If you and your kids love mythical characters and magical beasts, you may be fascinated by unicorns, mermaids, fairies, and dragons - but what do you know about trolls? Let’s find out more about this strange creature that is a staple of folklore and discover where the troll myth originated from.
What Exactly is a Troll?
Before we look at where troll myths came from, let’s first think about what a troll actually is. If you had a plastic Troll toy when you were little, you’re probably imagining rather tanned little models with wildly coloured hair and big noses. Or if you’ve seen the Trolls movies, you may think of trolls as all-singing, all-dancing cutie-pies who love nothing but love, peace and harmony - oh and playing guitars. While this is a very modern depiction of a troll, it’s nothing like the trolls from folklore and old stories. They’re very different indeed.
Where Did Trolls Originate From?
The history of a mythical beast is usually fascinating and the background to how trolls originated is also interesting. Trolls actually originate from Nordic folklore and storytelling traditions. They have roots in Norse mythology and are featured heavily in the fairy tales of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. The word ‘troll’ likely originated from the Norwegian words for witches and witchcraft, which were trollfolk and trolldom, respectively. In Old Norse, the word ‘troll’ specifically refers to supernatural creatures as well as a subspecies of shapeshifting giants known as Jotnars. Now that sounds ominous.
Because early Norse folktales were passed along by oral tradition, meaning they were only spoken and never written down, early troll history is scarce. It wasn’t until the 13th century when they started appearing in literary works such as the Prose Edda, the Poetic Edda and Icelandic sagas. Such works now prove that troll stories have been around for hundreds of years.
What are the Trolls From Folklore Like?
Trolls from folklore don’t play guitars or sing cute songs. And they certainly wouldn’t have approved of glitter and sparkles. In fact, they were renowned for being unfriendly towards humans. They could also be stupid, dangerous and were renowned troublemakers, often talking in rhymes and setting complicated riddles for people to solve.
Nordic trolls have been described as ugly with large noses and eyes ‘the size of plates.’ According to some reports, Gods and humans were their enemies and they were angered by the smell of Christian blood. Most trolls from centuries ago lived in the mountains, ocean or forest. They could also be as big as mountains or as small as gnomes depending on the story being told.
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