Troll (Middle-earth)

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Trolls
Information
Created date First Age
Created by fictional being Melkor
Home world Middle-earth
Base of operationsTrollshaws, Moria, Mordor
Sub-racesOlog-hai

Trolls are fictional characters in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth, and feature in films and games adapted from his novels. They are portrayed as large humanoids of great strength and poor intellect. In The Hobbit , like the dwarf Alviss of Norse mythology, they must be below ground before dawn or turn to stone, whereas in The Lord of the Rings they are able to face daylight.

Contents

Commentators have noted the different uses Tolkien made of trolls, from comedy in Sam Gamgee's poem and the Cockney accents and table manners of the working-class trolls in The Hobbit, to the hellish atmosphere in Moria as the protagonists are confronted by darkness and monsters. Tolkien, a Roman Catholic, drew back from giving trolls the power of speech, as he had done in The Hobbit, as it implied to him that they had souls, so he made the trolls in The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings darker and more bestial. They were supposedly bred by the Dark Lords Melkor and Sauron for their own evil purposes, helping to express Tolkien's combination of "fairy tale with epic, ... bonded with the Christian mythos". [1]

Appearances

The Hobbit

In The Hobbit , Bilbo Baggins and the Dwarf company encountered three trolls on their journey to Erebor. The trolls captured the Dwarves and prepared to eat them, but the wizard Gandalf managed to distract them until dawn, when exposure to sunlight turned them into stone. They had vulgar table manners, constantly argued and fought amongst themselves, in Tolkien's narrator's words "not drawing-room fashion at all, at all", [2] spoke with Cockney accents, and had matching English working-class names: Tom, Bert, and Bill. [T 1] [3] Jennifer Eastman Attebery, a scholar of English, states that the trolls in The Hobbit "signify the uncouth". [2]

The Lord of the Rings

As the Fellowship of the Ring made their way towards Rivendell through the Trollshaws, after Frodo had been stabbed by the Nazgûl with a Morgul-knife, they came upon the three trolls that Bilbo and the dwarves had encountered many years earlier, and had seen turned to stone at daybreak. Sam Gamgee recited a comic poem, "The Stone Troll", on the supposed dangers of kicking a troll, who has a "seat" which is "harder than stone", to cheer everyone up. [T 2] [4] The poem appears also in The Adventures of Tom Bombadil . In the Tolkien critic Paul H. Kocher's words, it achieves a certain "grisly slapstick". [4]

Olog-hai they were called in the Black Speech. That Sauron bred them none doubted, though from what stock was not known... Trolls they were, but filled with the evil will of their master: a fell race, strong, agile, fierce and cunning, but harder than stone. Unlike the older race of the Twilight they could endure the Sun, so long as the will of Sauron held sway over them. They spoke little, and the only tongue that they knew was the Black Speech of Barad-dûr.

Tolkien's description of the trolls in Appendix F "Of Other Races" in The Return of the King [T 3]

Cave trolls attacked the Fellowship in Moria. One had dark greenish scales, black blood, and a hide so thick that when Boromir struck it in the arm his sword was notched. However, Frodo was able to impale the "toeless" foot of the same troll with the enchanted dagger Sting. [T 4] The Tolkien scholar Charles A. Huttar writes that the trolls' presence, alongside orcs and the Balrog, means that "Moria not only houses inert obstacles but active monsters". [5]

Mountain trolls wielded the great battering ram Grond to shatter the gates of Minas Tirith. [T 5] They fought using clubs and round shields at the Battle of the Morannon. [T 6] [6] Sauron bred mountain and cave trolls, [6] and developed the more intelligent Olog-hai that were not vulnerable to sunlight. [7]

Snow trolls are mentioned only in the story of Helm Hammerhand. When Helm went out during the Long winter clad in white to ambush his enemies, he was described as looking like a snow-troll. [T 7]

