Trolls of Norway—Facts and Fiction

Updated on August 23, 2017
Facts and fiction about trolls.
Facts and fiction about trolls.

Facts and Fiction about Trolls Throughout History

These mystical, sometimes dangerous creatures from Norse mythology and folk tales have inspired many writers, composers, and even painters.

I have collected some facts, and surely a lot of fiction, about them here. Always wanted to know more about trolls but was afraid to ask? Hopefully now some of your questions will be answered.

Here are the habits and behaviours of Scandinavian trolls (jötnar) and Norwegian trolls (huldrefolk).

Different Species of Troll

The Trolls of Scandinavian Myths: Giants Called Jötnar

The trolls of Scandinavian myths, known as jötnar, are famously ugly giants that turn to stone in the sunlight.
The trolls of Scandinavian myths, known as jötnar, are famously ugly giants that turn to stone in the sunlight.

The jötnar (singular: jötunn) in Scandinavian myths are usually ugly, often with tusks or cyclopic eyes. They are much bigger and stronger than humans and are very dangerous and evil by disposition. The word "jötunn" is derived from the Scandinavian word for giant. A female jötunn is called gygjar.

Jötnar turn to stone when exposed to sunlight, so they typically live in caves in mountains, which they only leave after sunset. They hunt humans because trolls generally are very fond of human flesh. When they aren't hungry, they throw stones at people and destroy human villages located in the mountains.There are also some subtypes of Jötnar who live in the sea or forests.

The Trolls of Norwegian Myths: Human-Like Huldrefolk

The trolls of Norwegian myths look like humans, except for their tales, which they sometimes hide in clothing.
The trolls of Norwegian myths look like humans, except for their tales, which they sometimes hide in clothing.

This type of troll is much smaller then jötunn troll. Huldrefolk are usually handsome and blond, but are set apart from humans by their long tails. They often go about naked, in which case the tails are easily seen. However, sometimes they hide their tails under clothing.

Females of this species, called huldras, ensnare human males through their lovely singing and beautiful appearance. Huldras then use the entranced men to do their bidding or simply keep them as mates or pets. These poor males can be held under a spell for many, many years. Upon release or escape, these males cannot remember what has happened and do not realize that time has passed.

If you are adventurous and want to hear the huldra's song, then travel to place called Myrdal, located nearby Voss in western Norway and take the Flamsbana railway. Fasten yourself by a rope to the train carriage, and somewhere on your travel down to the emerald waters of Sognefjord, you will hear the song (and maybe even see a glimpse of the huldra) calling you to come away.

The Song of the Huldra

A huldra is a female troll who can enchant you with her song.
A huldra is a female troll who can enchant you with her song.

Here you can (safely) hear to the original song of Huldra, recorded during an expedition of brave men traveling to the Kjosfossen waterfall. Not all of them managed to return—the song of the huldra is hard to resist.

Trolls in Literature

Trolls and troll-like figures are present in many fantasy and fairy tales books. You surely remember the three trolls (of the jötar type) that Bilbo Baggins had trouble with in The Hobbit. Then there was the giant cave troll in the mine of Moria Frodo later struggled with in Lord of the Rings. Those trolls are stupid, ugly, and dangerous and turn into stone when exposed to sun.

On the other hand, trolls in Terry Pratchett's Discworld (like Sergeant Detritus, member of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch) are more civilized, although still not very intelligent. They can be valuable members of the society. Detritus, who has a custom-made helmet that cools his head, seems to be much more intelligent than other trolls, because in Pratchett's world, trolls' brains are made from impure silicon and work better when cooled. Another difference between the trolls in Pratchett's world and the trolls in Scandinavian mythology is that Discworld trolls are immune to sunlight.

You can also meet trolls in the Harry Potter series, in the Artemis Fowl series, in fantasy novels written by Tad Williams, and in the children's novel The Sea of Trolls.

"Peer Gynt" by Henrik Ibsen

In Henrik Ibsen's "Peer Gynt," an exiled woodsman encounters a huldra after a night of heavy drinking.
In Henrik Ibsen's "Peer Gynt," an exiled woodsman encounters a huldra after a night of heavy drinking.

Peer Gynt is a play by Henrik Ibsen based on Norwegian legend.

