The Ancient Trolls of Middle-earth
“Trolls simply detest the very sight of dwarves (uncooked).”
The Hobbit: C4
Trolls are large monstrous creatures of limited intellect, made from the very bones of the earth. They are over-large and strong, but like most of the Servants of Shadow created by Morgoth, they could not endure the light of the Sun. Over the course of millennium the Trolls of Middle-earth evolved into different types, shaped by the lands in which they lived.
There were Stone-trolls known to live along roads and under bridges, who preyed upon the unwary travealer. The Hill-trolls were close in lineage to Stone-trolls, though they were larger in size and often did not speak. The Mountain-trolls were said to be the largest of the Troll species and the most intelligent. Cave-trolls thrived in darkness under the earth, often living alongside Goblins and Orcs in tunnels or caves. The Olog-hai appeared in Middle-earth in the later part of the Third Age, first being seen in Dol Guldur and Mordor. These new larger trolls were far more intelligent than other trolls and were able to endure the light of day. It is believed that Sauron bred these monsters to use in his war against the West. Some believe these trolls were first seen in the Battle of the Five Armies in the year 2941 of the Third Age, while others think that Sauron kept his Olog-hai hidden until he unleashed them during the War of the Ring.
During the War of the Ring, at the battle of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, there were said to be many creatures described as Half-trolls and Troll-men, that were likely cast off creatures, spawned in the pits of Barad-dur as Sauron sought to create the perfect Troll for his final war.
Bilbo, Gandalf and the company of dwarves encountered three large trolls on their journey to the Lonely Mountain in the year 2941 of the Third Age. Their encounter was thus recorded by Bilbo in the Red Book of Westmarch…
Suddenly the red light shone out very bright through the tree-trunks not far ahead. “Now it is the burglar’s turn,” they said, meaning Bilbo. “You must go on and find out all about that light, and what it is for, and if all is perfectly safe and canny,” said Thorin to the hobbit. “Now scuttle off, and come back quick, if all is well. If not, come back if you can! It you can’t, hoot twice like a barn-owl and once like a screech-owl, and we will do what we can.”
Off Bilbo had to go, before he could explain that he could not hoot even once like any kind of owl any more than fly like a bat. But at any rate hobbits can move quietly in woods, absolutely quietly. They take a pride in it, and Bilbo had sniffed more than once at what he called “all this dwarvish racket,” as they went along, though I don’t sup-pose you or I would notice anything at all on a windy night, not if the whole cavalcade had passed two feet off. As for Bilbo walking primly towards the red light, I don’t suppose even a weasel would have stirred a whisker at it. So, naturally, he got right up to the fire-for fire it was without disturbing anyone. And this is what he saw. Three very large persons sitting round a very large fire of beech-logs. They were toasting mutton on long spits of wood, and licking the gravy off their fingers. There was a fine toothsome smell. Also there was a barrel of good drink at hand, and they were drinking out of jugs. But they were trolls.
Obviously trolls. Even Bilbo, in spite of his sheltered life, could see that:
from the great heavy faces of them, and their size, and the shape of their legs, not to mention their language, which was not drawing-room fashion at all, at all.
“Mutton yesterday, mutton today, and blimey, if it don’t look like mutton again tomorrow,” said one of the trolls.