The Silmarillion

Morgoth, the evil Vala, created trolls in the First Age of Middle-earth. [T 8] They were strong and vicious but stupid; as in The Hobbit, they turned to stone in sunlight. [6] During the wars of Beleriand, Gothmog (the Lord of Balrogs) had a bodyguard of trolls. During the Nírnaeth Arnoediad, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, in which Morgoth defeated the united armies of Elves, Men, and Dwarves, the great human warrior Húrin faced Gothmog's trolls to protect the retreat of the Elven king Turgon. Morgoth's order to Gothmog to capture Húrin alive allowed Húrin to kill all the trolls. [T 9] Many trolls died in the War of Wrath, but some survived and joined Sauron, the greatest surviving servant of Morgoth. [T 10] [T 9]

Origins

In Norse mythology, the god Thor talked to the dwarf Alviss to prevent him from marrying his daughter Thrudr; at dawn Alviss turns to stone. Drawing by W. G. Collingwood, 1908 All-wise answers Thor.jpg
In Norse mythology, the god Thor talked to the dwarf Alviss to prevent him from marrying his daughter Þrúðr; at dawn Alviss turns to stone. Drawing by W. G. Collingwood, 1908

In Germanic mythology, trolls are a kind of giant, along with rísar, jötnar , and þursar; the names are variously applied to large monstrous beings, sometimes as synonyms. [8] [9] The idea that such monsters must be below ground before dawn dates back to the Elder Edda of Norse mythology, where in the Alvíssmál, the god Thor keeps the dwarf Alviss (not a troll) talking until dawn, and sees him turn to stone. [10] [11] [12] Tom Shippey, a Tolkien scholar, writes that The Hobbit's audience in 1937 were familiar with trolls from fairy tale collections such as those of Grimm, and Asbjørnsen and Moe's Norwegian Folktales ; Tolkien's use of monsters of different kinds - orcs, trolls, and a Balrog in Moria made that journey "a descent into hell". [12]

Attebery notes that trolls came into English first through Asbjørnsen and Moe's 1841 collection of traditional Norwegian tales, Norske-Eventyr, but that this was followed by Scandinavian retellings with reimagined trolls. Trolls thus moved from being grim Norse ogres to more sympathetic modern humanoids. [2] In her view, Tolkien's trolls are based on the ogre type, but with two "incarnations": ancient trolls, "creatures of dull and lumpish nature" in Tolkien's words, [T 11] unable to speak; and the malicious giants of strength and courage bred by Sauron with "enough intelligence to present a real danger". [2] The scholar of English Edward Risden agrees that Tolkien's later trolls appear far more dangerous than those of The Hobbit, losing, too, "the [moral] capacity to relent"; he comments that in Norse mythology, trolls are "normally female and strongly associated with magic", while in the Norse sagas the trolls were physically strong and superhuman in battle. [13]

Christina Fawcett, a scholar of English, writes that Tolkien synthesises materials from different eras, so his writing and his creatures can take on different qualities, from playful to monstrous; his hill-trolls "while still threatening, are primarily comic and slow-witted". [7] On the other hand, when Gandalf outwits them, these same trolls are seen as "monstrous, a warning against vice, captured forever in stone for their greed and anger." [7] All the same, Fawcett cautions that Tolkien uses tradition selectively. [7] Fawcett writes that Tolkien transferred the more positive attributes of Norse trolls, including being rich and generous, to hobbits. [7]

Reception

Trolls in The Hobbit

Tolkien based details such the trolls' tiredness with mutton on William Morris's travels in Iceland. Drawing of Morris cooking in Iceland c. 1870 by Edward Burne-Jones William Morris cooking in Iceland by Edward Burne-Jones.jpg
Tolkien based details such the trolls' tiredness with mutton on William Morris's travels in Iceland. Drawing of Morris cooking in Iceland c. 1870 by Edward Burne-Jones

Shippey criticises Tolkien's class-based depiction of the trolls and goblins in The Hobbit, writing that the trolls were too close to labourers, just as the goblins were to munitions workers. Shippey notes, too, Tolkien's storytelling technique here, observing that making the troll's purse (which Bilbo attempts to steal) able to speak blurs the line between the ordinary and the magical. [15]

Marjorie Burns, a medievalist, writes that the trolls' tiredness with eating mutton every day matches the fantasy writer and designer William Morris's account of his travels in Iceland in the early 1870s, one of many Middle-earth features that follows Morris, including the existence of trolls: Morris mentioned visiting places called Tröllakirkja ("Trollchurch") and Tröllahals ("Trollneck"). Burns notes, too, that the adventure with the three trolls combines Bilbo's fear of being eaten with the temptation of the "fine toothsome smell" of roast mutton. [14]

