Folklore and Fiction: How Trolls Became a Common Fantasy Creature

From the restricted range in imagination and landscape of Scandinavia thousands of years ago, trolls grew to become an invasive species based in folklore and ancient stories. They’re in fairy tales, being sold as dolls, and appear as a character that is either comforting or threatening in children’s books. Above everything else, they’re lurking in every nook and corner of the world—including the internet.

As a matter of fact, it’s the presence they have on the World Wide Web that significantly boosted their appeal to the masses of people.

As unpleasant as internet trolls are, they’re far from what the original description of these creatures are. The written record of such myths made their first appearance in the 12th century. The account of historical figure, Bragi, a 9th century Viking poet, tells of his discovery of a troll woman deep down in the forest. She speaks in verses in a stately meter. In fact, describing herself in different phrases, the least mysterious of which are “guardian of the corpse-fjord, swallower of heaven’s wheel and wealth-sucker.” Trolls are widely known for destroying human prosperity, commune with the departed and above all, suggest to devour the sun and moon.

All of medieval trolls are as emphatically and ethereally like other: they’re both cunning and stupid, misshapen and malevolent and vulnerable to growing rocks down the mountainsides as well as kidnapping and even eating their victims. True, they become a peril to anyone who crosses their path. In 14th century saga made by Halfdan Bronufostri, the very first North American trolls made an appearance when the champion has encountered Iron-nose and Sledge-hammer on Baffin Island.

Transitioning from Worse to Good

By the time Scandinavia built its civilization and the Viking berserkers transformed to what may be the world’s most peaceful and calm people, trolls began to shrink, culturally and physically as well. Even though, they’re still capable of effectively scaring a billy goat but due to their stupidity and foolishness, they can be fooled by the same too. Not only these mythical creatures known among epic fantasy stories but also, they have incepted children’s lore at the same time. Fact is, by the start of mid-20th century, they’re bit cuddly and ominous creatures. After the internet has changed things, trolls are not an exception.

In Old Norse sources, beings like trolls live in mountains, caves or isolated rocks. They live together in a small family unit and seldom helpful to humans. Later on in the Scandinavian folklore, trolls soon became a being in their own right in which they live far from civilization and aren’t Christianized. Rather, they’re deemed to be dangerous to safety and wellbeing of humans. On the other hand, depending on the source, its appearance greatly varies. For instance, they can be slow-witted and ugly or behave and look just like us, humans with no visible grotesque characteristics present about them.

An example of modern trolls that are depicted in movies and tales are the one that is shown in the movie Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. The character named Edward has a superhuman strength as his natural ability.

Trolls in General

There are instances to which trolls are associated with a distinctive landmark which sometimes can be explained as formed from troll exposed to the sunlight. In modern pop culture, there are varying depictions of trolls. As mentioned, depending on the medium these creatures are presented, their characteristics, behavior and physical appearance will vary. But enough with that for a while and let’s focus on the general aspects of troll iron fantasy and tales.

  • Physical appearance – in general, trolls have a height of no less than 12ft and can easily weigh up to a ton. Troll whiskers have some sort of magical properties and at times, used as a wand core. Their feet are quite unique as it has two toes which have giant toenails.
  • Behavior – by nature and norm, these beings are extremely dangerous, aggressive and violent. Behavior is truly unpredictable coupled with low level intelligence. So if they will be compared to giants, the latter is way smarter and patient.
  • Diet – trolls almost the same to Acromantulas, or one that have tastes for human flesh. They like it raw but aren’t fussy on what they eat. Aside from that, trolls are fond of fish as well.
  • Culture & society – language used by these beings are nothing more than grunts to which only troll-like creatures can interpret and understand. Though, skilled and experienced magical multi-linguistics like Barty Crouch has the capability to understand them. Trolls though can understand just handful of Human words while smarter ones could be trained to work as security.

