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Snow Trolls



the snow trolls, while they receive only one brief, oblique reference in all of tolkien's work (helm hammerhand, stalking out of the hornburg by night to attack the dunlandings, is compared to them) nonetheless provide me with this mental image that is so wonderfully, classically, well... trollish

the "troll family" is a popular and enduring staple of northern european folklore; we see them all the way from the great jotuns of ancient norse mythology to the devious creatures of 19th century fairy-tale collections, to the fearsome northern giants in the "song of ice and fire" universe, and the picture painted, though varied, is on the whole strikingly consistent; primitive, mysterious, lumbering creatures, ancient, human-like but not so, often giant and immensely strong, sometimes magical, often (though not always) antagonistic, usually pretty dim (or perhaps simply slow and thorough in consideration by the standards of 'hasty' humans) I think tolkien must have had a great fondness for trolls as a fictional construct - no less so perhaps than for dwarves or elves - seeing in them an ancient and multifaceted element of the norse myths (and their victorian nursery-rhyme descendants) that he was so inspired by, so much so that, unlike with other classic "villainous" creatures of northern european folklore like dragons, goblins or wolves, he could not, it seems, write them off as wholly evil, instead populating his fictional world with a broad diversity of "trolls;" the greenman-like ents (an abbreviation of "etten," the rohirric (read, anglo-saxon) version of the norse "jotun" or 'giant') the stone hurling giants of the misty mountains, the trio bilbo encounters (come down south from the "etten-moors") the formidable bruisers of morgoth and sauron's armies, even (as discussed elsewhere) the neanderthal-like pukel-men, might all be said to be types of trolls, and conform, to varying degrees, to the traits commonly attributed to trolls in germanic tradition.

Most artistic depictions of trolls (my own included) owe a great debt to the work of the "golden age" illustrators, particularly John Bauer, who's late 19th century paintings pretty well established the cannon of troll aesthetics (squat, wide faces, heavy, powerful frames, tiny beady eyes, tusk-like teeth, gigantic noses) that nearly everyone has riffed on since. I saw little point to deviate from it for these; one of the great pleasures of tolkien's take on pre-existing germanic fantasy creatures (like the mighty "alfir"-like elves or the dwarves) is just how easily it seems they could walk right out of stories like the elder edda (or the three billy goats gruff) into middle-earth and back again. Working within that established cannon, it was my intention (as is often the case) to try and lend some biological credibility to my specimens; I envision them sort of like (vaguely) humanoid wooly mammoth-type creatures, with a lot of fat and hair for insulation, creatures built to walk around naked in the frozen wastes of the far north, sniffing the air through their huge nostrils (the overall shape of their heads were inspired by that theory that ancient men believed the skulls of mammoths to be those of giants and cyclopses)
Image size
3135x4287px 3.21 MB
Shutter Speed
10/100 second
Focal Length
8 mm
ISO Speed
Date Taken
Apr 27, 2013, 12:36:46 PM
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characterconsultancy's avatar

Beautiful artwork! I just wanted to say thanks for uploading this, and I used it to enhance a prompt post about trolls in my Discord worldbuilding server. You're more than welcome to join and say hi if you like - just let me know!