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Old 02-26-2008, 04:24 AM   #1
Eomer of the Rohirrim
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Trolls are brilliant, this I know. Tolkien's portrayal of Trolls, however, is ever-so-slightly disappointing to me. Traditional characterisation of Trolls is varied, and JRRT chose to go with the huge (though not gigantic) bloodthirsty beast, or in The Hobbit dim-witted lummox. Granted, we see much of the events through the eyes of Hobbits, who were unlikely to appreciate the full range of Trollish society, but I'd have liked to read about Tolkien's more objective vision of the Trolls.

In much Scandinavian folklore, which Tolkien knew a bit about, Trolls are far more humanoid beings. It's accepted to say that Trolls were made as counterparts to Ents, thus explaining their large size; but it would have been nice to see more of a blend of traditional Trollish traits in Tolkien's world. Especially as how there seem to be various types of Troll in Middle-earth: Stone, Hill, Cave, for example.

Trolls were said to be restless dead, or magical, or shapeshifters. They stole cattle and babies from the humans, and would trick them into marriage or take them as prisoners.

Perhaps JRRT thought these Trolls wouldn't fit into The Lord of the Rings but I'd say it would have explained the Trolls we encounter in The Hobbit who are able to talk with their prisoners. Tom, Bert and William could have been Northern Trolls, part of a society not created by any Dark Lord. Sauron could have recruited the most brutal, violent Trolls to his service, but others may have been unwilling.

Well, Trolls interest me anyway. Feel free to post comments of your own.
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Old 02-26-2008, 09:46 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Eomer of the Rohirrim
Trolls are brilliant, this I know. Tolkien's portrayal of Trolls, however, is ever-so-slightly disappointing to me. Traditional characterisation of Trolls is varied, and JRRT chose to go with the huge (though not gigantic) bloodthirsty beast, or in The Hobbit dim-witted lummox.
Not all trolls that Tolkien portrayed are stupid. I believe that there was a species of mountain trolls called the Olog-Hia. These trolls were so smart that they were able to develop their own language and society.

Which is as smart as trolls can get.
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Old 02-26-2008, 11:15 AM   #3
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Using an article on the Barrow-Downs by the Barrow-Wight himself, I learn that the Olog-hai were Sauron's doing. They were bred by him and taught a rudimentary language. But to say that this is as smart as Trolls get is to miss the point of this thread. Trolls could have been more smart, or more anything, had JRRT wanted.
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Old 02-26-2008, 02:00 PM   #4
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I like his trolls and that's that.
I think the part of this humanoid beings was taken by the Orcs and so it makes sense that trolls are more the heavy support units.
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Old 02-26-2008, 02:40 PM   #5
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Aye, there's the Orc-as-humanoid idea. But if you want all your counterparts you could have Orcs/Elves as Evil/Good. Then you have Men and Trolls, the more morally ambiguous lots.
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Old 02-26-2008, 03:35 PM   #6
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How about the Troll in 'Perry the Winkle' from the Tales if Tom Bombadil? He seemed a fairly cheery type, the flipside of Bert et al. Also there's the Troll in one of Sam's songs that Tom regretted kicking.

We do get to se a few trolls in the Silmarillion (seventy that had a bad day when they tried to capture Hurin!!), but not in much detail.
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Old 02-27-2008, 12:21 AM   #7
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I always wished that the books offered a little more insight into trolls and their ways. Trolls are neat.
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Old 02-27-2008, 01:08 PM   #8
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Using an article on the Barrow-Downs by the Barrow-Wight himself, I learn that the Olog-hai were Sauron's doing. They were bred by him and taught a rudimentary language. But to say that this is as smart as Trolls get is to miss the point of this thread. Trolls could have been more smart, or more anything, had JRRT wanted.
Well, Tolkien gave trolls the ability to speak and learn, that's pretty smart!

Speaking of the 70 trolls killed by Hurin, could it be that Morgoth's trolls were smaller and similar to the ones in the fairy tails? I always thought of them that way. How could Huirn have killed 70 eighteen foot trolls?
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Old 02-27-2008, 03:12 PM   #9
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Speaking of the 70 trolls killed by Hurin, could it be that Morgoth's trolls were smaller and similar to the ones in the fairy tails? I always thought of them that way. How could Huirn have killed 70 eighteen foot trolls?
Here's the quote from CoH:

"It is sung that the black axe smoked in the black blood of the troll guards... Seventy times he uttered that cry..."

Notice the "it is sung" and consider the fictional perspective. All the historywriters who recorded The Battle Of Unnumbered Tears knew was that the men led by Hurin were surrounded and finally slaughtered, quite possibly down to the very last man. But Hurin was bound, taken to Angband and tormented. When Morgoth released him much later he wouldn't have made up a boast story about how many trolls he slew the worst day in his life.

