A Brief History of Trolls

An Enthralling Journey through the Mythology of Trolls


The mythology of trolls is embedded in the rich tapestry of Scandinavian folklore and mythology, characterized by an intriguing blend of the natural and supernatural worlds. Trolls have become an iconic symbol in folklore and have found their way into modern literature and popular culture. To understand the mythical creatures we call trolls, we journey back to the mystical lands of the Nordic countries, where their stories first originated.

Early Origins

Trolls trace their origins back to ancient Norse mythology, as depicted in the Eddas, medieval texts that form the backbone of our understanding of much of Norse mythology. The Old Norse term ‘troll’ was often used to denote various supernatural beings and was associated with the primal, chaotic forces of the world.

In the earliest tales, trolls were often indistinguishable from the jötnar (giants) and were believed to reside in mountains, forests, and caves, far from human habitation. They were depicted as being immensely strong, often hideous, and always in opposition to the Æsir, the primary pantheon of Norse gods. They were considered dangerous to humans, and their actions were often associated with chaos and destruction.

Evolution of Troll Mythology in Scandinavian Folklore

With the Christianization of Scandinavia, Norse mythology became less prominent, but many of its elements were absorbed into folk beliefs. Trolls evolved from primordial giants to personifications of the mysterious, untamed, and often hostile forces of nature.

In Scandinavian folklore, the image of trolls diversified significantly. There were forest trolls, mountain trolls, sea trolls, and more, each adapted to its specific environment. The descriptions varied greatly – trolls could be gigantic or tiny, grotesquely misshapen or eerily human-like, malevolent or merely mischievous.

Many tales featured trolls as dim-witted, slow, and easily tricked, characteristics that offered a marked contrast to their enormous strength and ferocity. Trolls were often thought to turn to stone or burst into flames upon exposure to sunlight, a symbolic representation of their incompatibility with the Christian concept of the light of truth.

The Role of Trolls in Folktales

Trolls played significant roles in numerous Scandinavian folktales. They were often the antagonists in these stories, posing challenges that the human protagonists had to overcome. These tales frequently centered around themes of bravery, wit, and the triumph of good over evil.

For instance, in the popular Norwegian fairytale “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” a troll living under a bridge threatens to eat the goats who wish to cross. The story ends with the troll being outsmarted and defeated by the smallest goat, reinforcing the narrative trope of brains over brawn.

Trolls in Modern Literature and Popular Culture

In modern times, the image of trolls has been further diversified in literature and pop culture. From J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, trolls have been portrayed in myriad ways, often maintaining their traditional ties with nature and the supernatural.

In contemporary pop culture, trolls have also transitioned into digital spaces, with “internet trolls” being individuals who start quarrels or upset people online by posting inflammatory or off-topic messages in an online community.


From ancient Norse mythology to modern digital culture, the concept of trolls has undergone significant transformation, reflecting the evolving societal imagination and cultural context. Rooted in the primal and the supernatural, trolls remain a compelling symbol of our ongoing fascination with the mysterious and the unknown, bridging the realms of the natural, the supernatural, and the virtual. Despite their diverse representations, one thing remains consistent: trolls captivate us, symbolizing our timeless desire to explore the boundaries of our world and the realms beyond.

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