“Never a blinking bit of manflesh have we had for long enough,” said a second. “What the ‘ell William was a-thinkin’ of to bring us into these parts at all, beats me – and the drink runnin’ short, what’s more,” he said jogging the elbow of William, who was taking a pull at his jug. William choked. “Shut yer mouth!” he said as soon as he could. “Yer can’t expect folk to stop here for ever just to be et by you and Bert. You’ve et a village and a half between yer, since we come down from the mountains. How much more d’yer want? And time’s been up our way, when yer’d have said ‘thank yer Bill’ for a nice bit o’ fat valley mutton like what this is.” He took a big bite off a sheep’s leg he was toasting, and wiped his lips on his sleeve. Yes, I am afraid trolls do behave like that, even those with only one head each. After hearing all this Bilbo ought to have done something at once. Either he should have gone back quietly and warned his friends that there were three fair-sized trolls at hand in a nasty mood, quite likely to try toasted dwarf, or even pony, for a change; or else he should have done a bit of good quick burgling. A really first-class and legendary burglar would at this point have picked the trolls’ pockets-it is nearly always worthwhile if you can manage it-, pinched the very mutton off the spite, purloined the beer, and walked off without their noticing him. Others more practical but with less professional pride would perhaps have stuck a dagger into each of them before they observed it. Then the night could have been spent cheerily. Bilbo knew it. He had read of a good many things he had never seen or done. He was very much alarmed, as well as disgusted; he wished himself a hundred miles away, and yet-and yet somehow he could not go straight back to Thorin and Company empty-handed. So he stood and hesitated in the shadows. Of the various burglarious proceedings he had heard of picking the trolls’ pockets seemed the least difficult, so at last he crept behind a tree just behind William.
Bert and Tom went off to the barrel. William was having another drink. Then Bilbo plucked up courage and put his little hand in William’s enormous pocket. There was a purse in it, as big as a bag to Bilbo. “Ha!” thought he warming to his new work as he lifted it carefully out, “this is a beginning!” It was! Trolls’ purses are the mischief, and this was no exception. ” ‘Ere, ‘oo are you?” it squeaked, as it left the pocket; and William turned round at once and grabbed Bilbo by the neck, before he could duck behind the tree.
“Blimey, Bert, look what I’ve copped!” said William.
“What is it?” said the others coming up.
“Lumme, if I knows! What are yer?”
“Bilbo Baggins, a bur – a hobbit,” said poor Bilbo, shaking all over, and wondering how to make owl-noises before they throttled him. “A burrahobbit?” said they a bit startled. Trolls are slow in the uptake, and mighty suspicious about anything new to them.
“What’s a burrahobbit got to do with my pocket, anyways?” said William.
“And can yer cook ’em?” said Tom.
“Yer can try,” said Bert, picking up a skewer.
“He wouldn’t make above a mouthful,” said William, who had already had a fine supper, “not when he was skinned and boned.”
“P’raps there are more like him round about, and we might make a pie,” said Bert. “Here you, are there any more of your sort a-sneakin’ in these here woods, yer nassty little rabbit,” said he looking at the hobbit’s furry feet; and he picked him up by the toes and shook him.
“Yes, lots,” said Bilbo, before he remembered not to give his friends away. “No, none at all, not one,” he said immediately afterwards. “What d’yer mean?” said Bert, holding him right away up, by the hair this time.
“What I say,” said Bilbo gasping. “And please don’t cook me, kind sirs! I am a good cook myself, and cook bet-ter than I cook, if you see what I mean. I’ll cook beautifully for you, a perfectly beautiful breakfast for you, if only you won’t have me for supper.”
“Poor little blighter,” said William. He had already had as much supper as he could hold; also he had had lots of beer. “Poor little blighter! Let him go!”
“Not till he says what he means by lots and none at all,” said Bert. “I don’t want to have me throat cut in me sleep. Hold his toes in the fire, till he talks!”
“I won’t have it,” said William. “I caught him anyway.” “You’re a fat fool, William,” said Bert, “as I’ve said afore this evening.”
“And you’re a lout!”
“And I won’t take that from you. Bill Huggins,” says Bert, and puts his fist in William’s eye.
