While in Norse mythology, the Troll was a magical creature with special skills, in Tolkien's writings they are portrayed as evil, stupid, with crude habits, although still intelligent enough to communicate with a known language.
In The Hobbit they speak with thick Cockney accents. They turn to stone when exposed to sunlight, and they enjoy eating meat (such as mutton, hobbits and Dwarves) and drinking beer. While threatening, the trolls in The Hobbit serve as a comic element. They even have English names: Tom, Bert, and William.
Morgoth, the evil Vala, created the first Trolls before the First Age. They were strong and vicious but stupid creatures. Their major weakness was that they turned to stone in sunlight. Nobody knows how Morgoth managed to breed them, though Treebeard says that Trolls were "made ... in mockery of Ents", as Orcs were of Elves. They are likely a corrupted form of some existing race of Middle-earth, as Morgoth and Sauron could only corrupt creatures that already existed, not create life anew. Both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, however, mention that sunlight will return them to the stone from which they were made.
During the wars of Beleriand, Gothmog (the Lord of Balrogs) had a bodyguard of trolls. During the Nírnaeth Arnoediad, the Battle of Unnumbered Tears, in which Morgoth defeated the united armies of Elves, Men, and Dwarves, the great human warrior Húrin faced Gothmog's trolls to protect the retreat of the Elven king Turgon. As Morgoth had ordered to capture Húrin alive, the warrior managed to wipe out the trolls before being captured by orcs.
Many trolls died in the War of Wrath, but some survived and joined Sauron, the greatest surviving servant of Morgoth. In the Second Age and Third Age, trolls were among Sauron's most dangerous warriors.
Tolkien used several different terms for types of trolls, though there seems to have been some overlap in meanings;
- Stone-trolls were Trolls who turned into stone during daylight, like the trolls in The Hobbit. They could speak, and used a debased form of Westron (rendered into Cockney English in The Hobbit).
- Hill-trolls in the Coldfells north of Rivendell killed Arador, Chieftain of the Rangers of the North and grandfather to Aragorn. Tolkien described the trolls of Eriador and the Troll-shaws, including the three from The Hobbit, as stone-trolls, suggesting that "hill-trolls" was an alternative name, or perhaps referred to a sub-class. At the Black Gate the Army of the West fought "hill-trolls" of Gorgoroth, which (given the description of Trolls in Appendix F) are generally taken to be Olog-hai.
- Cave-trolls attacked the Company of the Ring in Moria. One is described as having dark greenish scales and black blood. Their hide was so thick that when Boromir struck one in the arm his sword was notched and did no damage. However, Frodo Baggins was able to impale the "toeless" foot of the same troll with the enchanted dagger Sting.
- Mountain-trolls are mentioned once, wielding the great battering ram Grond in shattering the gates of Minas Tirith.
- Snow-trolls are mentioned only in the story of Helm Hammerhand. When Helm went out clad in white during the Long Winter to stalk and slay his enemies, he was described as looking like a snow-troll. Otherwise nothing is known of them.
- Olog-hai are described in Appendix F (the term does not appear in the story proper). They were "strong, agile, fierce, and cunning" trolls created by Sauron, not unlike the Uruk-hai. Unlike other trolls, they could withstand sunlight while under the sway of Sauron's will. They seldom spoke and were said to know no language other than the Black Speech, in which Olog-hai means "troll-folk" (singular Olog "troll"). They appeared toward the end of the Third Age and could be found near Dol Guldur and in the mountains around Mordor. Since the "hill-trolls" of Gorgoroth that fought in the Battle of the Morannon could also withstand sunlight, these are taken to be the Olog-hai of Appendix F. They are described as being taller and wider than men, with hide or armour of horny scales. They had black blood. Peregrin Took slew their leader; and after the destruction of the One Ring and the fall of Sauron, the surviving trolls scattered as if mindless.
During the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, there is a reference to "men like half-trolls", also called troll-men, but it is unclear whether these men actually had some trollish ancestry or were simply compared to trolls. (For some readers, the first interpretation is supported by the similar and interchangeable terms "orc-men" and "half-orcs", referring to crossbreeds created by Saruman.)
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Rankin/Bass' 'The Hobbit'
Rankin/Bass' animated adaptation of The Hobbit depicts Bilbo's encounter with the trolls Bill, Bert, and Tom. In this film, the trolls are presented with tan-colored skin, large bulbous noses, and tusks. As in the book, they revert to stone when exposed to sunlight.
Bakshi's animated film
Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated version of The Lord of the Rings follows the book very faithfully in its depiction of the encounter with the troll in the Chamber; however, the troll does have toes here. Tolkien described the troll's foot as flat and toeless. There are no other trolls depicted.
Peter Jackson's Lord of Rings trilogy
In The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Bilbo recounts his altercation with the three stone-trolls and later on, the four hobbits and Aragorn are shown resting in the shelter of the petrified trolls. In the mines of Moria, a single cave troll is among the attackers. First sighted by Boromir, the Troll barges through the open doors, and smashes much of the Chamber, including Balin's tomb, in the ensuing fight. It has a collar with a trailing chain, and is undisciplined enough to inadvertently crush some of its goblin allies in the skirmish with Gandalf's company. The troll appears to impale Frodo with a metal stave, but Frodo is saved from fatal injury by his mithril shirt. In the book it is an Orc captain who spears him. After a hard fight, the Troll is killed by the members of the Fellowship, who stab, spear, and hack at it until Legolas kills it with a well-aimed arrow shot through the roof of its mouth.