Peer is the son of a prodigal farmer who frittered his fortune away. Peer had the chance to be married to Ingrid, the daughter of the richest farmer of the land, but he wastes that opportunity as well. At Ingrid's wedding, Peer kidnaps the young bride for the night, and becomes an outlaw. He flees to the mountains, where (after a night of heavy drinking) he meets a huldra, daughter of the Mountain King. He considers turning into a troll himself to marry the Mountain King's daughter, but refuses to take an irrevocable step.

Peer remains human and builds a life for himself as a settler, when a young girl named Solveig comes to the mountains to stay with him. Peer is now so happy and confident in the future that he barely leaves the house he shares with Solveig. But while he is out to cut timber for the new house he is planning, he is overtaken by the past. The green-clad huldra comes with a young troll, whom she claims is Peer's son. Instead of facing the possibility, Peer flees.

He then has life full of adventure, fortune, and loss. He ends up being crowned emperor of the world in an institution for the insane in Cairo.

Finally, as an old man, Peer sets out to return to Norway by ship. However, on the Norwegian coast his ship sinks in a storm. At the end, Peer fights a battle for his own soul and his growing self-awareness. Finally Peer is saved through Solveig's faithful love.

Moomintrolls by Tove Jansson

Models of Tove Jansson's moomintroll characters.
Models of Tove Jansson's moomintroll characters. | Source

Yeah, it's hard to believe, but moomins, well known from Tove Jansson's books, are a type of troll. White and round, with large snouts that make moomins resemble hippopotamuses, these creatures are in many ways the opposite of jötnar and huldrefolk: They are friendly, sweet, and carefree.

A typical moomin lives life fully and views the world with an air of wonderment. They find joys in simple pleasures, such as collecting stones and shells. A moomin has a keen spirit of adventure and is a somewhat a restless soul.

Illustrations by Theodor Kittelsen

A cropped version of "Skogtroll," one of Theodor Kittelsen's famous illustrations.
A cropped version of "Skogtroll," one of Theodor Kittelsen's famous illustrations. | Source

Theodor Kittelsen, Norwegian artist and illustrator who died in 1914, is famous for his troll-related art. Kittelsen was fascinated by world of Norwegian beliefs, populated by trolls, huldra folk, and other creatures. He depicted them in Troldskab, his book of illustrations, and he also illustrated others' folk tale collections, such as those by Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Engebretsen Moe.

"Among Gnomes and Trolls" Illustrated by John Bauer

A cropped version of one of John Bauer's famous troll illustrations.
A cropped version of one of John Bauer's famous troll illustrations. | Source

John Bauer, Swedish painter and illustrator who died in 1918, is also famous for his troll art. He is mostly known for his illustrations in the Swedish folklore anthology Among Gnomes and Trolls.

Tales of Askeladden

Askeladden, the youngest of three sons, is the main character in many Norwegian fairytales. Here, he encounters a troll in the forest.
Askeladden, the youngest of three sons, is the main character in many Norwegian fairytales. Here, he encounters a troll in the forest.

Askeladden (which translates to "ash lad") is a central character in many Norwegian fairytales. Here is the story of Askeladden and the eating match:

A farmer with three sons planned to cut wood in a forest he owned in order to pay off his debts.

The oldest son went into the forest and encountered a troll. Frightened, the oldest son ran home.

The second son went into the forest and was chased off but the troll as well.

However, before the youngest son went into the forest, he asked his father for food. The father gave him a bit of cheese in a knapsack. When the youngest son went into the forest to cut the wood, the troll appeared just as it had for the previous brothers. When the troll threatened him, the boy pulled out the cheese. "Do you see this stone?" he asked the troll, and squeezed it until whey came out. When he threatened to deal with the troll as he had with the "stone," the troll offered to help him with the wood-cutting.

The troll suggested that the boy come home with him for a tasty meal. Then he went to build up the fire and sent the boy for water, pointing to two buckets larger than the boy. The boy realized he could not carry the huge buckets. "These buckets are too small," said the boy. "I can fetch the spring instead."

The troll, not wanted an entire spring, which would put out the fire, decided to exchange chores. "Why don't you tend the fire, while I fetch the water?" said the troll.

The troll brought the water, and proceeded to make porridge. When the porridge was finished, the boy suggested an eating match. The troll and the boy ate as much as they could. However, the boy had put his knapsack underneath his shirt, and was pouring more porridge into the bag than into his mouth. When the bag was full, he cut a hole in it and continued to eat.