Then there was a gorgeous row. Bilbo had just enough wits left, when Bert dropped him on the ground, to scramble out of the way of their feet, before they were fighting like dogs, and calling one another all sorts of perfectly true and applicable names in very loud voices. Soon they were locked in one another’s arms, and rolling nearly into the fire kicking and thumping, while Tom whacked at then both with a branch to bring them to their senses-and that of course only made them madder than ever. That would have been the time for Bilbo to have left. But his poor little feet had been very squashed in Bert’s big paw, and he had no breath in his body, and his head was going round; so there he lay for a while panting, just outside the circle of firelight. Right in the middle of the fight up came Balin. The dwarves had heard noises from a distance, and after wait-ing for some time for Bilbo to come back, or to hoot like an owl, they started off one by one to creep towards the light as quietly as they could. No sooner did Tom see Balin come into the light than he gave an awful howl. Trolls simply detest the very sight of dwarves (uncooked). Bert and Bill stopped fighting immediately, and “a sack, Tom, quick!” they said, before Balin, who was wondering where in all this commotion Bilbo was, knew what was happening, a sack was over his head, and he was down.
“There’s more to come yet,” said Tom, “or I’m mighty mistook. Lots and none at all, it is,” said he. “No burra – hobbits, but lots of these here dwarves. That’s about the shape of it!”
“I reckon you’re right,” said Bert, “and we’d best get out of the light.”
And so they did. With sacks in their hands, that they used for carrying off mutton and other plunder, they waited in the shadows. As each dwarf came up and looked at the fire, and the spilled jugs, and the gnawed mutton, in surprise, pop! went a nasty smelly sack over his head, and he was down. Soon Dwalin lay by Balin, and Fili and Kili together, and Dori and Nori and Ori all in a heap, and Oin and Gloin and Bifur and Bofur and Bombur piled uncomfortably near the fire.
“That’ll teach ’em,” said Tom; for Bifur and Bombur had given a lot of trouble, and fought like mad, as dwarves will when cornered. Thorin came last-and he was not caught unawares. He came expecting mischief, and didn’t need to see his friends’ legs sticking out of sacks to tell him that things were not all well. He stood outside in the shadows some way off, and said: “What’s all this trouble? Who has been knocking my people about?”
“It’s trolls!” said Bilbo from behind a tree. They had forgotten all about him. “They’re hiding in the bushes with sacks,” said he. “O! are they?” said Thorin, and he jumped forward to the fire, before they could leap on him. He caught up a big branch all on fire at one end; and Bert got that end in his eye before he could step aside. That put him out of the battle for a bit. Bilbo did his best. He caught hold of Tom’s leg-as well as he could, it was thick as a young tree-trunk -but he was sent spinning up into the top of some bushes, when Tom kicked the sparks up in Thorin’s face. Tom got the branch in his teeth for that, and lost one of the front ones. It made him howl, I can tell you. But just at that moment William came up behind and popped a sack right over Thorin’s head and down to his toes. And so the fight ended. A nice pickle they were all in now: all neatly tied up in sacks, with three angry trolls (and two with burns and bashes to remember) sitting by them, arguing whether they should roast them slowly, or mince them fine and boil them, or just sit on them one by one and squash them into jelly: and Bilbo up in a bush, with his clothes and his skin torn, not daring to move for fear they should hear him.
It was just then that Gandalf came back. But no one saw him. The trolls had just decided to roast the dwarves now and eat them later-that was Bert’s idea, and after a lot of argument they had all agreed to it. “No good roasting ’em now, it’d take all night,” said a voice. Bert thought it was William’s.
“Don’t start the argument all over-again. Bill,” he said, “or it will take all night.”
“Who’s a-arguing?” said William, who thought it was. Bert that had spoken.
“You are,” said Bert.
“You’re a liar,” said William; and so the argument beg all over again. In the end they decided to mince them fine and boil them. So they got a black pot, and they took out their knives.
“No good boiling ’em! We ain’t got no water, and it’s a long way to the well and all,” said a voice. Bert and William thought it was Tom’s. “Shut up!” said they, “or we’ll never have done. And yer can fetch the water yerself, if yer say any more.”
“Shut up yerself!” said Tom, who thought it was William’s voice. “Who’s arguing but you. I’d like to know.”
“You’re a booby,” said William.