The critic Gregory Hartley notes that while in The Hobbit, Tolkien's trolls were still much like those of Norse mythology, "archetypal, stereotypical ... basking in unexamined sentience", [1] in The Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings, "Tolkien undertook the difficult task of melding fairy tale with epic, which was in turn bonded with the Christian mythos. Characters and creatures began functioning on a multiplicity of registers." [1] The entertainingly "light-hearted informality" of The Hobbit's Cockney-speaking trolls thus gave way to the "more bestial trolls" of the later works. [1] Hartley comments that the redaction effort that Tolkien threw himself into for his legendarium was driven by the way he had composed The Hobbit; and that the resulting "rich, curious roles" that trolls and other beasts play in Middle-earth would not have existed without it. [1]

Speech, sentience, and souls

Tolkien's wordless trolls have been compared to Grendel, a monster in Beowulf. Illustration by J. R. Skelton Stories of beowulf grendel.jpg
Tolkien's wordless trolls have been compared to Grendel, a monster in Beowulf. Illustration by J. R. Skelton

Fawcett suggests that Tolkien's "roaring Troll" in The Return of the King reflects the Beowulf monster Grendel's "firey eye and terrible screaming." [7] Noting that Tolkien compares them to beasts as they "came striding up, roaring like beasts ... bellowing", she observes that they "remain wordless warriors, like Grendel", although they are sentient, with intelligence and a single language, unlike the varied tongues of Tolkien's orcs. [7]

Critics including Fawcett and Hartley note that by making all the beasts in The Hobbit talk, Tolkien, a devout Roman Catholic, had created a serious problem for himself: if trolls and other monsters were supposed to be sentient, they would in Christian terms have souls and be redeemable rather than wholly evil. [7] [1] Tolkien acknowledged this keenly-felt question: "Of course ... when you make Trolls speak [Tolkien's emphasis] you are giving them a power, which in our world (probably) connotes the possession of a 'soul'." [T 12] Fawcett distinguishes the approach of Tolkien's narrator, who treats trolls as "wholly monstrous", from his "translator's notes" which take "a slightly more balanced view". [7] She states that Tolkien adopts a similar multiplicity of viewpoints on the in-fiction creation of trolls: Frodo tells Sam that the Shadow cannot create "real new things of its own", but all the same, she writes, the "stone-bred mockery" seems very much alive. This is, Fawcett writes, in contrast to Tolkien's intelligent dragons, which are straightforwardly a created species with the power of speech, but certainly monsters; and in contrast to orcs which, as corrupted elves, do have souls. She concludes that Tolkien's linking of souls to speech "complicates these monstrous races". [7]

Tolkien had another conceptual problem with the existence of evil creatures, as he believed that while good could create, evil could not. So he considered whether his evil creatures could have been corrupted from sentient beings, and whether they could breed, writing various and contradictory explanations of their origins. [7] [16] In The Two Towers, the leader of the Ents, Treebeard, remarks that trolls were "made ... in mockery of Ents", as Orcs were of Elves. [T 13] [T 13] [17] [T 12] Friedhelm Schneidewind, writing in the J. R. R. Tolkien Encyclopedia , states the precise origin of trolls "perhaps from giant apes but possibly from Men, Orcs, or 'Spirits'" is not given by Tolkien, but like Orcs, trolls were bred by Melkor and Sauron for their own evil purposes. [18] [7]

Defeat of evil

Burns notes that with the destruction of Sauron, trolls, like the rest of Sauron's minions, were scattered in defeat, though some survived by hiding in the hills. In Burns's view, this makes Tolkien appear both optimistic, since evil can be defeated, and pessimistic, as that defeat is never absolute. [19]

Adaptations

Film

A cave-troll in Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring Cave troll.jpg
A cave-troll in Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring

Rankin/Bass' animated 1977 adaptation of The Hobbit depicts Bilbo's encounter with the trolls. In this film, the trolls are presented with tan-colored skin, large bulbous noses, and tusks. As in the book, they turn to stone when exposed to sunlight. The trolls were voiced by Paul Frees, Jack DeLeon, and Don Messick. [20]

Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated version of The Lord of the Rings follows the book faithfully in its depiction of the encounter with the troll in the Chamber, though the troll's foot has toes. Glenn Gaslin, reviewing the film on Slate , describes a clip from the film as "of ravenous trolls, [and it] does no justice to Tolkien's darker elements". [21]

Trolls appear in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. In The Fellowship of the Ring , Bilbo Baggins recounts his altercation with the three stone-trolls and later on, the four hobbits and Aragorn are shown resting in the shelter of the petrified trolls. The location used was Piopio, Waitomo District, in New Zealand. [22] In the mines of Moria, a single cave troll, animated in software, is among the attackers. [23] [24]

A troll approaches Aragorn during the Battle of the Morannon in The Return of the King Trollaragorn2.jpg
A troll approaches Aragorn during the Battle of the Morannon in The Return of the King

In The Return of the King , trolls fight in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, [25] and Aragorn fights a troll in the Battle of the Morannon, a departure from the book; [26] [27] Jackson had at one stage intended Aragorn to fight the Dark Lord Sauron in person, but "wisely" reduced this to combat with a troll. [28]

In The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey the three stone trolls appear as in Tolkien's book. The trolls are portrayed through voice and motion capture. Bert is played by Mark Hadlow, Tom by William Kircher, and William by Peter Hambleton. [29] In The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies , some of the trolls have catapults mounted on their backs. [30]

Games

Trolls have featured in many video games set in Middle-earth, including The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth , [31] The Lord of the Rings: The Third Age , [32] and The Lord of the Rings: Conquest . [33] In The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II: The Rise of the Witch-king , the Angmar faction has a troll hero named Rogash, [34] [35] and an Olog-hai named Brûz the Chopper is important to the plot of Middle-earth: Shadow of War . [36]

Middle-earth trolls have appeared in tabletop role-playing games; for example, the core book for Middle-earth Role Playing , published by Iron Crown Enterprises, included rules for Normal Trolls, Olog-hai (or Black Trolls), and Half Trolls, [37] and the publisher released an adventure module called Trolls of the Misty Mountains. [38] Middle Earth Strategy Battle Game includes trolls, while Games Workshop produce a selection of troll miniatures. [39] [40] [41] [42] [43]

Related Research Articles

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Peregrin Took, commonly known simply as Pippin, is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings. He is closely tied with his friend and cousin, Merry Brandybuck, and the two are together during most of the story. Pippin and Merry are introduced as a pair of young hobbits of the Shire who become ensnared in their friend Frodo Baggins's quest to destroy the One Ring. Pippin joins the Fellowship of the Ring. He and Merry become separated from the rest of the group at the breaking of the Fellowship and spend much of The Two Towers with their own story line. Impetuous and curious, Pippin enlists as a soldier in the army of Gondor and fights in the Battle of the Morannon. With the other hobbits, he returns home, helps to lead the Scouring of the Shire, and becomes Thain or hereditary leader of the land.

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Aragorn is a fictional character from J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. He is one of the main protagonists of The Lord of the Rings. Aragorn was a Ranger of the North, first introduced with the name Strider. He was eventually revealed to be the heir of Isildur, King of Gondor. He was a confidant of Gandalf and part of the quest to destroy the One Ring and defeat the Dark Lord Sauron. He fell in love with the immortal elf Arwen, as told in The Tale of Aragorn and Arwen; her father, Elrond, forbade them to marry unless Aragorn became King of both Arnor and Gondor.

Elrond Half-elven is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium. He is introduced in The Hobbit, and plays a supporting role in The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion.

Frodo Baggins is a fictional character in J. R. R. Tolkien's writings, and a central figure in The Lord of the Rings. Frodo is a hobbit of the Shire who inherits the One Ring from his cousin Bilbo Baggins and undertakes the quest to destroy it in the fires of Mount Doom in Mordor. He is mentioned in Tolkien's posthumously published works, The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales.

