troll story

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

The Rich Mountain Troll

It has been suggested that the belief in the rich mountain trolls has (one of) its origins in the hill burial of our ancestors during the Bronze Age and later when they (or at least the leaders of the community) were buried with their valuables, eg. golden goblets, so they had the means to lead a decent after-life. There is a reference to this in Beowulf where a thrall (i.e. slave) in fact steals the gold goblet from a man buried in a hill. In Beowulf it is not a troll, but a dragon that guards this treasure. This dragon, maybe the dead man's soul (?), then chases the thrall but cannot capture him.

Could this be the origin of the story of the rich mountain troll, the hill people?

Here is a story from Denmark in the 19th century that may add weight to this theory:

"Once some men from the three farms in Nør-Fjande (Western Jutland) went up on the hill called Skindbjerg to dig out the treasures that were said to be buried there. This had to take place during the night and soon they found a big copper kettle. They started pulling it up and it was already close to the top of the hole when they looked up and saw that the three farms in Nør-Fjande were all on fire. Surprised they dropped the kettle which sank deeper and deeper into the ground, and they hurried home as fast as their legs could carry them. But when they came home, there was no fire to see anywhere, it was the mountain troll's magic which had fooled them, but ever since that time no-one had been able to find the kettle."

We may think of the folklore stories of buried treasures like the above kettle as pure fiction, but in Southern Jutland for hundreds of years people told stories of a ship buried in a bog – which archaeologists later found and that turned out to be a 1.000 years old!

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.

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.

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