“Booby yerself!” said Tom.
And so the argument began all over again, and went on hotter than ever, until at last they decided to sit on the sacks one by one and squash them, and boil them next time.
“Who shall we sit on first?” said the voice.
“Better sit on the last fellow first,” said Bert, whose eye had been damaged by Thorin. He thought Tom was talking.
“Don’t talk to yerself!” said Tom. “But if you wants to sit on the last one, sit on him. Which is he?”
“The one with the yellow stockings,” said Bert.
“Nonsense, the one with the grey stockings,” said a voice like William’s.
“I made sure it was yellow,” said Bert.
“Yellow it was,” said William.
“Then what did yer say it was grey for?” said Bert.
“I never did. Tom said it.”
“That I never did!” said Tom. “It was you.”
“Two to one, so shut yer mouth!” said Bert.
“Who are you a-talkin’ to?” said William.
“Now stop it!” said Tom and Bert together. “The night’s gettin’ on, and dawn comes early. Let’s get on with it!”
“Dawn take you all, and be stone to you!” said a voice that sounded like William’s. But it wasn’t. For just at that moment the light came over the hill, and there was a mighty twitter in the branches. William never spoke for he stood turned to stone as he stooped; and Bert and Tom were stuck like rocks as they looked at him. And there they stand to this day, all alone, unless the birds perch on them; for trolls, as you probably know, must be underground before dawn, or they go back to the stuff of the mountains they are made of, and never move again. That is what had happened to Bert and Tom and William. “Excellent!” said Gandalf, as he stepped from behind a tree, and helped Bilbo to climb down out of a thorn-bush. Then Bilbo understood. It was the wizard’s voice that had kept the trolls bickering and quarrelling, until the light came and made an end of them.
The next thing was to untie the sacks and let out the dwarves. They were nearly suffocated, and very annoyed: they had not at all enjoyed lying there listening to the trolls making plans for roasting them and squashing them and mincing them. They had to hear Bilbo’s account of what had happened to him twice over, before they were satisfied.
“Silly time to go practising pinching and pocket-picking,” said Bombur, “when what we wanted was fire and food!”
“And that’s just what you wouldn’t have got of those fellows without a struggle, in any case,” said Gandalf.
“Anyhow you are wasting time now. Don’t you realize that the trolls must have a cave or a hole dug somewhere near to hide from the sun in? We must look into it!”
They searched about, and soon found the marks of trolls’ stony boots going away through the trees. They followed the tracks up the hill, until hidden by bushes they came on a big door of stone leading to a cave. But they could not open it, not though they all pushed while Gandalf tried various incantations.
“Would this be any good?” asked Bilbo, when they were getting tired and angry. “I found it on the ground where the trolls had their fight.” He held out a largish key, though no doubt William had thought it very small and secret. It must have fallen out of his pocket, very luckily, before he was turned to stone.
“Why on earth didn’t you mention it before?” they cried. Gandalf grabbed it and fitted it into the key-hole. Then the stone door swung back with one big push, and they all went inside. There were bones on the floor and a nasty smell was in the air; but there was a good deal of food jumbled carelessly on shelves and on the ground, among an untidy litter of plunder, of all sorts from brass buttons to pots full of gold coins standing in a corner. There were lots of clothes, too, hanging on the walls-too small for trolls, I am afraid they belonged to victims-and among them were several swords of various makes, shapes, and sizes. Two caught their eyes particularly, because of their beautiful scabbards and jewelled hilts. Gandalf and Thorin each took one of these; and Bilbo took a knife in a leather sheath. It would have made only a tiny pocket-knife for a troll, but it was as good as a short sword for the hobbit.
“These look like good blades,” said the wizard, half drawing them and looking at them curiously. “They were not made by any troll, nor by any smith among men in these parts and days; but when we can read the runes on them, we shall know more about them.”
“Let’s get out of this horrible smell!” said Fili So they carried out the pots of coins, and such food as was un-touched and looked fit to eat, also one barrel of ale which was still full.
