The Encyclopedia of Arda - an interactive guide to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien
Dates
First recorded in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad in I 472, but must predate this by some time. Still extant at the time of the War of the Ring at the end of the Third Age
Divisions
Meaning
'Troll' is a word from Scandinavian myth, used as an English translation of the Sindarin torog, of uncertain derivation

Indexes:

About this entry:

  • Updated 18 July 2007
  • Updates planned: 10

Trolls

Hulking monsters of the dark

'The Trolls'
'The Trolls'
from J.R.R. Tolkien's own original
illustration for The Hobbit

Lumbering evil creatures originated by Melkor. Their origins are mysterious: the only clear statement on the matter is Treebeard's suggestion that they were made by the Dark Lord to resemble Ents. That claim is certainly false (Melkor had no power to create thinking beings of his own) but it seems possible that the first Trolls were twisted and corrupted Ents1. However they came into existence, we know that Trolls had appeared before the end of the First Age. Their first mention in history was in the great battle known as the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, where they formed the bodyguard of Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs.

The history of the Trolls after the Nirnaeth is not well known, though at least some must have escaped eastwards from the destruction at the end of that Age. It is clear that some remained under the control of Sauron, and he was able to send some to Moria after its fall in the Third Age. Many others wandered wild in Middle-earth, especially in the northern Misty Mountains and the lands westward. The regions known as the Troll-fells and Trollshaws were named for the Trolls that lurked there.

Trolls in general were a primitive race: though they could communicate in a rough manner, they had no knowledge of even basic technologies such as building (though they did use caves as dwellings). There were differences between the different types of Troll, and those that emerged in the later Third Age were considered especially clever and dangerous, especially by comparison with their duller cousins.

Trolls fell into various different varieties, depending on their origins, habitat and habits. This list shows all the types known to have existed in Middle-earth (though note that information on many of these types is very scarce, and certain groups may overlap with one another).

Cave-trolls These subterranean Trolls were green in colour and covered in scales. Examples of this type were found dwelling alongside Orcs in Moria, after Durin's Bane had driven out the Dwarves.
Hill-trolls A widespread, large scaled type of Troll, found as far north as the hills above Rivendell, and as far south as Mordor. At least some of these hill-trolls played a part in Sauron's armies.
Mountain-trolls A large and strong variety, used by Sauron's forces to transport the battering-ram Grond in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
Olog-hai A later race of Trolls seen only in the late Third Age, bred by Sauron and dwelling in the lands between Mirkwood and Mordor. Unlike most other Trolls, the Olog-hai could survive in sunlight.
Snow-trolls An almost completely unknown type of Troll, that was apparently adapted to winter conditions.
Stone-trolls The less intelligent Trolls that turned to stone in sunlight. The three Trolls that captured Bilbo and his companions in the Trollshaws were of this kind.

Notes

1

Even Tolkien himself seemed unsure about the origins of these creatures. Almost his only specific comment on the subject was 'I am not sure about Trolls' (The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, No. 153, dated 1954). There he suggests that Stone-trolls, at least, were simply 'counterfeits' of rational beings, which was part of the reason for their turning to stone in sunlight. In the same letter, he suggests that different types of Trolls may have independent origins, which would explain, for example, why some are able to withstand sunlight while others are destroyed by it.

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