Common Scandinavian troll stories

Here I will translate various typical troll stories from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark.

The first one reminds us that trolls don't like to be disturbed and is found in many parts of Scandinavia:

Albert Bertelsen, Norwegian Troll Mountain, 1977

"There once was a man called Jon, who fished in a lake both autumn and spring. Then one day he heard a cry from the mountain. "Can I borrow your pot?" "What do you want with that," a voice replied from the other side of the lake. "I want to cook Jon Longlegs, who fishes in the lake both autumn and spring." "Yes, can I have his boat?" "Yes, you will get both his shoes and his boat." When Jon heard that, he quickly left the lake never to return."

Here is another typical troll story told in many parts of Scandinavia, this time reminding us that trolls in folklore can get both very old and be very hospitable:

"A man who has lost his horse enters the forest to look for it. Soon he is surrounded by mist and loses his way. Suddenly he comes to an old farm. An old whitehaired troll stands outside. He asks the old troll if he can stay there for the night. "You have to ask my father," the troll replies. "Is your father still alive, old man? Where is he?" "He is sitting inside in the chair!" So the man walks inside and asks the old troll in the chair if he may stay there for the night. "You have to ask my father," says the very old troll. "Where is he then" asks the visitor. "He hangs on the wall in the horn. But you better take this metal rod with you for he always grabs visitors' hands to see how strong they are, and that might hurt a bit." "OK," says the man and approaches the even older troll hanging in the cow's horn on the wall, asking him if he may stay there for the night. "So where are you from?" replies the incredibly old troll. When the visitor has told him, the troll grabs his metal rod thinking it is his hand. "I see there are still strong people where you come from. I once helped build their church, but when they brought the big bell, I moved here." He then lets the man stay in the trolls' house for the night."

Here is a traditional Swedish troll story.

In the year 1490 in the parish of Ljungby on Ljungby castle lived a lady named Cidsel Ulfstrand. And not far from the castle lay a lonely, incredibly huge stone called the Magle Stone. On Christmas eve it was said on the castle that you could hear great joy and festivity at the Magle Stone where a large gathering seemed to be taking place. Mistress Cidsel promised then a new costume and the best horse to the person who was willing to ride to the stone to investigate what was happening.

One of the stable boys then saddled a horse and promised to tell Mistress Cidsel what he discovered. When he came to the stone, it seemed to be standing on stakes and from beneath and around it came a strong light. But the strangest thing was the great number of trolls which danced and ran around the stone. When the stable boy came closer he was met by two trolls, one with a drinking horn, the other with a flute and he was asked to empty the horn and play from both ends of the flute. He took the horn and the flute, but was disgusted by the look and smell of the content of the horn and refused to drink from it. At the same moment he heard a spellbound girl say: “Don’t drink from the horn but ride away across the fields and avoid the roads.” Then he shook the horn over his back, so the content flew out, spurred his horse and galloped across the fields back to the castle. The trolls chased him but had to stay on the roads which gave him a sufficient lead so he reached the moat just in time for the lady of the castle to let him in before raising the drawbridge moments before the trolls arrived. Mistress Cidsel started parleying with the trolls. They said they had been sent by their king and now requested to get the drinking horn and the flute back. In return she would get a gift which as long as it was kept in the castle would ensure her and her family great honour and success. But Mistress Cidsel asked them to leave and never come back. She would keep the horn and the flute. The trolls had to accept this but before they left, they cursed both the family and the castle and predicted that the family would die out and the castle burn 3 times. Then they left. Two days later the horse fell over and broke its legs and the next day the stable boy died.

The lesson from this story is quite clear: Keep away from trolls and don't steal from them either!

Translated by from Jättar och Troll i Sverige (1961)

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