Trolls. Scary monsters that live under bridges demanding a toll from travelers. Fierce giants that live in caves, forests, and mountains, preying on passersby. Things that lurk unseen in the wild but cast fear in the hearts of those that hear of them. They are often depicted as green or blue, larger than a man, and sometimes as big as a giant.
In folklore, trolls have their origin in Scandinavia. Beings of magic that lived far from humans in the forests, caves, and mountains, and were believed to be related to the frost giants making them ill-natured creatures. They were large and strong but slow and could be turned to stone in the sunlight. Many odd rock formations are given the folk history of being trolls caught in the light. They were afraid of lightening, since Thor was their enemy, and hated the ring of church bells, which drove them farther away from people and into the wild.
In popular culture, they have taken on various forms. Some of the most popular are the trolls depicted in the Lord of the Rings mythos. Trolls in Middle Earth are always depicted as evil, having only their own ends in mind. In the classic book The Hobbit, three trolls are encountered speaking with a Cockney bent to their English, one even having the name “Bill Huggins”. More comical than threatening, they do waylay the heroes on their quest and plan to eat them before they are turned to stone in the light of the rising sun. Later, as the saga of the One Ring is carried on into The Lord of the Rings, the overall tone of the tale becomes darker making the enemies seem all the more threatening. Trolls are servants of Sauron, among the fiercest of his warriors. They are still on the whole not intelligent creatures and are all unnamed. There is mentioned the last book a race of trolls called the Olog-Hai that are not just mindless fighting machines, but are deadly warriors, wearing armor and organized in Sauron’s army. These Olog-hai get only a passing mention, but in the films and games they are featured prominently attacking Minas Tirith and in the Battle of the Black Gate. These are the trolls of Middle Earth.
In the MMORPG World of Warcraft, trolls are the most ancient of races. Troll history in WoW is long and complex, covering thousands of years of in-game history. They are also the catalyst for many conflicts and developments in the WoW game universe and in other races’ histories, including humans and particularly elves. Physically, they share many of the same characteristics as the trolls in Dungeons & Dragons, with regeneration being one of their key characteristics. Depending on where they live, whether the jungle, the desert or the frozen wastes, they have skin color ranging from blue and purplr to brown and green. Forest trolls may even grow plants! All trolls in the game are descended from one race of trolls called the Zandalarians and so are distantly related to each other. They are now split into different tribes, primarily based on their environment. The jungle troll tribe, the Darkspear, are the only playable tribe in Warcraft.
Trolls in WoW have names that are generally monosyllabic, utilizing suffixes to show status and ability. For example the names Sen’jin and Vol’jin (two leaders of the Darkspear tribe) use the suffix “jin” to show that they are chiefs. It is not recommended to choose a name that ends with “jin” unless you are indeed a war chieftain! Other famous trolls in WoW are Rokhan, a lead scout, and Gadrin, an advisor to Vol’jin. Also, trolls in World of Warcraft do not typically use family names, but may use tribal names if desired. One exception is Zilzibin Drumlore, a troll tribe historian and ecologist who understands the trolls enemies. His name follows the common naming practice of using a descriptive compound word as a surname. This is a very common convention, especially for orcs in Azeroth and gets the explanation that trolls with these kinds of names are influenced by this orcish practice. Examples of trollish compounds are Torntusk and Sandscalp.
Dungeons & Dragons in all its incarnations has had many variations of trolls. In the first edition of the game, trolls did not resemble any kind of familiar beast but were instead a kind of skinny, elastic creature that could regenerate itself despite seemingly mortal wounds. Even a decapitated troll had the ability to regenerate a head and could only be killed with acid or fire! It was something to avoid as it was difficult to kill and was only a solitary creature. In subsequent editions, trolls in D&D gained their now familiar size and fierce predatory nature, but have maintained their regenerative capabilities. They are not generally playable characters in the Dungeons & Dragons or Pathfinder games, but that hasn’t kept players and Game Masters from adapting rules to make it so. There are named NPCs, such as Tornak, who is the main antogonist in the dungeon delving adventure, “Crown of the Troll King” and another Troll King called Skalmad, featured as an antagonist in a different adventure and as a miniature.
In the Pathfinder tabletop RPG, there is a patron god of trolls called Urxehl. Patherfinder is another tabletop RPG that uses modified rulesets from the previous edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Urxehl is massive in size and fiercely destructive. The female leader of the Mistshaper trolls is named Xelnud and believes herself to be the agent of the destruction Urkehl desires.
In the popular console game Skyrim, trolls are enemies which also have many different kinds depending on where the creature makes its home. One specific troll does have a name. It is the Udyfrykte. It is a massive creature that is the focus of a particular quest. Later it is possible to defeat its mother, the Udyfrykte Matron. Both are formidable monsters, but like the trolls in D&D, have a weakness to fire.
In the wide world of games and literature, there are many different portrayals of trolls, from the vicious wild trolls of Middle-earth to the sophisticated troll culture of Azeroth in World of Warcraft. No two trollish kinds really are alike and offer a gamer a great chance to explore a different side of the fabled creatures.