Trolls in Entertainment

Few Norwegian illustrators or painters have managed to capture these strange creatures and the enchanted atmosphere of Norwegian nature on paper an canvas as successfully as Theodor Kittelsen. Kittelsen’s art and artistic use of the medium of drawing, with black and white extremities and scales of gray in between, are in a class of their own in Norwegian art. Theodor Kittelsen was fascinated by this shadowy world populated by supernatural siren beings and spirits. Walking in the forests and fields, he could see them everywhere: in the mists over the marches, in the twilight surrounding fallen pine trunks and in the dripping fir trees on rainy days.

In Swedish children’s literature, trolls are not naturally evil, but rather primitive and misunderstood. Their misdeeds are due to a combination of basic and common human traits, such as envy, pride, greed, naïveté, ignorance and stupidity. In some early 20th century fairy tales, by Elsa Beskow, trolls are also depicted as an aboriginal race of hunters and gatherers who are fleeing the encroaching human civilization. Where man makes a road, the trolls disappear.

There is some speculation that the famous story Rumpelstiltskin originated from a troll folk tale which bears many similarities. While the original story of the troll involves a preacher contracting a troll to build a church as opposed to a woman needing to spin straw into gold, the central element of a bargain which is satisfied by guessing the name of the involved party, and the subsequent death of the troll or being whose name is guessed is central to both stories.

Grendel, the monster from the Beowulf saga, is said to have been a troll, though mostly because descriptions of Grendel are ambiguous at best. It is also said that Grendel is a descendant of Cain, the First Murderer of Abrahamic traditions. Those of you familiar with vampires of the Old World of Darkness should note the correlation.

Many statues of trolls adorn the downtown business district of Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, leading to the town being dubbed The Troll Capital. There is also a neighborhood on the northeast side of Fargo, North Dakota which is named Trollwood.

Northern Central Californian Hispanic residents tell their children tales of the “Colupe” (KOH-LOOPIE) the little man that lives in the walls which comes out at night stealing away the breath of its sleeping victims. This story was made famous in Stephen King’s movie “Cat’s Eye”.

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