you cannot come out in the day in case the children see you.’

As the trolls assent to each change, as they accept their definition by others, they change physically, becoming uglier from their time in the caves and their diet of cave fish. The sun begins to burn their flesh. Eventually, when the villagers come again, saying that they can no longer live together so that cannot ‘breed more trolls,’ the trolls decide they’ve had enough. They stand on the cliffs to watch the sunrise, and are turned to stone, one lovingly leaning on the other. The villagers try to move them, to push them into the sea, but try as they might to erase them they cannot.

Later on in her life, when she joined the resistance, Markosc spoke about what the book meant. ‘I wrote it as a personal working-through, working-out of my feelings. For so long I had been taught to hate myself, to hide from those who had done me harm, to let them define me. We are not trolls, especially not the trolls of this story, we are human and we must assert our humanity. We must fight back against those who do us harm. We cannot afford to be turned to stone, we must live on, we must prove that we exist, not that we existed.’

The book was and still is very popular, and the real trolls, the standing stones atop Claxoncliff, have come to be emblematic for those LGBT+ folks who were killed by the actions of bigots and monarchists. These stones which once presumably held some other great meaning to the people who placed them there have been re-worked into a memorial for the dead. On this, the anniversary of Markosc’s death (from old age in 1929), folk will gather atop the cliff all day, reading the long list of names on a brass plaque placed on the ground nearby, remembering those who died so that they can be free. They will place flowers around the stones, the troll lovers, and stand as they do, looking far out to sea.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of Interpreting the Work of Vignt Ufel
  • Compost Day
  • The Festival of Washing