Life of Zarf: The Troll Who Cried Wolf
Fractured fairy tales meet modern day middle school in book two of this hilarious series that’s perfect for fans of Shrek and Dork Diaries.
Even after rescuing the king from deadly Snuffweasels, Zarf is scum on the bottom rung of the middle school social ladder. After all, he is still a troll. But at least he still has his two best friends, Kevin and Chester . . . until Kevin disappears, that is. Now Zarf is at an all-time low. It seems a band of wolves are seeking revenge for the constant disgrace they’ve suffered over the years, and Little Red Ridinghood’s kid might be next on their list. Now it’s up to Zarf to crank out a solution from that troll brain of his, and save his best friend before it’s too late.
Award-winning comic creator Rob Harrell has middle-grade humor mastered. This second book in his Life of Zarf series is packed with even more witty one-liners and clever twists on classic folk and fairytales. It's perfect for fans of Chris Colfer's Land of Stories series.
Praise for Life of Zarf: The Trouble with Weasels:
"Entertainingly goofy. A promising series kickoff full of off-kilter action and humor." —Publishers Weekly
"A Wimpy Kid format with a fairy-tale twist? Yes, this is bound to be a hit." —Booklist
Excerpt from Life of Zarf: The Troll Who Cried Wolf
1 • LET THE FESTIVITIES BEGIN
2 • ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES
3 • ONE FOR THE AGES
4 • BEST LAID PLANS
5 • BOOM
6 • MONDAY, MONDAY
7 • COUNTING SHEEP
8 • A BIT SLOW ON THE UPTAKE
9 • CHASING THEIR TAILS
10 • WE HAVE WAYS OF MAKING YOU TALK
11 • MALICE IN CHAINS
12 • COTSWIN ABUZZ
13 • BOMBSHELL
14 • SUPER IN TENTS
15 • HUNGRY LIKE THE WOLF
16 • CH-CH-CH-CHANGES
17 • DEN OF THIEVES
18 • WHO’S AFRAID. . . ?
19 • INSIDE TROLL
20 • A LATE-NIGHT BITE
21 • NO WAY OUT
22 • PIGS ON THE LINE
23 • REMATCH
24 • THE HARDER THEY FALL
25 • SAME AS IT EVER WAS
About The Author
• 1 •
LET THE FESTIVITIES BEGIN
Sunscreen and fur do not mix well. It makes you look all clumpy and weird. It also makes you sticky, so you end up attracting dirt and trash and anything else you happen to wander by. I’ve been known to come home looking like a used lint roller.
But try telling that to my mom. The sun was shining bright as my family made our way to Littlepig Manor, so she kept creeping up and spraying me in little sneak attacks.
My grandpa—Gramps, as he’s known around the house—was humming his I’m-in-a-great-mood tune. Huff n Puff Day was one of his favorite days of the year.
“I plan on eatin’ ’til I explode, lad! So best bring a shovel and some paper towels to clean up what’s left o’ me . . .”
But, maybe I should back up.
My full name is Zarf Belford. I live in the village of Cotswin, within the kingdom of Notswin. I’m a troll, currently slogging my way through the funhouse nightmare that is middle school. Unfortunately, trolls are about as welcome at Cotswin Middle School as mungworms in a bowl of fettuccini.
I’m surviving, though. Largely because of my best friends, Kevin and Chester.
I could tell you more—like about what a jerky little snot-basket my classmate Prince Roquefort is, but I think you’ll see for yourself. I could give you the “Rules to Live By in the Kingdom of Notswin”—things like “Never pet a bubbling Fester Turtle”—but let’s try to be at least a little organic here. Things will come up. You’ll catch on. I promise.
So, once a year, Kevin’s parents hold the Annual Huff n Puff Day Festival at their huge home, Little- pig Manor. It’s a celebration of the Littlepigs’ triumph over a certain huffing and puffing wolf some years ago, and it is—simply put—the greatest thing since ever and ever.
Anyway, the entire village of Cotswin shows up, as well as a good chunk of the rest of the kingdom. The Littlepigs have done incredibly well in the construction business (since giving up sticks and hay as building materials), and they go all out. There are games and music and stage shows. There’s a Blow Down the House game, where you put on wolf ears and try to blow down a house made of twigs. They have ponies and carnival rides and a huge Ferris wheel and enough free food to send the whole crowd home holding their stomachs. There are mutton bowls, porridge cones, cotton candy, and deep-fried Grundle Bars.