In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Mountain-trolls are shown being used to load catapults and to move extremely heavy objects such as siege towers and the battering ram Grond. After the gate of Minas Tirith is broken, Battle Trolls enter the city as shock troops, sporting armour and spiked clubs alluded to in the appendices. At least one survived and is seen later, attempting to break down a gate. During the Battle of the Morannon, Aragorn fights one of the Olog-hai, whose upper body is covered in black plated-armour, making it more menacing. While most trolls in the films wielded clubs, this one wielded a sword and a mace.
The morphology and actions of these trolls is completely divergent from the interpretation of ents, implying Jackson assumed that they were not directly associated.
Beyond the screen
Various movie-only sources, like The Lord of the Rings: Weapons and Warfare and the spin-off games by Electronic Arts, greatly expand on what Tolkien wrote about trolls.
In the world of the films, mountain-trolls, including the cave-trolls of Moria, are about 18 feet (5 m) tall, with massive limbs, potbellies, and dark scales on the back and shoulders. They come in stony colours, with the most common being grey. They have 22 teeth, including two fangs on the lower canines. As in the book, their blood is black, and is so hot that when spilt, it sizzles on the floor. They are mainly carnivorous, but can digest plant matter if need be. The eyes are either grey or blue. They wear loincloths of leather that they find in the Mines or are given by the Goblins. They sometimes roar when in a battle rage, but are incapable of forming words or language. They often wield either a great club or a hammer. Cave-trolls are usually found with small groups of Orcs. They are too unintelligent to hunt food for themselves, often consuming whatever hapless creature they come across, so food is an advantage they get from working with the Orcs. Their fingernails extend to most of their fingers, and were allegedly used to dig holes into the rock itself.
The Olog-hai differ from the other Trolls depicted in the New Line movies in that they have more forward-facing eyes, as well as hair on their bodies, suggesting that they are a more advanced form of Troll. They are usually grey to black in colour. Mountain trolls and Olog-hai have much in common: they are both much larger and more intelligent than most trolls and more resistant to light. However Olog-hai are certainly far superior to Mountain trolls in all these aspects.
Forest trolls were invented for the EA game version of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. They have hard grey skin, are resistant to arrow fire, and carry a large quiver of wood logs (to use as firewood and projectiles), as well as a mace like a cave troll. They are in the game Aragorn's Quest as enemies once again, but have green skin instead of grey.
For the game version of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, trolls also returned as enemy units. Although they were slow, their attacks couldn't be blocked and were very strong, but there was often a war pike around that made them easy to kill. They also appeared as enemies in "Lord of the Rings: The Third Age". In this game, they were also slow but powerful, and could take a lot of damage before dying. Some of the later trolls in the game (these were called attack trolls) wielded a pair of large swords, while a stronger kind carried massive war hammers, as well as at least one troll encountered in Moria who carried a pair of drums, which were used to heal and increase the damage of an accompanying troll. Trolls also appear as controllable units in The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, its sequel, The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth II and its expansion The Rise of the Witch-king. In The Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth, it is necessary for a regular mountain troll to gain a rank (after destroying enemy units, etc.), to become an attack troll where it gains an armour bonus and can heal by itself as the only non-hero unit who is able to do so. In The Battle for Middle-earth II, attack trolls can be made from a Rank 3 Troll Cage. In The Rise of the Witch-king, the Angmar faction has a troll hero named Rogash, as well as hill and snow trolls. In all the Battle for Middle-earth games, Trolls are depicted as "tank" units (slow, very strong, can take massive damage before being killed).
In the The Lord of the Rings Online MMO, wood-trolls that appear to be semi-entish and made of wood appear in the Trollshaws. They are particularly difficult to kill and deal a lot of damage.
Peter Jackson's 'An Unexpected Journey'
In "An Unexpected Journey" the three stone trolls are similar to the appearance of the mountain trolls of the previous Lord of the Rings trilogy. Unlike the other trolls, they are sentient and capable of speech, but are still unintelligent and therefore easily fooled. On the whole, they are depicted according to Tolkien's original novel, with minor differences in detail between the plots. Just as in the original, the trolls attempt to devour Bilbo and the thirteen dwarves, but revert to stone when exposed to sunlight. The trolls are portrayed through voice and motion capture by three actors who also play dwarves in Thorin's company. Bert is played by Mark Hadlow (Dori), Tom is played William Kircher (Bifur) and William is played by Peter Hambleton (Glóin).
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Appendix A.I.v, ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1954), The Fellowship of the Ring, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), The Bridge of Khazad-dûm, ISBN 0-395-08254-4
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), The Siege of Gondor, ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Appendix A.II, ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), Appendix F.I, Of Other Races - Trolls, ISBN 0-395-08256-0
- Tolkien, J. R. R. (1955), The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings, Boston: Houghton Mifflin (published 1987), The Black Gate Opens, ISBN 0-395-08256-0
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