Troll Stories

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)

Troll Story: The Troll and the Weather

Here is another short troll story from Axel Olrik's collection of traditional Danish legends and fairytales, Danske Sagn og Æventyr fra Folkemunde (1913), illustrated by Niels Skovgaard (1922) called

The Troll and the Weather

In olden days trolls controlled everything including the weather. It happened one summer day that a farmer went out into his field to check his corn. It did not look very good, it was almost trying to sink back into the ground because of lack of rain. On the other side of the farmer’s fence stood the troll who controlled the weather, and the man could clearly hear him say: “small small dripping rain, small, small dripping rain!” The weather prediction made the farmer unhappy so he bent over the fence and gave the troll a big thump in the head with his hand. “Big rain!” cried the troll terrified. He thought he had been hit by thunder.

After that the rain came and the farmer’s crops were saved.

This story reminds us that not only were trolls an integral part of rural life whose magic you had to accept and hopefully be able to benefit from, but also that trolls’ biggest fear was thunder - maybe as a reminder of pagan days when Thor supposedly went troll hunting with his chariot, slaying the ones he could find with his spark throwing hammer.

Translation: Trollmoon 2007

Troll Story: The Hill Trolls Fight

Here is another story from Axel Olrik's Danish collection of traditional fairytales, Danske Sagn og Æventyr fra Folkemunde (1913), illustrated by Niels Skovgaard (1922), this one an example of the common theme of trolls fighting each other, and of trolls and humans acting like true neighbours.

Niels Skovgaard Bulls Fight

The Hill Trolls Fight

A farmer from Western Jutland one day took a walk on his field, when a small grey man suddenly appeared in front of him. “Would you do me a favour,” the small man asked? “That may be,” replied the farmer. “What do you want me to do?” “Well, I am the troll in the hill on your field, and I cannot come to terms with my neighbour in the hill over there. Tomorrow we will fight. If you go down on your field at that time, you will see two bulls butting each other, the red bull is me, but the black bull is my neighbour. I would ask you to bring a hayfork with you and if you will thrust it into my enemy when I cannot fight anymore, then you will have done great.” “Fine, I can do that for you,” said the man.

The next day he went down to the field with his hayfork in his hand. And everything was just as the troll had described. Two bulls were fighting like crazy on the field below the hill.

Having watched their fight for a while, the farmer runs forward and pushes his hayfork into the black bull, which bellows in the most horrible way. And suddenly both bulls are nowhere to see. But the following day when the farmer is out walking on his land, he sees a small pot full of small red stones. And when he looks more closely, he realises that the stones are gold coins and that they are a gift from the hill troll for helping him defeat his neighbour.

Translation: Trollmoon 2007

A typical Danish troll story collected by J. M. Thiele

The Midwife and the Troll

A short version of a folk-tale in J. M. Thiele's Danske Folkesagn (Danish Folk-tales) with illustrations by J. Th. Lundbye

On her way home from a succesful birth, the midwife Gertrud sees a frog with a silk thread wrapped around one of its leg and she immediately understands it is pregnant and happen to say that she will also help the toad give birth when the time is ready.

A few months later it knocks on Gertrud's door one night. Outside is a little but broad-shouldered man with a big head, wearing a grey suit and a grey cap which are different from the clothes worn by the peasants in this part of Denmark. He introduces himself as Celte and tells her it was his wife, she promised to help give birth. Gertrud now understands she is dealing with trolls and the only way she can get well out of this is by keeping her word, so she follows Celte to the troll hill, where he leads her into a dark cave formed by soil and big stones where Celte's troll wife is close to giving birth.

Celte gives Gertrud a small bottle and tells her to put it on the baby's eyes the moment it is born. She does so but is curious about what is in the bottle and puts a little on her own right eye. She can now see that the cave is a beautiful shining hall with walls made of thousands of gemstones. The troll woman now tells Gertrud to escape as quickly as possible, as trolls do not like to let go of Christian folk once they have them inside their troll cave. The troll wants to pay her for her services but Gertrud refuses and runs away as quickly as she can.

She will, however, meet Celte once more when she helps her neighbours harvesting and spots Celte removing sheaves from the field and taking them into a hill nearby. When she has seen him do this three times, she asks him what he is doing. Can you see me, Celte replies surprised. Close your left eye, can you still see me? Yes, she replies. Close your right eye, can you still see me? No, she replies and feels that she loses her right eye and from that day onwards she never saw the hill people anymore. Neither did she ever again help this farmer as he was paying taxes to the troll (the sheaves) and thus must be an ungodly man.