Which explains why my dad and Gramps decided to wear their elastic-waisted “Eatin’ Pants.” Their goal each year was to see how much free grub they could cram into their mutton holes, and they swore this year would be their finest moment. My gramps was rattling on about how he was going to win the Wolf Gut Pie–Eating Contest, though my mother was trying to talk him out of it. (I should tell you that there are no actual wolf guts in Wolf Gut Pie. It’s just strawberry-rhubarb pie, renamed for this one day a year.)
If eating pies made to look like wolf guts seems harsh, you should know that wolves are just the worst. Seriously, they’re vicious, sneaky, angry eating machines. They’ve been a problem since time began. Maybe before. Wolf attacks. People getting eaten. Flea infestations. But in recent years they’ve been shunned from decent society and tend to run around the wilderness in motorcycle gangs—living the criminal life.
Then there was the worst of all wolves, the infamous Big Bad Wolf. He’s the boogeyman parents tell their kids about to get them in bed at night.
At the very least, I’m sure you’ve heard of him—years ago he blew down the Littlepigs’ homes until they finally held him off with a house made of brick.
Then there was the whole Little Red Ridinghood thing, where he dressed in drag as Red’s grandma and tried to eat her.
Of course, Red turned the tables and pounded on him ’til he was dead. That made her an instant folk hero around here until she had to flee the kingdom to avoid the vengeance of the other wolves. They even made an awesome horror movie about it that Gramps let me stay up and watch one night.
Sorry. I’ve gone on too long about them, but it’s always good on Huff n Puff Day to remember that it’s a celebration of a wolf-free life.
So—back to today—this was the first year trolls were allowed in the pie-eating contest. The honorable King Cheznott had found that the reason for us not being allowed—namely, that trolls with pie all over their mouths looked kind of gross—was unconstitutional. So my gramps wasn’t going to miss this for the world.
We were walking up the enormous driveway to the festival when I heard hooves clopping on the asphalt behind us. I turned and was excited to see it was my friend John “the Knoble Knight” Knoble.
“Great to see you guys!” John had been to our home a few times for some of my mom’s famous mutton. Since “the Snuffweasel thing,” he’d become almost like part of the family.
(A few months before, we had saved the kingdom from a bunch of seven-foot-tall rabid Snuffweasels. No biggie.)
A woman leaned out from behind him to smile and wave, and it took me a moment to realize that it was no woman . . . it was my TEACHER! Miss Flett!
I managed a stunned “Hi” and a quick wave of my paw. My friend John . . . and my teacher? What was this? A date? Teachers aren’t part of the dating pool!
“We’ll see you guys in there! And Zarf, I challenge you to at least one game of Wolf Toss.” John gave me a big smile and a wink before urging his horse on up the drive.
My mom looked like she could just about pop with happiness. “That’s your teacher Miss Flett, isn’t it?”
My gramps chimed in. “Aye! I’ll say it is. A foxy lass too.”
Miss Flett was my favorite teacher by a mile, but she still had all that . . . teacheriness. As we walked on up the drive, I tried to imagine her as an actual human—without the air of pop quizzes and red Sharpies about her—but I just couldn’t quite do it.
My family stepped up to the festival entrance, and a big security ogre turned around. I saw that he was armed with a semiautomatic slingshot, probably on the off chance that an actual wolf would show up in town for the first time in a bazillion years. When he saw us, his big grin died on his face. He leaned in and sniffed at Gramps. “Thought I smelled a wolf, but it’s just yer troll stench. Kinda odd, ain’t it, the way wolves and trolls smell ’zackly the same.”
(I wish I could refute this, but it’s true. One of the crueler tricks of nature is that the scent profile of trolls is pretty much identical to that of wolves.)
The ogre started chuckling. “You ask me, they shouldn’t even allow trolls to Huff n Puff Day. Might give the kiddies nightmares!”
My gramps chuckled.
“It’s a day for celebratin’ and eatin’ and drinkin’. So you’ll pardon us as we ’ave at it.”
We threw our shoulders back and walked by holding our heads as high as we could.
My dad and Gramps made a beeline for the nearest concession stand, and my mom caught me by the shoulder.
“Remember what you promised me, Zarf. No more getting into it with the prince. I can’t stomach having you tossed in that dungeon again, all right?” She was still recovering from my last run-in with His Highness.
She gave me a lingering “mom stare” to show she meant it before ruffling my hair and letting me go.