The troll finally said he could eat no more. The boy, who was still going, suggested that the troll cut a hole in his stomach. He explained, "Then you can eat as much as you like. It doesn't hurt much."

The troll did so and died, and the boy took his gold and silver and paid off the family debt.

Famous Troll Names

Famous Troll Names from Norse and Scandinavian Literature and Folktales

Some legends say that a fearsome troll can be killed if a Christian says his name aloud. This is why trolls generally keep their names in secret. However, we have learned the names of some famous trolls, such as:

  • Grendel—Troll made famous by Beowulf.
  • Dunker—Troll depicted in a folktale from Fosen.
  • Ymer—The oldest creature in the Norse universe.
  • Dovregubben—The troll king in Peer Gynt.
  • Hrungnir—The stongest giant in Norse mythology.
  • Trym—The king of giants in Jotunheimen region.
  • Geirröd—A jötunn and father of giantesses Gjalp and Greip.

Trolls in Geography


Jotunheimen park is famous for its hiking and fishing.
Jotunheimen park is famous for its hiking and fishing. | Source

Jotunheimen ('Home of the Giants') National Park is located in southern Norway and recognized as one of the country's premier hiking and fishing regions. It is part of the Scandinavian Mountains, a mountain range, and the park includes the 29 highest peaks in Norway, including the very highest, Galdhøpiggen (2469 m).

The name Jotunheimen comes from Jötunheimr, which is one of the Nine Worlds and the world (home) of the giants in Norse Mythology. From there, the giants menace the humans in Midgard and the gods in Asgard, from whom they are separated by the river Ifing.


Trollstigen is a steep road (with an incline of 9 percent) built in Norway.
Trollstigen is a steep road (with an incline of 9 percent) built in Norway. | Source

Trollstigen ('The Troll Ladder') is a mountain road in the heart of Romsdal and one of the most visited attractions in Norway. The mountains that encircle the Trollstigen road are enormous. Names like Kongen ('The King'), Dronningen ('The Queen') and Bispen ('The Bishop') echo the majesty of these giant land formations.

Trollstigen, a fine example of road engineering, took eight years to construct. It was opened July 31, 1936 by King Haakon VII. With its incline of 9 percent, this narrow road with many bends and open drops is a challenge. You must be an expert driver to travel along this road—a task almost as scary as the trolls themselves. Just watch these videos:


Trollveggen is the steepest vertical rock face, with the summit overhanging the base by nearly fifty meters in places.
Trollveggen is the steepest vertical rock face, with the summit overhanging the base by nearly fifty meters in places. | Source

Trollveggen ('The Troll Wall') is part of the mountain massif Trolltindene ('Troll Peaks') in the Romsdal valley, near Molde on the Norwegian west coast. Trollveggen is the tallest vertical rock face in Europe, 1100 meters from the base to the summit. At its steepest, the summit overhangs the base by nearly fifty meters.

The Troll Wall has been a prestigious goal for climbers and BASE jumpers for decades. The wall was first scaled in 1958 along a climbing route known as Trollryggen. Since then various routes have been climbed in the Troll Wall. The routes are often named after the first ascenders. Most of the routes have been accomplished during the winter.

In 1980, a new sport appeared when the Finnish Jorma Aster made the first jump with parachute off the Troll Wall. Between 1980-86 300-400 parachuters jumped off the Troll Wall. However, since 1986, parachuting off of the Troll Wall has been prohibited by law as a result of several accidents and dangerous rescue missions.

What Do Our Readers Think of Trolls?

I polled my readers and asked them if they think trolls are cute or ugly. Over 50% of them think they are cute and cuddly.

Scared, intrigued or amused by trolls? - Did you ever meet one? Tell your story

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    • profile image

      eee 8 weeks ago

      I once saw a troll I was in the sinema seeing trolls and I saw many trolls especialy the guy sitting next to me he was surely a trol y like trolls and I like when popy sings and everyone is friends with everyone today is the birthday of I and I year 2!

