Tamaru the Troll – Fictional character tells real PTSD story

Corporal (Retired) John Renaud

Corporal (Retired) John Renaud

Trigger Warning: This article covers themes and descriptions of trauma and PTSD. If you need to talk to a mental health professional one-on-one, call 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 741741 for support.

Peter Mallett, 
Staff Writer

When a pint-sized sickly grey troll with a pot belly, gnarled feet, and discoloured teeth rips a beautiful garden to shreds, David realizes things in his life are very wrong.

In a self-published short story, A Troll in the House, the fictional troll represents Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which one military member faced in real life, and is using as a writing tool for healing. 

“The allegory of the troll as trauma helped me put my experience into a softer third-person story that would be more approachable for anybody reading it,” said Corporal (Retired) John Renaud, a civilian police sergeant and former member of Canada’s Military Police Unit.

Renaud set out to write a book about his PTSD to explain it to his two sons, Benjamin and Charlie. The book’s central character, David faces the same struggles as Renaud.

Having been exposed to trauma in the workplace, David recognizes it has come home with him in the form of a sickly, grotesque and determined pint-sized troll with jagged toes, a pointy nose, and messy hair named Tamaru. ‘Tamaru’ is a play on the word ‘trauma’, Renaud said. David’s garden, which Tamaru taints and then destroys, is an allegory for Renaud’s family and mental health.

“David is me and his journey with Tamaru is very true to what I experienced in trauma and treatment,” Renaud said. “David tries to hide his Tamaru and when that fails, he seeks help and follows a therapy process that allows him to live with the trauma.”

Renaud is a current member of the London Police Service. His Tamaru surfaced in 2014 when he answered one of the most traumatic calls in his service.

“I performed CPR on a three-month-old girl who was already deceased when EMS decided to take over,” he says. “Over 18 months that experience was followed with a series of calls that involved little girls who were dead, dying, or mortally wounded.”

Renaud’s triggers are varied and include crowds, unfamiliar people and places, and noisy environments. Babies and young girls can be severe triggers, too, he said.

“As in the story, my troll stalked me for years and I really didn’t know or understand what was happening,” Renaud said. “I denied it, hid from it, and used poor coping methods to deal with it.”

Renaud was diagnosed with PTSD in November 2019, and his wife Tina challenged him to get help. His treatment mainly focuses on cognitive processing therapy, which involves exposure therapy, revisiting the elements of trauma calls, and, in some cases, returning to the scenes.

Renaud said writing his book has been therapeutic. Just like David, Renaud learned to live with Tamaru.

“Healing is a process and it only started when you finally found the courage to talk about it,” the Troll said to David in the book.

Troll in the House

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