Mordor fictional location created by J. R. R. Tolkien

In J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional world of Middle-earth, Mordor is the realm and base of the arch-villain Sauron. It lay to the east of Gondor and the great river Anduin, and to the south of Mirkwood. Mount Doom, a volcano in Mordor, was the goal of the Fellowship of the Ring in the quest to destroy the One Ring. Mordor was surrounded by three mountain ranges, to the north, the west, and the south. These both protected the land from invasion and kept those living in Mordor from escaping.

In the fiction of J. R. R. Tolkien, Moria, also named Khazad-dûm, is an ancient subterranean complex in Middle-earth, comprising a vast labyrinthine network of tunnels, chambers, mines and halls under the Misty Mountains, with doors on both the western and the eastern sides of the mountain range. Moria is introduced in Tolkien's novel The Hobbit, and is a major scene of action in The Lord of the Rings.

One Ring Magical ring that must be destroyed in J. R. R. Tolkiens The Lord of the Rings

The One Ring is a central plot element in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1954–55). It first appeared in the earlier story The Hobbit (1937) as a magic ring that grants the wearer invisibility. Tolkien changed it into a malevolent Ring of Power and re-wrote parts of The Hobbit to fit in with the expanded narrative. The Lord of the Rings describes the hobbit Frodo Baggins's quest to destroy the Ring.

Sauron Primary antagonist in Tolkiens The Lord of the Rings

Sauron is the title character and the main antagonist of J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, where he rules the land of Mordor and has the ambition of ruling the whole of Middle-earth.

References

Primary

This list identifies each item's location in Tolkien's writings.
  1. The Hobbit , ch. 2 "Roast Mutton"
  2. Fellowship of the Ring , book 1, ch. 12, "Flight to the Ford"
  3. The Return of the King Appendix F "Of Other Races"
  4. The Fellowship of the Ring , book 2, ch. 5 "The Bridge of Khazad-dûm"
  5. The Return of the King , book 5, ch. 4 "The Siege of Gondor"
  6. The Return of the King , book 5, ch. 10, "The Black Gate Opens"
  7. The Return of the King , Appendix A. II "The House of Eorl"
  8. Return of the King Appendix F, "The Languages and Peoples of the Third Age", "Of Other Races"
  9. 1 2 The Silmarillion , ch. 20 "Of the Fifth Battle: Nirnaeth Arnoediad", p. 195
  10. The Children of Húrin , ch. 2 "The Battle of Unnumbered Tears"
  11. Return of the King , Appendix F, I, "Of Other Races", "Trolls"
  12. 1 2 Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien , #153, to Peter Hastings, September 1954.
  13. 1 2 The Two Towers , book 3, ch. 4, "Treebeard"

Secondary

  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Hartley, Gregory (2014). "Civilized goblins and Talking Animals: How The Hobbit Created Problems of Sentience for Tolkien". In Bradford Lee Eden (ed.). The Hobbit and Tolkien's mythology : essays on revisions and influences. Part III: Themes. McFarland. ISBN   978-0-7864-7960-3. OCLC   889426663.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Attebery, Jennifer Eastman (1996). "The Trolls of Fiction: Ogres or Warm Fuzzies?". Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts . 7 (1 (25)): 61–74. JSTOR   43308256. The comedy is conveyed chiefly through the trolls' lower class British dialect and their clumsy handling of little Bilbo
  3. Stevens, David; Stevens, Carol D. (2008). Harold Bloom (ed.). The Hobbit (PDF). J. R. R. Tolkien. Bloom's Modern Critical Views. Bloom's Literary Criticism, an imprint of Infobase Publishing. pp. 17–26. ISBN   978-1-60413-146-8.
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  14. 1 2 Burns, Marjorie (2005). Perilous Realms: Celtic and Norse in Tolkien's Middle-earth. University of Toronto Press. pp. 84, 159–161. ISBN   978-0-8020-3806-7.
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  16. Shippey, Tom (2001). J. R. R. Tolkien: Author of the Century . HarperCollins. p. 265. ISBN   978-0261-10401-3.
  17. Hammond, Wayne G.; Scull, Christina (2005). The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion. HarperCollins. pp. 76, 389. ISBN   978-0-00-720907-1.
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