Monday, July 27, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Trolls and Trolla (Troll Week)

Grýlka, ePic Character
It's Troll Week here at the Other Side!

I wanted to start off things with an idea that has been floating around my head for a while now.

Yesterday I mentioned that the "D&D trolls" did not really fit with the trolls I was reading in myths, legends, and fairy tales that often also included witches. The trolls in D&D, of course, were inspired by the ones from the Poul Anderson novel Three Hearts and Three Lions, which also gave us nixies (myths), swanmays/sawn-maidens (also Celtic myth) and the Law-Neutral-Chaos alignment axis (along with Moorcock). 

The trolls I like are bit more like Tom, Bert, and William from the Hobbit, but I am also fond of the mountain trolls from Lord of the Rings or even Harry Potter.  

But trolls have a much longer history than that.  
I am not going to get into all the myths and legends of Norway, Sweden and Denmark, but I am going to touch on them a bit. 

One of the creatures I always felt was a troll was Grendel from Beowulf. He seems like a troll to me.  Close to human, but monstrous and horrible to behold.  He is described as a "descendent of Cain" but even Tolkien in his version of the tale says he "cannot be dissociated from the creatures of northern myth."  He dislikes the sun and is harried by the sounds of the men singing. 

If Grendel is a troll then what is his mother?  She does seem to be different to be honest.

Robert Zemeckis' version aside, she does appear to be a monster, but of a different sort.   She is described as "aglæc-wif" which is debated by scholars as to its true meaning.  Among the meanings are "monster lady", "devil lady", "ugly troll lady", and "troll wife".

I always felt she was some sort of hag.  It was here reading a kids version of Beowulf in the 5th grade that I first got the idea that male trolls and female trolls might be different sorts of creatures. 


This was turned up to 11 with Robert Lynn Asprin's MythAdventures and his trolls (male) and trollops (female).  Ok in my defense it was the early 80s and I was 10-12.

I have made a couple of different attempts at this over the years.

First was the Makava or Wood Hag. Though her role was more of the wicked witch in the woods. She typically has 2-12 trolls around her home to provide her with physical protection.  They could be her brothers or her sons.

Next was the Trollwife who was something of Troll Hag found in colder areas. She appears in my Winter Witch book.  The oldest known trollwife is Mother Trollwife and she is also a powerful witch.

While both are great and really perfect for what I wanted them to do, they are still not what I was looking for for this concept.

So I had to go to Sweeden.  Not literally of course, but rather in my research.
When doing troll research you go to Norway.  Norwegians love their trolls.  I spent a lot of time reading about Norwegian trolls and these trolls have magic. But myths don't respect borders and many of these tales also spill over into Sweden, Denmark (home of Beowulf) and via more invasions than I can recount right now, England.

But it was Sweden that got my attention.
The Norwegian word for "troll" is "troll."  Nice and easy.
The Danish word for "troll" is "trold." Ok. 
The Swedish word for "troll" is also "troll."
But, "Trolla" in Swedish means "to conjure" or "to enchant."  OK! I can work with this!

There are tales in Swedish folklore of beautiful trolls, or at least beautiful women related to trolls.
All have magic.  So you know where I am going now.

Humanoid (Faerie)
Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1-4)
Alignment: Neutral/Chaotic (Chaotic Neutral, Chaotic Evil)
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 1d8+2** (6 hp) to 13d8+26** (85)
Attacks: 1 weapon or spell
Damage: 1d8 (or by weapon type) or by spell
Special: Regeneration (1hp per hour), witch spells, vulnerable to silver
Size: Medium/Large
Save: Fighter 1 or Witch 1 to 13
Morale: 10
Treasure Hoard Class: Varies
XP: Varies

A Trolla is a type of troll witch.  They are full-blooded trolls, but some magical force causes the trolla to appear as mostly human. Always female, these trolls are both feared and revered in troll society. 
Once a trolla is born, and it is obvious at birth, she will be taken to a nearby human community and left with the humans.  During the trolla's childhood and adolescence, no troll will attack her adoptive village but will be seen on the outskirts as if watching.  The trolla appears to be human in all respects save she is often small and sickly.

Sometime around her 13th birthday, a transformation begins.  The trolla, who has been small her life will begin to grow at a rapid rate. She will within a year be taller than all the other children around her. She will reach her full height at over 6 feet tall. Her previous ill health will be forgotten has her strength and constitution will increase to at least 17 each (if not more). The girl, who always had an impish cuteness about her, will grow into a truly formidable woman.  Even if not "attractive" by the village standards (although she very well could be) she will have a force of personality that makes her fascinating to all. 

It is at this time she must choose her life; human or troll.  Those that choose to remain among the humans can become great warriors for her people, but often do not do more than any other person in her village. 

The ones that choose the life of a troll become truly powerful.  Once the choice is made another transformation begins. Her hair, which had often been blonde or light brown becomes either white or green.  Her skin takes on a green tinge. Horns, which have just been below the skin of her head will grow, as do lower tusks and even a long tail.  It will be at this time the trolla learns of her true gifts, that of troll witchcraft.

Trolla advance as Troll Witches (Faerie, Green, or Winter Tradition) at a level equal to their HD.

Trolla also have the following powers.
  • Regenerate 1 hp per Hour. This can only be done in the dark since trolls are creatures of the dark. Fire and acid wounds cannot be healed this way.
  • Infravision 90'.
  • Witch magic. Trolla are witches. They not only can cast witch spells, but also gain the benefits of a tradition (occult powers) and a coven (ritual magic).
  • Trollspeak. Trolla understands the language of trolls, ogres and other fey creatures.
Also, the have the following drawbacks and restrictions.
  • Heathen. Trolla cannot benefit from healing magic unless it comes from another witch or a cleric of her own religion.
  • Silver weapons always do maximum damage. Wounds from cold iron weapons are treated like fire.
PC and NPC Trolla can become Fighters or Witches.

Grýlka, Trolla Witch
1st level Witch, Green Witch Tradition
Chaotic Neutral

Str: 17
Int: 13
Dex: 14
Wis: 13
Con: 17
Cha: 18

Familiar: Twigblight (neutral)

Spells: Cure Light Wounds

Grýlka is a trolla witch raised among a community of druids. Her adoptive parents knew who and what she was from the time they found her.  Unable to have children of their own they raised her as their own daughter.  When she turned 13 she began her change and her parents told her of her history.
She loved her parents but felt the calling of her troll blood too strongly and too deeply.  She chose to be troll. On her acceptance she was granted a twigblight familiar, a creature normally despised by druids, to guide her into the ways of troll magic.

Grýlka stands 6'3", 6'7" if you measure from the ground to her curving horns.  Her skin is olive-green. Her hair, which was always white, has remained the same as has her green eyes.
She carries a staff of striking +1, a gift from her druid parents.  She discovered that healing magic no longer worked on her and this caused a bit of a panic, so her first spell is Cure Light Wounds.

She is now seeking out others of her kind so she may learn more.


I am going to spend some time with Grýlka all week and see how she fares with all the other trolls we meet this week.

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