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This article describes the creature called a troll. For other meanings, see troll (disambiguation).

A troll is a member of a fictitious humanoid race from Scandinavian folklore, and its predecessor Norse mythology, as in "The Three Billy Goats Gruff," the well-known Scandinavian folk tale in which a troll living under a bridge torments some billy goats that want to cross. Grendel in the poem Beowulf is a closely similar creature.

Table of contents
1 Trolls in Scandinavian folklore
2 Trolls in literature
3 Trolls in games
4 Trolls in music
5 American trolls
6 Troll dolls
7 Hypotheses about trolls

Trolls in Scandinavian folklore

According to a 1908 cyclopedia: "Trolls are Dwarfs of Northern mythology, living in hills or mounds; they are represented as stumpy, misshapen, and humpbacked, inclined to thieving, and fond of carrying off children or substituting one of their own offspring for that of a human mother. They are called hill-people, and are especially averse to noise, from a recollection of the time when Thor used to fling his hammer at them."

In Sweden there is a town "Trollhättan," meaning "Trolls' hoods"(=hättor).

Trolls are one of the most frequent creatures of Scandinavian fairy tales and more common than elves, dwarves, witches and giants (in the fairy tales, there is no clear-cut line between witches and female trolls, nor between male trolls and giants). They hoard gold. They come in any size and can be as huge as giants or as small as dwarves. They are however always regarded as having poor intellect (especially the males, whereas the females, trollkonor, may be quite cunning), big noses, long arms, and as being hairy and not very beautiful (except for certain females). In Scandinavian fairy tales trolls generally turn to stone if exposed to sunlight. (This weakness is shared by Norse Svartalfar (dark elves) and dwarves.) They live in the forest and in mountains and sometimes abduct children that have to live with them (especially princesses). Occasionally, they even steal a new-born baby leaving their own offspring, a changeling, in return. In some folktales, if a woman is held captive by a troll for too long, she will eventually become a troll herself. Young Swedish children frequently believe in trolls, and a way to teach children to brush their teeth is to tell them to get rid of the very small "tooth trolls" that otherwise will make holes in their teeth.

In Shetland and Orkney tales, trolls are called trowe.

Trolls in literature

In Swedish children's literature, trolls are not naturally evil, but primitive and misunderstood. Their misdeeds are due to a combination of basic and common human traits, such as envy, pride, greed, naïveté, ignorance and stupidity. In some early 20th century fairy tales, by Elsa Beskow, trolls are also depicted as an aboriginal race of hunters and gatherers who are fleeing the encroaching human civilisation. Where man makes a road, the trolls disappear.

The Swedish-speaking Finnish author Tove Jansson has reached a world-wide audience with her Moomintrolls.

In the novels by the distinguished Swedish-speaking Finnish paleontologist Björn Kurtén, e.g. Dance of the Tiger, Neanderthals are named "Trolls" by modern man.

In J. R. R. Tolkien's world of Middle-earth, trolls are very large (around 9 feet tall) humanoids of poor intellect. They turn to stone when exposed to sunlight. In The Lord of the Rings, a new breed appears, called the Olog-hai. Unlike the old trolls, they are capable of movement under sunlight.

In the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett, trolls are large creatures who are composed of rock. They have a cultural tendency towards violence, and their intelligence is inversely proportional to the temperature, making them quite unintelligent in warm climates. The older, the bigger they are, from pebbles to mountains. The bar 'The Mended Drum' has trolls for security. They usually eat bad clients.

In the world of Harry Potter, trolls are giant monsters that kill everyone they encounter. In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone Harry and Ron Weasley save Hermione Granger from a full-grown mountain troll. In the film (same as in LOTR), the troll was animated with computer-generated imagery. There are a few other subsequent mentions of trolls; for example it was rumored that Harry's Firebolt, which Dolores Umbridge "confiscated" was guarded by troll. "Security trolls" are also mentioned in several places - apparently they can be hired as guards.

Trolls in games

In the Dungeons & Dragons; role-playing game, trolls are tall and skinny monsters with large, pointy noses and green skin. In D&D, trolls steadily regenerate all damage unless it is caused by acid or fire. (This version of troll originated with the Poul Anderson story Three Hearts and Three Lions.)

In the Earthdawn role-playing game, trolls are a tall, muscular and honorable race which players can role-play. Earthdawn trolls have curling horns like goats, lots of body hair and enlarged lower canines.

In computer games with a fantasy theme, trolls appear in many shapes and dispositions. In the most successful MMORPG, EverQuest, trolls are one of the choices for players to assume as their character. In Dark Age of Camelot, trolls are also a player race but appear more like a rock golem although they appear among the ranks of the Norse "Midgard" side.

Most computer games adopt the Dungeons & Dragons type of troll, with regeneration of some sort.

In the PC game Warcraft III, there are four kinds of trolls: Dark, Forest, Ice, and Jungle. Jungle Trolls are used by Orcs. The rest are creeps and can be hired from a Mecernary Camp.

Trolls in music

Troll metal is black metal music dealing with trolls, goblins and related subjects. Finntroll is one of the most famous troll metal bands. Singing Trolls relate their hate of humans, especially Christians, which is for them a plague to eradicate - and to eat.

American trolls

Trolls were popularized outside of Scandinavia by Tolkien. In the US and Canada, the old belief in trolls is parallelled by a modern belief in Bigfoot and Sasquatch. Many statues of trolls adorn the downtown business district of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, leading to the town being dubbed The Troll Capital. There is also a neighborhood on the northeast side of Fargo, North Dakota which is named Trollwood.

In the TV mini-series The 10th Kingdom, trolls are the ruling race of the 3rd kingdom, having large pointy ears and noses, wild hair, poor intelligence and a love of shoes and leather.

Troll dolls

A much more harmless variant of trolls are troll dolls, a type of toy doll that became a fad after its creation in 1959 by Danish Woodcutter Thomas Dam. The fad underwent a revival in the early and mid-1970s, with many motorists hanging small troll dolls from their front windshield or mirror. Although retaining the fabled ugliness of trolls, troll dolls are also cute and cuddly, according to some tastes.

Hypotheses about trolls

There is a theory that the trolls are a distant memory of modern man's encounter with Neanderthals. Some also claim that the Neanderthals may well have lived into historical times, and may be remembered as trolls.