Friday, January 29, 2010

The Folklore of Trolls Big and Little

Trolls are a popular folklore image known around the world to be a race of fearsome human-like creatures. In Norse mythology they are the equivalent of giants, although often smaller in size. In England they are likened to ogres and folk of the wilderness who live underground in hills, caves or mounds.

Trolls appear in many fairytales. While the everyday folklore consisted mostly of short anecdotes describing things that had (supposedly) happened to local people, fairytales are narratives that rarely claim to be true in the same way. Many of the fairytales featuring trolls were written in the late 19th century to early 20th century, reflecting the romanticism of the time. Prior to that, they had been featured as distinctly bad creatures.

Today’s trolls come in any size and can be as huge as giants or as small as dwarves. Considered to be of poor intellect (especially the males, whereas the females may be quite cunning), they allegedly have great strength, big noses, long arms, and are hairy. Female trolls are generally perceived to be cunning and comely.

Nancy Reid, Publisher & Production Director of Big Blend Magazine/Big Blend Radio reports that her family folktales include a longstanding troll who has been held responsible for a variety of mischievous deeds. Here is how she describes the troll:

Family Folktale About A Troll
There once was a bowlegged troll
with a brain the size of a mole
he slopped all his food in a bowl
and shoveled it in his mouth almost whole

Nancy’s troll has much in common with his ancestors. He has an imperfect physique and minimal mental capacity. His manner of eating is very much akin to those of wild people. And yet he is different from the trolls of the past.

His ability to be terrifying has been transformed by one significant fact: he is attached in some way to Nancy’s family that makes him a member of their household.

Nancy and her daughter Lisa Smith (Editor, Big Blend Magazine) tell stories and even laugh about his pranks which, according to the family legends, have been happening for generations. He hides things and causes confusion much like one would expect from a trickster; his behavior is more frustrating than harmful.

It appears that over the years (and generations) he has endeared himself to them. This could open up a whole new world of troll folklore!


  1. Enjoyed the information on trolls and folklore. Kids of all ages find folklore interesting. As a children's book writer and former librarian, I'm particularly interested in folktales.

  2. I have bookmarked this site for further perusal. I love trolls and more from folklore.

  3. Nancy,
    Trolls are indeed fascinating to children as well as adults (as evidenced by Nancy Reid who includes trolls into the mix of their "extended" family). However, she does admit that her troll does misbehave and can be scary at times!

  4. Thanks, Robert. I look forward to your return visit!