Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Amaya from Waukesha, WI. Amaya Wonders, “Are trolls real?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Amaya!
We were wandering through the Wonderopolis barnyard the other day when we overheard an interesting conversation between a couple of goats:
Goat 2: No way, Gruff! I'm not crossing that bridge. I heard there's a troll under it.
Goat 1: What are you talking about? That's just an old wives' tale!
Goat 2: It is? Are you sure?
Goat 2: OK…if you say so. Here goes nothing…*loud scream*
Goat 1: Hmm. That was interesting! Guess I'll stick with the grass over here.
We hope Billy was just playing a joke on Gruff, but we ran to find the farmer just in case there really was a troll under the bridge. This whole situation got us to WONDERing about trolls, though. Exactly what are they and where do they live?
Unlike the cute, colorful trolls you may have seen in modern movies, the trolls of ancient myths and legends were anything but cute. In fact, their hideous appearance was one of their defining characteristics.
Scandinavian myths actually featured two different types of trolls over the years. The first type was the forest or mountain troll. It resembled a human being with the exception that it was much bigger, stronger, and uglier. It also often had scary features, such as tusks or an eye like a cyclops. These dumb brutes were known to be dangerous and evil.
The other type of troll also resembled a human being, except that it was smaller with short, stubby arms and legs. Rather than mountains and forests, this smaller troll lived underground in deep caves. It was also known for its ugly appearance and often appeared gross or slimy as a result of living underground.
All trolls tended to have a few things in common. For example, trolls always lived in dark places because they would turn to stone if exposed to sunlight. They were also known to be fond of human flesh. This fact made them the perfect enemy in many myths and legends.
Trolls moved beyond Scandinavian mythology to appear in all sorts of stories, books, and movies all over the world. One of the most famous early examples was the troll under the bridge in the Three Billy Goats Gruff fairy tale. More modern examples of trolls can be found in The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter series.
Were trolls purely mythical creatures? Or could they have been based upon something more real? Some scientists believe that the origin of troll myths and legends could have come from the time when modern human beings crossed paths with earlier human species, such as the Neanderthals, over 50,000 years ago!