From The Hobbit in the Chapter ‘Roast Mutton’
In the Red Book of Westmarch there is also an account of the nine members of the company of the Ring, as they traveled through the darkness of Moria and came at last to the Chamber of Mazarbul…
Doom, doom came the drum-beat and the walls shook.
‘Slam the doors and wedge them! ‘ shouted Aragorn. ‘And keep your packs on as long as you can: we may get a chance to cut our way out yet.’
`No! ‘ said Gandalf. ‘We must not get shut in. Keep the east door ajar! We will go that way, if we get a chance.’
Another harsh horn-call and shrill cries rang out. Feet were coming down the corridor. There was a ring and clatter as the Company drew their swords. Glamdring shone with a pale light, and Sting glinted at the edges. Boromir set his shoulder against the western door.
`Wait a moment! Do not close it yet! ‘ said Gandalf. He sprang forward to Boromir’s side and drew himself up to his full height.
‘Who comes hither to disturb the rest of Balin Lord of Moria? ‘ he cried in a loud voice.
There was a rush of hoarse laughter, like the fall of sliding stones into a pit; amid the clamour a deep voice was raised in command. Doom, boom, doom went the drums in the deep.
With a quick movement Gandalf stepped before the narrow opening of the door and thrust forward his staff: There was a dazzling flash that lit the chamber and the passage outside. For an instant the wizard looked out. Arrows whined and whistled down the corridor as he sprang back.
‘There are Orcs, very many of them,’ he said. `And some are large and evil: black Uruks of Mordor. For the moment they are hanging back, but there is something else there. A great cave-troll, I think, or more than one. There is no hope of escape that way.’
‘And no hope at all, if they come at the other door as well,’ said Boromir.
‘There is no sound outside here yet,’ said Aragorn, who was standing by the eastern door listening. `The passage on this side plunges straight down a stair: it plainly does not lead back towards the hall. But it is no good flying blindly this way with the pursuit just behind. We cannot block the door. Its key is gone and the lock is broken, and it opens inwards. We must do something to delay the enemy first. We will make them fear the Chamber of Mazarbul!’ he said grimly feeling the edge of his sword, Andúril.
Heavy feet were heard in the corridor. Boromir flung himself against the door and heaved it to; then he wedged it with broken sword-blades and splinters of wood. The Company retreated to the other side of the chamber. But they had no chance to fly yet. There was a blow on the door that made it quiver; and then it began to grind slowly open, driving back the wedges. A huge arm and shoulder, with a dark skin of greenish scales, was thrust through the widening gap. Then a great, flat, toeless foot was forced through below. There was a dead silence outside.
Boromir leaped forward and hewed at the arm with all his might; but his sword rang, glanced aside, and fell from his shaken hand. The blade was notched.
Suddenly, and to his own surprise, Frodo felt a hot wrath blaze up in his heart. `The Shire! ‘ he cried, and springing beside Boromir, he stooped, and stabbed with Sting at the hideous foot. There was a bellow, and the foot jerked back, nearly wrenching Sting from Frodo’s arm. Black drops dripped from the blade and smoked on the floor. Boromir hurled himself against the door and slammed it again.
`One for the Shire! ‘ cried Aragorn. `The hobbit’s bite is deep! You have a good blade, Frodo son of Drogo! ‘
From The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in the Chapter ‘The Bridge of Khazad-dûm’
As the Captains of the West stood before the Black Gate of Mordor, Sauron unleashed his armies and from the black hills cam mighty trolls into battle.
Drums rolled and fires leaped up. The great doors of the Black Gate swung back wide. Out of it streamed a great host as swiftly as swirling waters when a sluice is lifted.
