Writing Revisited: Dunstana & the Philosophy Trolls

& bonus a lengthy discourse on large rodents and bits of trees.

At first, sneaking into the Trolls’ camp had seemed like a great idea. Dunstana was sure she’d be able to get into, spy on the Trolls, and get out.


It didn’t exactly go like that.

“So,” Dunstana asks the Troll, dangling by the hem of her jacket from claws nearly as big as she is, “are you going to eat me?”

The Troll who snatched up Dunstana seems utterly offended by the very suggestion.

“Eat you?” he repeats incredulously, looking at Dunstana from over the rim of the glasses sitting on the edge of his large, bulbous nose. “Goodness gracious me — could you imagine such a thing? No, of course we’re not going to eat you.”

The Troll sets Dunstana on the ground.

“Allow me introduce myself,” he says happily, making room for the little pirate by the Trolls’ fire. “I am Bertrand. My friends here are David and Wilhelm. Now, perhaps you’d like to join us to discuss matters Philosophical?”

“Philosophical?” Dunstana asks. “Like how much wood woodchucks could chuck if they could chuck wood?”

“Not quite what I had in mind,” the bespectacled Troll mutters. “Though perhaps a fruitful avenue for discussion nevertheless.”

He glances down to Dunstana.

“We must first, of course, define out terms,” he explains.

Dunstana isn’t quite sure what that means, but nods along anyway.

“Firstwise, how big of a woodchuck, and what species? Second, what sort of wood does he chuck? Must he fell the trees himself before he chucks the wood? How far must it be chucked to say it has been truly chucked?”

Dunstana isn’t quite sure what that means, but nods along anyway.

“And of course, he must account for the wind’s direction and speed. The temperature and humidity of the air. And whether it is even an auspicious day to chuck wood on?” the second Troll notes.


“Ummmm,” Dunstana offers. “Seven?”

“Ah, yes,” the Troll says thoughtfully. “A perfectly adequate hypothesis, as Seven is indeed a sublime number. We will therefore suppose that the woodchuck, chucking wood to the utmost, shall chuck no fewer than seven pieces of wood.”

“Being content that we have now determined the extent to which a woodchuck might be able to chuck wood,” the second Troll says, “perhaps we now should turn the course of our inquiry to why he chucks wood. To what end, and for what purpose does he chuck wood? For the woodchuck is born without reason, prolongs himself out of weakness, and thus, we assume, chucks wood by chance.”

Dunstana isn’t quite sure what that means, but nods along anyway.

Seeing her little sister surrounded by Trolls, Kat grabs her bow and leaps into action.

And all but falls flat on her face when she finds that such leaping is entirely unnecessary.

Dunstana and the Trolls seem to be happily chatting away about… something.

“Everything alright, Captain Kid?” Kat asks her sister.

“Hi, Kat!” Dunstana says. “We’re doing Philosophy!”

“Uh huh,” Kat mutters.

“Now, suppose we reverse our inquiry,” the third Troll offers, turning back to Dunstana “and we begun to wonder how many woodchucks the wood could chuck, supposing wood could chuck woodchucks.”

Now, I’ve gotten into the whole autism angle before — the whole “strange interests, weird thought processes” thing.

A Viking boat.
Also, Vikings and feeling walls.
Photo by Erik Mclean on Pexels.com

And you will, of course, remember the scene I wrote yesterday, where Dunstana and the Philosophy Trolls (named, incidentally, after these three guys) debated the age-old question of to what extent, if any, a woodchuck might be able to chuck wood, assuming that it could, in fact do so.

Raphael's "School of Athens".
Photo by Pixabay from Pexels.

And, uh, long story short, I literally kept myself up last night thinking about it.

Also, how Angels wear shirts — but, that’s another story, and as per Aquinas, actually fairly straightforward.

An Angel statue.
Basically, Angels aren’t material beings and can adopt whatever material bodies they want to suit their needs.

Photo by Brayden Law on Pexels.com

Essentially, I was focused less on anwering the question of woodchucks chucking wood itself and more on how you’d have to frame the question to actually be able to answer it.

For example, when we say “how much wood”, what kind of timeframe are we setting? If we don’t set any timeframe, we get into the whole Infinite Monkeys thing. Basically, given infinite time, a woodchuck will inevitably be able to chuck infinite wood.

So, to actually test the question, we’d have to go something like give the woodchuck thirty minutes to chuck as much wood as possible.

And of course, what do we mean by “woodchuck”. Do we mean any given woodchuck? A specific individual woodchuck?

A groundhog.
This one?
Photo by patrice schoefolt on Pexels.com

Do we mean some ideal, hypothetical woodchuck, perfectly representing the Form of Woodchuck?

Of course, it’s entirely possible that woodchucks cannot, in fact, chuck wood and the whole exercise is pointless to begin with.

I could go on, but I think I’ve got the point across that I have the tendency to both overthink some weird stuff and be utterly, utterly humourless about semantics and specification.

So, yeah, this is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night.

And yes, ladies, I am single. Hard to believe, I know.

A selfie of J.B. Norman looking pensive.

Also, Woodchuck was a character in the original Lodoss War series.

But, seriously, how many woodchucks could Wood chuck, if Wood could chuck woodchucks?

I’m thinking 12.

My full-length Realmgard novellas are here. My short practice scenes are here.

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