Troll-vial Pursuit: Everything You Wanted to Know about those of the Troll Variety, Part I

Hi again, it’s me—Courtney from Syncopated Synonyms. Yes, yes, this does mean that I lost another word war to your tyrannical host really enjoy my role as guest blogger here.

In case you didn’t catch this from the ridiculously long title, I’m here today to discuss trolls. No, not those awesome and slightly disturbing toys from the 90’s, and I’m certainly not talking about internet trolls, because that would be dull and irritating. No, I am talking about honest-to-goodness mythological trolls.

Why, you may be asking yourself, would a writer devote a blog post to trolls? What, you may then ask yourself, makes this writer qualified to write about trolls?

Let me start off by saying I am in no way claiming to be an expert on the subject, all of the information I discuss today has been gathered from varying sources (which have been linked to at the end of this post) and, because this is a mythical topic based off of the folk lores and religions of several countries, no true absolute statements can be made. Except the previous one, apparently.

I am interested in troll mythology because it is the central concept in one of my current works-in-progress, the working title of which is The Monster In My Pocket. You can read more about that project here. And now, to the featured presentation:


Trolls come from a primarily Germanic tradition. The major lore comes from Iceland, Norway, and Scandinavia. Originally, the term troll was sort of a catchall for monster of an extremely gross and scary variety. According to Wikipedia (I know, I know…but we’re just building a base of knowledge, not doing extensive academic research—yet) these catchall monsters may sometimes overlap with something called a vaettir which is, as far as I can tell, a nature spirit or a spirit of the dead. Spirit isn’t quite literal here, as these beings were considered quite material.

Later incarnations of the troll myth include Huldra (female) or huldrakarl (male), which are pretty much land-sirens (well, they don’t necessarily sing). There are mountain trolls and forest trolls and, as everybody knows, bridge trolls. Changelings can be troll children (although elves and fairies are probably more associated with the term). Trolls can be enormous or human sized, extraordinarily ugly or extremely beautiful. Most are very, very old. Some are basically animals—they lack even basic intelligence, yet, others are cunning enough to swindle humans out of wealth.

In Norse mythology, trolls are often referred to as Jotun, and they are descendents of the first being—the giant, Ymer, whose body turned into the world. Ymer is also responsible for the race of gods and the humans.

In Part II, we can discuss typical literary depictions of these ambiguous creatures, and attempt to answer the question: why would anybody be crazy enough to make a troll a primary character in one of her books?


Until then, peruse these links…

Norse Mythology:

Wikipedia definitions: Huldra, Vaettir, Troll, and Jotun