Still he was a hero for defying Morgoth and I think the (make-belive) historywriters probably used their creative freedom and filled out the blanks to make Hurin's last stand seem more valiant and glorious than it already was. It is more likely that when Gothmog and his troll guard arrived Hurin was quite overwhelmed and rather easily subdued and humiliated.
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Old 02-27-2008, 03:12 PM   #10
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How could Huirn have killed 70 eighteen foot trolls?
Well, he was a very good warrior...

but I agree. No normal man could kill 70 trolls.*


*edit: but Hurin was no normal man
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Old 02-28-2008, 04:21 AM   #11
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That part also says that Orc arms grappled him after they had been cut off, or something similar. Implication is that Trolls and Orcs were fighting him at the time. He uttered the cry 70 times, but that could mean he killed 20 Trolls and 50 Orcs.
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Old 02-28-2008, 11:38 AM   #12
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Hail to the Trollhammeren

I like the way that trolls are a bit mysterious and there are not definite accounts of all their origins nor even a definitive account of what a troll looks like or can do. They're just big and scary. Thinking back to when I was a child, the idea of Trolls was quite frightening enough - to have them described in all their gory detail might have spoiled them. When my Nan told me that the single slab bridge with a big hole in the middle, that crossed the brook at the bottom of the back field had Trolls living under it, and that one of them had grabbed her leg one day, she didn't have to say any more about what the monsters looked like...

As with a lot of his horrors, I think Tolkien intended it that way. I'm even beginning to think he left the case of the Balrog wings unproven because he knew it was both more scary that way and because he knew it would give everyone something to argue about
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Old 02-28-2008, 02:12 PM   #13
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Agreed. Tolkien's trolls seem more like ogres to me than trolls.
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Old 02-29-2008, 12:04 PM   #14
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That part also says that Orc arms grappled him after they had been cut off, or something similar. Implication is that Trolls and Orcs were fighting him at the time. He uttered the cry 70 times, but that could mean he killed 20 Trolls and 50 Orcs.
Yes I'm not convinced the seventy refers all to Trolls myself, albeit Húrin was certainly mighty. In The Grey Annals it was said that:
'Then he cast aside his shield and wielded his axe two-handed; and it is sung that in that last stand he himself slew an hundred of the Orcs. But they took him alive at last...'
Similarly one hundred Orcs in Tolkien's earlier Quenta Silmarillion (HME V).

Christopher Tolkien explains that the text of chapter twenty in the published Silmarillion was primarily derived from the story in The Grey Annals, but elements were introduced from the old chapter sixteen in Quenta Silmarillion, and also from a third text, that: 'was intended as a component in the long prose Tale of the Children of Húrin (the Narn)'. It seems that in the new book Children of Húrin Christopher Tolkien took the passage concerning the great battle from the Narn version, whereas in the constructed Silmarillion he followed the Annals with some features taken from the Narn version.

A hundred orcs is an amazing feat (if indeed the songs merely meant to imply 'some great number', it was still notably great). Interesting that the number decreases a bit to seventy, though along with less explicit wording too, in my opinion, as to just what number Trolls were slain.
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Old 05-01-2008, 05:58 AM   #15
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Hurin defied Morgoth.

Hurin. defied. Morgoth.

HURIN, ALONE, DEFIED THE LORD OF DARKNESS.

Case closed.

(so yes, he killed 70 trolls)
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Old 05-01-2008, 01:56 PM   #16
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Hurin defied Morgoth.

Hurin. defied. Morgoth.

HURIN, ALONE, DEFIED THE LORD OF DARKNESS.

Case closed.

(so yes, he killed 70 trolls)

Yes, its true. And he may have actually killed all those trolls. After all, Morgoth punished Hurin very severely (maybe more than anyone else). There must have been a reason (And I'm sure there were others who killed 70+ orcs in their lifetime).
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Old 05-01-2008, 04:01 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Groin Redbeard View Post
Well, Tolkien gave trolls the ability to speak and learn, that's pretty smart!

Speaking of the 70 trolls killed by Hurin, could it be that Morgoth's trolls were smaller and similar to the ones in the fairy tails? I always thought of them that way. How could Huirn have killed 70 eighteen foot trolls?
How? Because he was THAT good. What's the point of mythic heroes if we don't let them do mythic hero things?

Regarding trolls and intelligence: there's a very wide variety of trolls in Middle-earth, and probably a corresponding variety of intelligence, aggression, etc. However, I DON'T think that the Olog-hai should be in any way taken as a typical sample, as they were a specially developed breed and only able to speak because Sauron souped 'em up. The Olog-hai are not some kind of success story about what Trolls can achieve if they try really hard or about Trolls' latent potential and intelligence.

Maybe I'll post again later after I've thought about this some more.
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Old 05-02-2008, 02:56 PM   #18
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I'm not convinced the Troll-guard of Gothmog even included 70 Trolls.

I think Tolkien started with orcs (100), but reduced the number to seventy 'cause now there were 'some' Trolls in the mix -- and although the number was reduced, the feat was now arguably just as amazing, or even more so, given that Trolls were involved.
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Old 05-02-2008, 08:01 PM   #19
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Quote:
Yes, its true. And he may have actually killed all those trolls. After all, Morgoth punished Hurin very severely (maybe more than anyone else). There must have been a reason (And I'm sure there were others who killed 70+ orcs in their lifetime).
Well, the punishment was due to Hurin's refusal to reveal Gondolin's location to Morgoth, coupled with the overall defiance thing that no-one else had done face to face in Middle Earth (Feanor did it in Aman).

But the magnitude of the feat (Hurin must have been tortured as well as just interrogated in Angband) makes him more than capable of such a "small" achievement as battle prowess.
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