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      Faith 4 months ago

      I was recently in Norway for a few weeks and I think I had some sort of experience with something not quite human ... I was staying with some friends of the family and one night I had woken up and it was the darkest it had been the whole time I was there ( the sun is up 20 hours in the summer ) it was practically dusk so I took the opportunity and went out to take pictures and ironically enough I was staying at the family's cabin at the foot of a mountain so I walked a bit up and I could've sworn I heard something/someone scurrying around on the forest floor so I followed the sound further up the mountain until I couldn't hear anything except the faint laughs of the thing I was following so I sat in the grass and leaves waiting for anything to happen it only felt like minutes that I was sitting there ... especially because I kept checking my watch for the time and it was only showing the minutes changing but something must've been interfering with my watch because soon it was far too bright for it to be still at night and as I realized this the laughing got louder and it wasn't just one voice it seemed like hundreds but before I could say something there was only silence and I think I passed out I say I think because I can't recall anything after hearing the dead silence the only memory after that is waking up being caried out of the mountain by the families son ... later that day while I was bathing I noticed little marks on my skin and it looked liked writing of some sort but since I'd put the family through so much I figured it would be best not to ask and wait until the next day but when I woke up they were gone ... I've been looking up any and all reasons for what could've done this and the trolls are a top guess but anyways that's my story

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Yes I met one. She stole my husband and 5 weeks later he was killed by her husband. I now believe they are from the Nephilim of Biblical accounts and should be taken seriously. For those who don't believe I didn't either at one time and now my views have changed. They are demonic, don't be fooled. They exist, this is no joke.

    • Zodiacimmortal profile image

      Kim 4 years ago from Yonkers, NY

      added to my Nole Norse Norns lens

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Trolls are so cute!

    • profile image

      KobayashiFiction 4 years ago

      My father's side of the family is half-Swedish and I grew up poring over books about tomtem, dala horses, goblins, and trolls! I especially loved borrowing a book of illustrations by Theodore Kittelsen from the local library!

    • laura webuk profile image

      laura webuk 4 years ago

      Great lens! Really fascinating. Weird looking fellas aren't they?! Thanks for sharing :)

    • WorkSmarter101 profile image

      WorkSmarter101 4 years ago

      Very weird and interesting lens but it's fun to learn something new everyday.

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Im just still tryna figure out if they truly exit

    • profile image

      longbitbeard 5 years ago

      This is so awesome! I feel like a kid again!! I LOVED troll books at my library.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      fascinating. Thanks.

    • melissiaoliver profile image

      melissiaoliver 5 years ago

      What an amazing and interesting lens!

    • Tennyhawk profile image

      Tennyhawk 5 years ago

      Never met one. You ever seen the Norwegian mockumentary "Trollhunter"? I think you'd like it. Great lens.

    • Expat Mamasita profile image

      Expat Mamasita 5 years ago from Slovakia

      An excellent lens. I never knew there were so many kinds of troll!

    • Travel Shepherd profile image

      Michael Shepherd 5 years ago from Ennis, Co. Clare, Ireland

      Just last week we listened to my son tell his daughter the story of Billy Goats Gruff. That was my favourite to tell my son.

    • profile image

      crstnblue 5 years ago

      Wonderful lens - fun and informative!

      Amused by trolls :))

    • Oneshotvariety LM profile image

      Oneshotvariety LM 5 years ago

      What a fun lens! I enjoyed reading it! ...Trolls are hilarious. They completely amuze me.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Why do trolls hate christians?

    • profile image

      TheGreatInspirer 5 years ago

      GREAT Lens! I am curious to ask if you have any strong references for your work? I could really use them about now.... =)

    • profile image

      Edutopia 5 years ago

      Great lens, was real fun to read and you did a good job at making it.

    • juditpaton profile image

      Iudit Gherghiteanu 5 years ago from Ozun

      great beautiful lens, with the ugly trolls in it.i love this lens.

    • DonD LM profile image

      DonD LM 5 years ago

      Troll is scary and it is s fictional monster. Anyway I love Norway, the place is awesome and so beautiful. Your lense is so interesting and keep posting more cool topics like this.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Well, I was a bit scared but then you showed us all the incredible lakes of Norway and now I feel better.

    • Vallygems1 profile image

      Vallygems1 5 years ago

      Awesome lens thanks for sharing

    • jadehorseshoe profile image

      jadehorseshoe 5 years ago

      Not scared; more intrigued.

