Norwegian Trolls

Norwegian trolls: An introduction to trolls from Norway

Norwegian trolls are perhaps one of the most famous creatures associated with the Nordic people, and for good reason. You don’t have to travel far in Norway to find someone willing to tell you all about ancient trolls, and the narratives associated with them.

Folklore in the Scandinavian region is very different to the tales we pass down throughout Europe and the US. Many creatures depicted in Norwegian stories are passed down from Old Norse tales and Norse mythology, and they include everything from giants to elves.

Today, Norwegian trolls still play a significant part in the Nordic landscape. Specific landmarks in Norway are named after trolls, and stories about these creatures are relatively common among children and families.

The legends of these Scandinavian folklore creatures are centuries old, dating all the way back to the Prose Edda, one of the most famous scriptures from Norse history.

Let’s take a closer look at the Norwegian troll, and how it was described by Norse people…

Introducing the Norwegian troll: What is a Norwegian troll?

Norwegian trolls are one of the many fantastical creatures depicted in Scandinavian lore. These mythical creatures were believed to live in various landscapes around Norway, including in rocky caves and mountainsides.

They were also seen as being quite dangerous to humans.

The term “troll” actually comes from a Proto-Germanic word “Trullan”, and translates to mean fiend, demon, or giant. This may offer a hint to why many of the trolls depicted in Scandinavian folklore are very different.

Some were described as giants, terrorizing entire villages, whereas others were considered to be small, evil tricksters.

Some experts in Norwegian scripture even believe certain authors and poets used the word “troll” as a catch-all term to refer to virtually any kind of mythical fiend. While trolls were often considered to be cruel and violent, they were also depicted as generally quite stupid.

Norwegian Trolls

What do Norwegian trolls look like?

So, what do Norwegian trolls look like? It’s difficult to say for certain, when looking at the folklore and tales shared throughout Norway. As mentioned above, trolls were inspired by giants and other fiendish creatures from Norse mythology.

They were often described with many different characteristics, some being small like dwarves, and others being towering creatures.

In general, most trolls were considered unattractive creatures, with huge noses, big teeth, and grotesque features. However, they did have some similarities to humans, particularly in the shape of their bodies, with two arms, two legs, and one head (most of the time).

Some trolls were seen to be much larger than humans, often bulky and fat, or even covered in fur. Other, smaller trolls may have been the inspiration behind many of the more modern depictions of trolls we know today.

Tiny trolls were considered short, stubby creatures, often living in underground dwellings and caves. Some had tails, and many had frizzy, unkempt hair.

The most humanoid versions of Norwegian trolls were the Huldrefolk. Living mostly in the forest, these mythical entities were almost exactly the same as humans, aside from having their own tail.

Compared to other trolls, these creatures were seen as being beautiful and seductive, capable of seducing and enchanting men, similar to sirens or mermaids.

Because many Norse legends were handed down through the generations orally, it’s difficult to get a clear view of what the first troll might have looked like. However, we can gain an insight into the origins of trolls from the Prose Edda.

In the book, Skáldskaparmál, there’s a story of a troll’s encounter with a human. Here, the creatures are described as ugly, evil, and afraid of lightning.

The types of Norwegian trolls

While there’s no single agreement on what trolls might have looked like, most Norwegians agree there were two distinct types of trolls. The first was the Trogre, which looked similar to an ogre or giant, often towering above the average human.

These evil creatures riled against the Norse gods, and are even linked to the giants involved in the creation of the universe.

When Christianity began to emerge in the Scandinavian landscape, Trogres were also seen to be enemies of the church and its worshippers. In some folklore tales, artists depicted trolls of this nature attacking people of worship, and even churches.

At the same time, their huge size and strength often meant they were linked to the creation of various rock formations and caves.

The second type of Norwegian troll was the “Troblin”. These are considered to be a lot smaller than their giant counterparts, with big personalities. Though they preferred to live in isolation, they also formed families, according to some tales.

Troblins are a little like pixies and elves in Norse mythology, known for being tricksters and chaotic creatures. In tales, they would stir up all kinds of trouble for humans, particularly around the Christmas season.

Norse mythology suggests tiny Troblins would break into houses in Christmas even and throw parties.

Famous Norwegian trolls in folklore

There are countless amazing stories of Norwegian trolls found throughout Scandinavia today. Though the Norwegians believe there were two main forms of troll, there were also various sub-categories which fell into the two segments.

For instance, Dovregubben is a powerful troll king depicted in a poem from 1867, by Henrik Ibsen.

Alternatively, Suldra is another famous troll character, depicted as a more beautiful maiden, capable of capturing the hearts of men with her song. Though she looked like an attractive woman for the most part, she was said to have the tail of a cow.

Other famous Norwegian trolls in folklore include:

  • Nøkken: A vicious and terrifying type of troll similar to a siren, known for luring people into watery places and drowning them.
  • Grendel: A troll from the story of Beowulf, and one of the most significant antagonists from the famous legendary poem.
  • Ymer: Perhaps the largest creature from Norse mythology, Ymer was often depicted as both a troll and a giant. There was often overlap between these species.
  • Hrungir: Another giant troll, with a massive body and a destructive nature from Old Norse texts.
  • Trym: The king of the jötnar, who was responsible for reigning in Jötunheimr, the land of the giants in Norse mythology.
Norwegian Trolls

Do Norwegians believe in trolls today?

Folklore plays a significant part in Norwegian culture, much like it does in various other parts of the world. We all have our own myths and legends which continue to dictate our shared stories today.

However, unlike the people from Iceland, Norwegians are less likely to believe in trolls and other mythical creatures today.

While there are some who still tell the stories about Norwegian trolls to their children, and even take part in rituals, most Norwegians wouldn’t believe a troll was coming to get them today.

This is probably a good thing, as trolls were often depicted as quite scary, capable of killing humans and destroying entire villages with their strength and magic.

Interestingly, however, Norwegian trolls have still had a significant impact on the landscape of Norway. A location called “Troll’s Tongue”, is a massive rock formation named for the country’s strong connection with trolls and giants.

The Norwegians also have Trollveggen, and Jotunheimen national park, which also have connections to trolls and giants from Norse mythology. If you’re interested in learning more about Norwegian trolls, it’s definitely worth checking out some of these locations.

Celebrating trolls from Norway

To this day, trolls remain an integral part of the culture of Norway. In every country throughout the world, there are legends and folklore linking back to the older communities who once lived in the region. Norway is no exception.

Norwegian trolls have inspired countless stories and pop culture references over the years. They may even be connected with the frizzy-haired Trolls characters common among the UK and US. However, it’s hard to say for certain.

While Norwegians might not fully believe in trolls today, they still respect the impact these creatures have had on their history and culture.

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