The Captains mounted again and rode back, and from the host of Mordor there went up a jeering yell. Dust rose smothering the air, as from nearby there marched up an army of Easterlings that had waited for the signal in the shadows of Ered Lithui beyond the further Tower. Down from the hills on either side of the Morannon poured Orcs innumerable. The men of the West were trapped, and soon. all about the grey mounds where they stood, forces ten times and more than ten times their match would ring them in a sea of enemies. Sauron had taken the proffered bait in jaws of steel.
Little time was left to Aragorn for the ordering of his battle. Upon the one hill he stood with Gandalf, and there fair and desperate was raised the banner of the Tree and Stars. Upon the other hill hard by stood the banners of Rohan and Dol Amroth, White Horse and Silver Swan. And about each hill a ring was made facing all ways, bristling with spear and sword. But in the front towards Mordor where the first bitter assault would come there stood the sons of Elrond on the left with the Dúnedain about them, and on the right the Prince Imrahil with the men of Dol Amroth tall and fair, and picked men of the Tower of Guard.
The wind blew, and the trumpets sang, and arrows whined; but the sun now climbing towards the South was veiled in the reeks of Mordor, and through a threatening haze it gleamed, remote, a sullen red, as if it were the ending of the day, or the end maybe of all the world of light. And out of the gathering mirk the Nazgûl came with. their cold voices crying words of death; and then all hope was quenched.
Pippin had bowed crushed with horror when he heard Gandalf reject the terms and doom Frodo to the torment of the Tower; but he had mastered himself, and now he stood beside Beregond in the front rank of Gondor with Imrahil’s men. For it seemed best to him to die soon and leave the bitter story of his life, since all was in ruin.
‘I wish Merry was here,’ he heard himself saying, and quick thoughts raced through his mind, even as he watched the enemy come charging to the assault. ‘Well, well, now at any rate I understand poor Denethor a little better. We might die together, Merry and I, and since die we must, why not? Well, as he is not here, I hope he’ll find an easier end. But now I must do my best.’
He drew his sword and looked at it, and the intertwining shapes of red and gold; and the flowing characters of Númenor glinted like fire upon the blade. ‘This was made for just such an hour,’ he thought. ‘If only I could smite that foul Messenger with it, then almost I should draw level with old Merry. Well, I’ll smite some of this beastly brood before the end. I wish I could see cool sunlight and green grass again!’
Then even as he thought these things the first assault crashed into them. The orcs hindered by the mires that lay before the hills halted and poured their arrows into the defending ranks. But through them there came striding up, roaring like beasts, a great company of hill-trolls out of Gorgoroth. Taller and broader than Men they were, and they were clad only in close-fitting mesh of horny scales, or maybe that was their hideous hide; but they bore round bucklers huge and black and wielded heavy hammers in their knotted hands. Reckless they sprang into the pools and waded across, bellowing as they came. Like a storm they broke upon the line of the men of Gondor, and beat upon helm and head, and arm and shield as smiths hewing the hot bending iron. At Pippin’s side Beregond was stunned and overborne, and he fell; and the great troll-chief that smote him down bent over him, reaching out a clutching claw; for these fell creatures would bite the throats of those that they threw down.
Then Pippin stabbed upwards, and the written blade of Westernesse pierced through the hide and went deep into the vitals of the troll, and his black blood came gushing out. He toppled forward and came crashing down like a falling rock, burying those beneath him. Blackness and stench and crushing pain came upon Pippin, and his mind fell away into a great darkness.
‘So it ends as I guessed it would,’ his thought said, even as it fluttered away; and it laughed a little within him ere it fled, almost gay it seemed to be casting off at last all doubt and care and fear. And then even as it winged away into forgetfulness it heard voices, and they seemed to be crying in some forgotten world far above:
‘The Eagles are coming! The Eagles are coming!’
For one moment more Pippin’s thought hovered. ‘Bilbo!’ it said. ‘But no! That came in his tale, long long ago. This is my tale, and it is ended now. Good-bye!’ And his thought fled far away and his eyes saw no more.
From The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the king in the Chapter ‘The Black Gate Opens’