    • prosepine lm profile image

      prosepine lm 5 years ago

      Intrigued and a little bemused!! Great lense

    • DeniseAlvarado profile image

      Denise M Alvarado 6 years ago from Southwest

      Awesome lens! Blessed by a Squid Angel:)

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      hello everyone !! are Trolls real ? what's the story about them? if someone could share any real information please let me know ,i found it very interesting, just bucause i saw a movie about trolls and i like to know more, movies is call "Trollhunter" .here is my email if you like to share with me,or post it here.thank you.

    • bbudoyono lm profile image

      bbudoyono lm 6 years ago

      Interesting. In Indonesia we have similar folk tales about monsters who hunt human being.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      The closest I ever came in contact with trolls is on YouTube. They're just as ugly, mean, and malicious as the old folklore tales go.

    • monarch13 profile image

      monarch13 6 years ago

      Blessed on my mystical quest!

    • LouiseKirkpatrick profile image

      LouiseKirkpatrick 6 years ago from Berkshire, United Kingdom

      Excellent, informative lens with wonderful pictures! I'm a big fan of Scandinavian heavy Metal - especially the band "Finntroll" who sing about trolls a lot! This lens has been blessed by this Squid Angel as part of the "Back To School Bus Trip"!

    • TolovajWordsmith profile image

      Tolovaj Publishing House 6 years ago from Ljubljana

      Cool lens. Thank you for sharing!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I really enjoyed this lens. Thank you!

    • RiverCygnet profile image

      RiverCygnet 6 years ago

      Great Lens, I love Moomins!

    • Nancy Hardin profile image

      Nancy Carol Brown Hardin 6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I thoroughly enjoyed this lens.The photos of Norway are magnificent and the troll stories are enchanting. Thanks for sharing.

    • RetroMom profile image

      RetroMom 6 years ago

      Trolls are gross and cool at the same time! fun lens

    • ElizabethSheppard profile image

      Elizabeth Sheppard 6 years ago from Bowling Green, Kentucky

      I am intrigued by trolls, but also know enough to be scared of them if they stop me and want to charge me a toll for crossing a bridge. I enjoyed this lens a lot!

    • mekon1971 profile image

      mekon1971 6 years ago

      I ate a troll for breakfast one morning, bugger wouldn't let go of the eggs!

    • orgaard lm profile image

      orgaard lm 6 years ago

      I have met several collectible trolls and they are pretty well behaved. My Norwegian Grandma & her friends all had little trolls and nisse or tomte in their homes.

      But my Grandma and Great Aunts told stories about meeting trolls face to face as little girls. The stories would change and the facts would differ, but always entertaining, sometimes a startle and sometimes giggling funny.

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      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      Ah, I am indeed intrigued this morning and would surely welcome the amusing by trolls ... send them my way ... Brooksville, FL if you please! Hideee-Ho Ho Ho and a very Merry Christmas to you.

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      Sherry Venegas 7 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Entertaining and interesting lens.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Very handsome lens. Thumbs up and Facebook liked. Lens rolled to my Goblins lens.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      Oh, you have brought me into the land of troll! I'm originally from Minnesota and would like to introduce you to the Troll With No Heart by Lise Lunge-Larson. My sister told me about the book some time ago after going to a conference In Duluth, MN that encouraged children in elementary school to write. She had the children transfixed. I am also lensrolling to my ' Free Mythological Creatures and Coloring Pages', thank you.

    • Yourshowman LM profile image

      Yourshowman LM 7 years ago

      This Lens Is Very very Cool.

      I Liked It.

    • george185 lm profile image

      george185 lm 7 years ago

      The imagery on this lens is fantastic!

    • emmaklarkins profile image

      emmaklarkins 7 years ago

      Love this site, and love Norsk trolls! My mom is from Norway :) Ha de bra! Blessed by a Squidoo Angel.

    • DreamingBoomer profile image

      Karen Kay 7 years ago from Jackson, MS

      Scared, I think. but some of these guys look kinda cute actually!

    • TriviaChamp profile image

      TriviaChamp 7 years ago

      I found this lens to be a great read. Well done!

    • Charmcrazey profile image

      Wanda Fitzgerald 7 years ago from Central Florida

      Great illustrations of trolls. Never knew they were so wrinkley. Your lens has been blessed by a squid angel.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I AM A TROLL. and you're right, nothing's better than man flesh. especially HOLY man flesh

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      Well, I met a troll once. He was rather ugly, not very clever and ... drunk. I met him in a pub :)

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