Trolling for the Loaf of Heaven

Daily Draw July 14th, 2009

Another wonderful The Lord of the Rings Tarot card:


Generally this card in tarot says to watch out for thieving sneaks, be they giant-sized or not. Trolls are an apt tie-in to this archetype.


These are the three trolls, Tom, Bert, and Bill, from the book The Hobbit, who came upon the camp of Bilbo and his dwarf friends on their travels. They tied the hobbit and dwarves up, in preparation for eating them, and fought over the camp’s possessions. They fought so hard they forget to get underground before the sun came up and thus turned to stone.

In The Lord of the Rings, Frodo, Sam and their party come across the three troll statues, and Sam creates a rhyme about them stealing bones and eating them and how Tom Bombadil tried to get the bones of his Uncle Tim back but only succeeded in hurting his foot when he kicked the troll.

Stone trolls, as these three are, were quite prevalent in Tolkien mythology. In Tolkien’s world these chaps were very stupid and liked a pint of beer and were rather focused on eating meat, fighting, and hoarding treasure. Tolkien had several types of trolls such as hill trolls, cave trolls, mountain trolls, and the Olog-hai that were alarming trolls created by Sauron with horny scales and black blood. Some of them turned to stone in sunlight and some didn’t.

Trolls are found throughout the Poetic Edda and the Prose Edda but they are neither stupid nor fierce, more like magical beings. Either that or happy family folk, living by men much like giant peasants, but prone to thieving property and children; there are some changeling legends regarding trolls. There does seem to be a confusing overlap in the Edda whereby trolls are like dwarves. This may be where Tolkien got the sunlight factor, as I mentioned in a previous post that the dwarves in the Edda would die if exposed to sunlight.

In the east sat the old
in Ironwood
and there gave birth
to Fenris children;
Just one of these
of all of them
becomes the moon-thief
in troll’s guise.

Ironwood was a forest mentioned in the Völuspá where troll women lived and gave birth to giants and wolves (Fenris children.) Fenris the Wolf I discussed in this post

Another translation of this section:

In the east sat an old woman in Iron-wood
and nurtured there offspring of Fenrir
a certain one of them in monstrous form
will be the snatcher of the moon

The moon hound was supposed to eat the flesh of all people that die, and was credited with swallowing the moon. I assume swallowing the moon, which is a helpful light if you live in a time without electricity, was quite a dire thing for humans, bringing on literal darkness where there had been light before, and thus leaving them open to harm and despair.

In the Prose Edda section Skáldskaparmál, there is a similar mention of the troll woman:

They call me Troll;
Gnawer of the Moon,
Giant of the Gale-blasts,
Curse of the rain-hall,
Companion of the Sibyl,
Nightroaming hag,
Swallower of the loaf of heaven.
What is a Troll but that?

Trolls have some similarities in Norse mythology to Greek mythology in that they are associated with residing in the earth, and as such were depicted as darker in their motivations. Living in thick, frightening woods or lonely, rocky places, because of this darkness, they were sometimes said to be black spirits and mischief-makers. This malignancy seems to have morphed over the years into something evilly crude in fairy tales and such, thus tinting Tolkien’s approach as well; the origin of the fairy tale The Three Billy Goats Gruff is Scandinavian.

Watch out!




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