Everyone knows what a troll is, but at the same time, no one can describe the “Average” troll.
The term has become so muddled as to become meaningless, like the word “Vampire.”
It describes many monsters, from the giant beasts of The Lord of the Rings to the modern inciters of controversy on the internet.
The Norwegian found footage mockumentary Trollhunter (Trolljegeren) brings trolls to their roots, as that was once the land of the trolls in myth and folklore.
There’s a lot going on in this film, from government conspiracies to overzealous film makers, all of which can serve as commentary, but the trolls themselves are something a bit more primal. In one scene, the interviewer asks the titular Troll Hunter, Hans, some questions which pretty much amount to asking if trolls are like the things in fairy tales. His answer, “Trolls are animals. Predators. They eat, shit and mate. Eat anything they can.”
The trolls of this film are animals: large, dangerous and carnivorous animals. They are the creatures which haunt the darkest nights and steal people away to devour them. The primal fear of being eaten alive and it’s well played with one species of troll. Their overall design also resembles caricatures of the old and decrepit, small eyes and large noses and the like. It makes them both a visual ‘other’ and marks them as closer to death.
The darkness of the trolls is not limited to the simple terrors of the night. Within the world of the film, the Norwegian government moves actively to quell and keep quiet any troll appearances outside off their designated areas. At times, it is treated as a macabre Environmental Protections Comity, but mostly, it’s a sign off darkness within the government—especially by the end.
Hans is forced to do a lot of that dirty work and it’s definitely got to him. He’s part of the darkness, but it has affected him greatly in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder. It ties into the reason he allows the students to film and tag along with him as he hunts the trolls.
Finally, there’s one aspect of their character that speaks of something far older. Despite all the science and modernity thrown at the trolls, they retain one ability which can’t be explained by conventional physics: they can smell the blood of Christians. It drives them into a rage and they try to kill the offending being once they get a whiff of them.
This harkens back to a far earlier time when Christians were persecuted and hunted, the trolls here taking the form of that fear, and adding an anthropophagus twist. Today, in the US especially, such fears are less grounded in reality than they were in the days of Roman emperor Nero, but fear rarely relies on things like reality to hamper it.
Just from observing, we can confirm many of the given statements about the trolls.
As mentioned at the start, trolls are nothing if not variable.
The film goes through several different species of troll and the major subdivisions.
But there are some universal things about trolls, including large size, being basically primates, having a diet that consists of both meat, plants (at least in the form of charcoal) and sediment (literally, they eat rocks).
The digestive system needed to process that is simply staggering.
Their primary food appears to be sediments, which may explain why they are so ‘sturdy’ and long lived. We are told that trolls can live for a thousand years or more. Average gestation period for young is 10 to 15 years, with a very slow growth process.
This probably allows them to live largely unmolested, feeding only occasionally.
Given that’s their primary food, it’s inevitable that these animals would have a low intellect. Really, REALLY low intellect.
“I once saw a troll try to eat its’ own tail. He started gagging on it, tipped over and rolled down a hill like a wheel.”– Hans
Even without the ability to smell Christian blood, Trolls’ large noses give them a very sharp sense of smell, to the point where the troll hunter regularly employs troll musk to mask his human scent.
The final point of general biology is also pretty, well magical.
Like the trolls of lore, they turn to “Stone” when exposed to sunlight.
According to the veterinarian they consult for a blood sample, this is due to an inability to convert sunlight into vitamin D, causing an extreme over-reaction. Old ones appear to turn to “stone”, while young ones explode. The explosion is gas expansion based, going from the stomach to the intestines and blood vessels. In the older ones, their veins are too constricted so the expansion occurs in their bones. In a matter of seconds “everything calcifies”. This is such a horrific end that the vet is really concerned by how painful it is. Think about that next time something turns to stone in fiction.
There are two main groups of trolls: woodland trolls and mountain trolls and they occasionally clash by throwing rocks at the edges of their territories. Since they eat rocks, it must be the harder to digest variety they throw.
And that’s just in general, there’s almost a half dozen different types of troll in the film. Each one is unique and well thought out in their design.
The “Average” troll is the Mountain King, but it has the distinction of living in family groups. The others we see are solo hunters. Standing over 10ft tall, they are teardrop shaped and furry.
The first troll encountered is one of the most unique looking, the “Tusseladd”.
Its legs are hardened and have tufts of hair that resemble pine tree trunks—and it’s about as tall as them too, easily 20ft tall. It had one eye, but appears to have 3 heads. Only the central head works, the other heads (despite having ‘mouths’) are protuberances and generally serve as a visual display towards other trolls—scaring rivals and attracting mates.
Display features and camouflage might seem counter intuitive, but it has occurred in nature in many varieties of animals—moths, butterflies and even birds.
Then there’s the Ringlefinch, which is the classic troll that lives under bridges. It is primarily a predator, feeding on ungulates like goats and sheep. It has a habit of gnawing trees as a sign post to other trolls, much like bears leaving claw marks in dead trees. This beast also has a habit of storing food under bridges when it goes to rest underground (as, again, sunlight will kill it).
The final troll of the film is the most spectacular: the Jotunn, or Giant.
And that it is: the Jotunn is over 200ft tall (60 meters), putting it in the exclusive club of Kaiju native to Europe, which had before been largely limited to Gorgo, Reptilicus and Konga if you’re going to be generous. Other than that, you have to turn to mythology. That’s even where the beast gets its name: the Jotunn being the name the Norse gave to frost giants.
Yes. The big blue guys from the Thor movie.
People love to look towards Norse Mythology for their mythical creatures—where do you think elves and dwarves come from?
Anyway, It lives way up in the northern part of Norway, taking advantage of the long nights in winter. It lives inside of mountains and in dark valleys when the sun is out, probably hibernating or eating more rocks.
And when it moves, it leaves massive destruction in its wake.
Well, because it’s 200ft tall! It’s hard to move around when you’re that big and NOT flatten everything in your way.