When I was little I used to believe trolls lived under bridges. Clearly that stemmed from one of my favourite stories – The Three Billy Goats Gruff. I liked to think of the billy goats as siblings; the younger two relying on their big brother for protection. I enjoyed the way the tables were turned and when the third ‘victim’ came tripping along the bridge, he had no fear of the bully – or the threat of being eaten up!
Well, come along! I’ve got two spears,
And I’ll poke your eyeballs out at your ears;
I’ve got besides two curling-stones,
And I’ll crush you to bits, body and bones.
Source: Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe, De tre bukkene Bruse som skulle gå til seters og gjøre seg fete, Norske Folkeeventyr, translated by George Webbe Dasent in Popular Tales from the Norse, 2nd edition (London: George Routledge and Sons, n.d.), no. 37, pp. 275-276. Translation revised by D. L. Ashliman.
Children’s stories have some of the best trolls. Perhaps one of my favourite modern interpretations is the trolls from Disney’s Frozen.
“These ancient creatures might be found in the Valley of the Living Rock, but only if they want to be found. Trolls are masters of minerals and yielders of the night sky. They are also overbearing, loud, meddlesome, inappropriate, and heavy–really heavy. But they mean well and love well.”―Official Disney Bio
Of course, there are far nastier trolls – truly the stuff of nightmares. Tolkien’s trolls were large and monstrous. In other depictions too, they are seen to be fiendish giants.
In some legends they can eat anything, literally, making them sound more like a giant trash can! They are normally associated with an element and, in most cases, have regenerative powers. If the troll in The Three Billy Goats Gruff had been half as dangerous, the ending might have been very different. Unless the billy goat was a shape-shifter and then all bets are off!
Trolls appear across media; comics, film, music, art, television and literature – the list would be so long today I’m not sure we’d get through it.
Still, I think they deserve a place on the squad. Though which side they would be on, that is the question! How do you envisage trolls? What is your favourite interpretation? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks for stopping by. Until next time.