I came around the corner to find the backyard jammed full of party-goers. My friend Kevin was off to the side by the huge koi pond, wringing his hooves over a long table full of overstuffed sandwiches.
Kevin is the vertically challenged son of Stan Little-pig (aka “the smart pig with the brick house”). The main thing you should know about Kevin is that when it comes to worrying, he’s like that old Knight Service saying . . . he worries more before nine a.m. than most people do all day. What does he worry about? Doesn’t matter. He’s a professional fretter. It can be seventy-eight degrees and not a cloud in the sky, and he’ll figure out an angle.
“Happy Huff n Puff Day, Kev!” I walked up and patted him on the back. He was sweatier than I expected, and almost shaking with anxiety.
“HAPPY? How can I be happy at a time like this??”
“It’s a disaster waiting to happen, Zarf! Do you know what two things don’t go well together? MAYO and DIRECT SUNLIGHT! If we don’t do something soon, this party’s gonna be a DIARRHEA-THON!”
Just then our friend Chester walked up, grabbed a greasy-looking tuna fish sandwich, and crammed the whole thing in his mouth.
Chester Flintwater (my Second-Best Friend—but it’s really close) is the son of the Notswin court jester and next in line for the position when his dad steps down. That’s gonna be a tough gig for a guy who may actually be missing his funny bone. Chester is to funny what those sad-eyed kennel dog commercials are to cheery. But he tries. Oh, does he try.
Let me be clear. These guys, Kevin and Chester, have my back and I have theirs. Despite their quirks, I wouldn’t trade them for the world. As my gramps always says, “Ain’t nothing wrong with a lil’ weird.”
“Hey, Chester.” I kept talking as Kevin and I picked up the table and moved it a few feet over into the shade. I saw just a bit of the tension leave Kev’s shoulders. “Did you see who John came with? I think he’s on a date with Miss Flett!”
Chester strained his neck to see over the crowd, and swallowed loudly. “Knoble Knight for the win! Miss Flett’s the coolest!”
He was right. Miss Flett WAS the coolest—as teachers go.
Kevin was distracted, looking at the angle of the shadows from the house and judging how long the sandwiches would be in the somewhat cooler shade. “Maybe if I rigged a fan blowing over some ice . . .”
We hung out for a few minutes until Kevin got too fidgety and announced he was off to inspect the Dragon Dog water.
And just like that, he was off on another Kevin Mission.
I shrugged and grabbed a mufflebeast and Havarti wrap from the sandwich heap.
• 2 •
ACCEPT NO SUBSTITUTES
Chester and I were passing the Ferret Flip game when there was a high-pitched honking and a flurry of activity off to my right. People were scampering out of the way as a vehicle parted them like a herd of sheep.
It was Goldie, also known as Miss Locks, the lunch lady, in a beat-up old golf cart with “Goldie’s Catering” written on the side—and a giant fiberglass slice of pie attached to a spring on top. Goldie smiled when she saw us.
“Well, if it isn’t Scruffy and Scruffier.” She pulled up alongside us. “Hop in if you want, but be quick about it.”
I jumped in beside her. Chester was still clambering onto a stack of coolers in the back when Goldie was rolling again.
“Is it the mayonnaise situation?” I asked, holding on tight to the edge of the flimsy roof. “Kev seems pretty worked up.”
Goldie glanced at me sideways like I’d lost every marble in my head.
“The mayo will be fine. And tell Kevin to stop with all that talk. It’s bad for business. No, what we have is a mutton shortage. On Huff n Puff Day, for cryin’ out loud!!”
“Mutton shortage?” This was the first I’d heard of it.
“Yeah. Something’s been getting at the livestock around the village. Stealing ’em. Eating ’em. I found prints in the mud that look like dog prints, but larger . . .” Her eyes shifted off to the woods, like she’d lost her train of thought for just a second. “But anyway, I’m comin’ straight from a pickup on the docks. One thing this crowd won’t be denied is their mutton.”
I almost tumbled out of the cart as Goldie swerved wildly—narrowly avoiding taking out a gnome in a “Puff This!” T-shirt.
“So we’re on a mutton mission?”
Goldie gave her head a shake. “Agh. I wish, Zarf. It’s not mutton. It’s Smutton.”
My face smashed into the plastic windshield as Goldie slammed on the brakes. Chester did a somersault into the cart, ending up upside down between Goldie and me.
Smutton is maybe the nastiest of all of your artificial meats. It comes in a bright pink can, suspended in a gray, snot-like preservative. I wouldn’t touch it on a dare.