Author(s): John Lindow
Trolls are everywhere. They lurk on the internet; they fill the pages of popular fantasy literature; they are hunted in Norwegian film. They are the homeless in California; they are comforting or threatening characters in children's books; they are amusing dolls. Although trolls are ubiquitous today, for centuries they were confined to the landscape of Scandinavia. They were beings in nature, and their environment was a pre-industrial world in which people lived by farming and fishing on a small scale. This book is a history of trolls from their first appearances in folk tales - some people reported actual encounters with trolls, and others found such encounters plausible even if they were not sure - and follows a natural transition from folklore to trolls in other domains of popular culture. Indeed, trolls would not be interesting had they not made this jump, first to illustrations in the Nordic book market, then on to Scandinavian literature and drama, and far beyond. Since then they have never gone away, and in their various guises they continue to appeal to the imagination around the world. From the Vikings to the Moomins, the Brothers Grimm and the Three Billy Goats Gruff, this book explores the panoply of trolls and their history and their continuing presence today.
'in this clever little book, [Lindow] traces the history of trolls from their earliest appearances in Old Norse literature through the more familiar creatures of folk tale and fairy tale and right up to the latest manifestation of the malign Other, the internet pest ... Lindow writes with wit and warmth, but this is also a learned and sometimes unsettling study which brings to light some unexpected facets of the troll phenomenon more generally.' - TLS '[an] excellent overview of the history of trolls ... Trolls: An Unnatural History weighs in at only 144 pages, but never feels too brief. Lindow takes a long view of his subject matter ... To follow a thread throughout 1,000 years of history, in several different countries, is not an easy task. In the hands of someone less knowledgeable and less skilled in presenting their arguments, a book can end up as a mess. Here, Lindow avoids all those traps, instead giving us a coherent, insightful and informed exploration of a fascinating subject that deserves a wider audience.' - Fortean Times 'a fascinating read ... you likely won't find another source for such an in-depth look at trolls, internet comment sections notwithstanding.' - Spectrum Culture
John Lindow is Professor of Scandinavian at the University of California, Berkeley. His books include Norse Mythology: A Guide to Gods, Heroes, Rituals and Beliefs (2002).