The End.

Notice that Lundbye's troll looks like his alterego, the troll Sindre mentioned here. In the age before Kittelsen and Bauer, trolls still looked like today's pixies or dwarfs.

Also note that similar stories are told elsewhere in the world. In Palestine you find a similar story where the troll is replaced by a djinn.

Regional Danish Troll Stories

Every region of Denmark has its own troll tales. Here is one from South Eastern Jutland reminding us to treat the supernaturals well:
In the village of Viuf was 5 hills, each occupied by trolls, and when they partied, the hills all stood on glowing poles. One night a farmhand who worked nearby, passed the hills and suddenly felt like teasing them so he threw a stone into the hole on top of one of the hills. The troll came out of the hill and shouted: "Tell Finnkee that little Kee is dead". The fact was that the farmhand had killed a little troll child with the stone.
The farmhand did not understand anything of this but when he came home, he told the others about the strange incident. There actually was a troll named Finnkee living on the farm, but the people did not know that. When he heard that little Kee was killed, he cut the throat of the farmhand and then left the farm never to return.

The island Bornholm in The Baltic Sea was once the home of the legendary Bonavedde, who was the son of a farmer (bona) and a mermaid (vedde - vætte) and who unlike other humans could see the trolls and other supernaturals and who was constantly trying to rid the island of them. One night, when he rode past their hill standing on glowing poles, a troll tried to offer him a potion that would bring him under the trolls' control but he poured it on the back of his horse so it became much faster, and now they could not capture him. In a big stone in the church in Pedersker one can still see the footprint of the horse as Bonavedde escaped the trolls.

Lundbye Danish Dolmen
Dolmen by J. Th. Lundbye

A well-known type of troll stories in Denmark tells about Wattis and Attis (it also found elsewhere in Scandinavia with different names) where someone passing by a troll hill suddenly hears a voice saying: "Tell Attis that Wattis is dead". When the human comes home and tells his family or others what he has heard but doesn't understand, the hidden farm trolls or the cat (thus revealing itself to be a troll cat) immediately leave the farm with the words "Is Wattis dead? Then I have to go home at once". It reminds us again that trolls can be anywhere and that they have strong family ties.

More to follow.

Skalle - a troll story

Here follows a summary of a troll story from Axel Olrik's Danish collection of traditional fairytales, Danske Sagn og Æventyr fra Folkemunde (1913), illustrated by Niels Skovgaard (1922):


There was a farm in Eskildstrup, Denmark, which for a few years had had many owners. Either they died shortly after moving there or they became indebted and were thrown out by the local squire. Then came a new man. That evening when he entered the gates of the farm, he said "Good evening, Skalle" ("Flakey"), because the farm looked very bare. "Evening," a voice said from above the gateway. The unmarried farmer replied: "If there is someone here whom I cannot see, then I invite that person to be my guest on the night before Christmas Eve.

On the night before Christmas Eve the troll came just as the farmer had finished tending to his animals in the stable, but still had not lit the candles in the house. "Evening and a merry feast," said the troll. "Who are you," asked the farmer? "I am the one you invited to be your guest tonight." "Then please sit down and have some food." The troll sat down and started eating. "Now I will ask you to be my guest on the night before New Year's Eve," said the troll. "That is fine, but where do you live?" "Just go outside your stable door and you will find me."

On the night before New Year's Eve the man went outside the stable door and followed the troll down to his home. It looked nice and pretty, he thought. Now the troll begged him to eat. He sat down and they started eating their rice pudding. But just as they were eating, the troll snatched the plate off the table. The farmer was a little surprised and asked: "Why did you do that?" "Don't you see that something is dripping down on the table, it comes from your stable. That is the reason why no-one can stay for long on this farm. But if you move the stable to another farm wing, then you will prosper here." The farmer followed the troll's advice and since then everything went well for him.

(Translation @Trollmoon)

Note: Similar stories are told about the Nisse/Tomte/Vætte. Trolls are not commonly associated with farms, but in real folklore these creatures are quite interchangable, especially in Southern Scandinavia.

Search The Troll Blog