Likewise Barty Crouch, professor Quirrel also had this knowledge for communicating with trolls and used it to steal the Philosopher’s Stone in Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in 1991.

Four Kinds of these Mystical Creatures

As a matter of fact, there are four main kinds of trolls in epic fantasy stories…

1. Mountain Trolls

They’ve been known to have the skill to ride and tame Graphorns or at least, try to ride them. However, Graphorns do not seem to be keen on this concept. Mountain Trolls are basically the biggest and at the same time, most violent among other troll species. They stand at a height of 12 feet with a lumpy body, grey skin as well as flat horny feet.

They additionally have an awful and strong scent which is a combination of old socks and filthy and dirty public toilet. Just imagine how terrible it can be.

2. Forest Trolls

These kinds of trolls have straggly hair and pale-green skin. This specific breed is native to woodlands or forests, and some might even live in Forbidden Forest.

3. River Trolls

This type of creature has short horns and purple skin. Oftentimes, it’s found roaming under bridges. Other locations they can be found can be middle of the rivers.

4. Part-Troll

Apparently, this is sub-species that does exist. They are beings with some troll heritage and some human heritage.

The Trolls of Today

In today’s world, the society has diverted its way from the Norse legends. They’ve changed to different supernatural beings resembling their roots but not staying true to its legends. While their physical appearance stays the same (big & ugly), their personalities are what vary the most and seen in a new light from evil to being silly and at times, off-beat.

In fact, there are lots of trolls depicted in modern fiction that are flexible so long as they appear physically as a “troll.”

We all know and love our very own YumFuck the Troll from the Liera Chronicles and the Rewriting Justice Series.

He may cause trouble for Leira, but he certainly keeps things interesting in her world. With his green hair, blue eyes, and tiny size, he just might be the cutest little mischievous troll to ever be thought up…or at least he’s in the same league as the Trolls that fart glitter.

Of course, there are other authors who have made distinctive definitions of trolls in their books and series. Two of the sought after and famed people whose books always receive positive feedback and create worldwide phenom are J.R.R Tolkien and J.K Rowling. The way they depict their stories are completely unique.


J.R.R Tolkien is a well-known British author. He tried creating epic fantasy and folklore tales for British people when he make his creation of the “Middle Earth” and turn it to a whole new world. Tolkien was so positive to create imaginative and one-of-a-kind monsters for this new world he is making. However, he has decided as well to build on some traditional legendary creatures.

And guess what, trolls were among the monsters chosen to bring over from his epic fantasy stories. He has kept their typical description of not being smart, unable to tolerate bright light and hideous looks. Lastly, he has distinguished trolls to be inherently evil and working loyally for their evil leaders in Middle Earth.

J.K. Rowling

Who would have not known about the magical and mysterious world of Harry Potter? This has literally put J.K Rowling to the spotlight and at the same time, magic and spells back to mainstream. She has committed a lot of her energy and time to doing research on her books to best show the world of myths and legends to modern humans.

Rowling has done all this with a clear mind on her head that she needs folklore-originating monsters for the wizards and witches to fight against. So in her first book series of Harry Potter, the three main character, Ron, Hermione and of course, Harry come face-to-face with a mountain troll.

J.K Rowling being herself, she kept the description of trolls to their original roots as being ugly and foolish.

Role Playing Games

Trolls have become quite popular in role-playing games such as the World of Warcraft (WoW). Trolls here aren’t shown as unintelligent or fool rather, they represent as the player’s heroes with a unique set of skills, magic and can perform their quests and use their brains to strategize and win the fight rather than focusing solely on physical strength. This utterly goes the opposite direction of the stereotype of these mythical creatures to being idiots. The only way that WoW resembles trolls is for their physique and other physical aspects which is both huge and also, hideously intimidating.

As you can see, trolls are everywhere. There might even be one lurking in your home. Don’t forget to read the Liera Chronicles to learn more about YumFuck and enjoy his silly antics.

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