The Origin of Trolls

The very meaning of the word ‘troll’ is unknown, though all indicators suggest various tones of ‘malignant and perilous.’ Another likely suggestion is that it means “someone who behaves violently”. Moreover, in the sources for Norse mythology, troll can signify any uncanny being, including but not restricted to the Norse giants.

From fossil records, the distinguished Swedish-speaking Finnish paleontologist Björn Kurtén has entertained the theory that trolls are a distant memory of an encounter with Neanderthals by our Cro-Magnon ancestors some 40,000 years ago during their migration into northern Europe.

Another theory expounds that the myth of the troll is directly attributable to the Christianization of Scandinavia, wherein the local pagan tradition of communicating with forefathers by sitting upon their burial mounds was demonized, setting up the forefathers as evil, voracious brutes.

Carl Jung, who founded the idea of archetypes, stated that for every positive archetype there is a negative; the archetype of the Father, for example, is opposed by the Ogre. The Father is a symbol of authority, law and order and social convention; he is strong, wise, protective and virile. The Ogre represents oppression, insisting on blind obedience and conformity, is physically threatening and may even try to kill – all of which are aspects given to the troll. As an archetype that wears cultural clothing, it is no wonder the troll is the favorite of composers and storytellers as a main villain.

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