DWARFS OR TROLLS
Ther bygde folk i the bärg,
Quinnor och män, för mycken duerf.
HIST. ALEX. MAG. Suedice.
Within the hills folk did won,
Women and men, dwarfs many a one.
THE more usual appellation of the Dwarfs is Troll or Trold, [a] word originally significant of any evil spirit, [b] giant monster, magician [c] or evil person; but now in a good measure divested of its ill senses, for the Trolls are not in general regarded as noxious or malignant beings.
The Trolls are represented as dwelling inside of hills, mounds, and hillocks--whence they are also called Hill-people (Bjergfolk)--sometimes in single families, sometimes in societies. In the ballads they are described as having kings over them, but never so in the popular legend. Their character seems gradually to have sunk down to the level of the peasantry, in proportion as the belief in them was consigned to the same class. They are regarded as extremely rich for when, on great occasions of festivity, they have their hills raised up on red pillars, people that have chanced to be passing by have seen them shoving large chests full of money to and fro, and opening and clapping down the lids of them. Their hill-dwellings are very magnificent inside. "They live," said one of Mr. Arndt's guides, "in fine houses of gold and crystal. My father saw them once in the night, when the hill was open on St. John's night. They were dancing and drinking, and it seemed to him as if they were making signs to him to go to them, but his horse snorted, and carried him away, whether he would or no. There is a great number of them in the Guldberg (Goldhill), and they have brought into it all the gold and silver that people buried in the great Russian war." [d]
They are obliging and neighbourly; freely lending and borrowing, and elsewise keeping up a friendly intercourse with mankind. But they have a sad propensity to thieving, not only stealing provisions, but even women and children.
They marry, have children, bake and brew, just as the peasant himself does. A farmer one day met a bill-man and his wife, and a whole squad of stumpy little children, in his fields; [e] and people used often to see the children of the man who lived in the hill of Kund, in Jutland, climbing up the hill, and rolling down after one another, with shouts of laughter.
The Trolls have a great dislike to noise, probably from a recollection of the time when Thor used to be flinging his hammer after them; so that the hanging of bells in the churches has driven them almost all out of the country. The people of Ebeltoft were once sadly plagued by them, as they plundered their pantries in a most unconscionable manner; so they consulted a very wise and pious man; and his advice was, that they should hang a bell in the steeple of the church. They did so, and they were soon eased of the Trolls. [f]
These beings have some very extraordinary and useful properties; they can, for instance, go about invisibly, [g] or turn themselves into any shape; they can foresee future events; they can confer prosperity, or the contrary, on a family; they can bestow bodily strength on any one; and, in short, perform numerous feats beyond the power of man.
Of personal beauty they have not much to boast: the Ebeltoft Dwarfs, mentioned. above, were often seen, and they had immoderate humps on their backs, and long crooked noses. They were dressed in gray jackets, [h] and they wore pointed red caps. Old people in Zealand say, that when the Trolls were in the country, they used to go from their hill to the village of Gudmandstrup through the Stone-meadow, and that people, when passing that way, used to meet great tall men in long black clothes. Some have foolishly spoken to them, and wished them good evening, but they never got any other answer than that the Trolls hurried past them, saying, Mi! mi! mi! mi!
Thanks to the industry of Mr. Thiele, who has been indefatigable in collecting the traditions of his native country, we are furnished with ample accounts of the Trolls; and the following legends will fully illustrate what we have written concerning them. [i]
We commence with the Swedish ballads of the Hill-kings, as in dignity and antiquity they take precedence of the legends.
[a] There is no etymon of this word. It is to be found in both the Icelandic and the Finnish languages; whether the latter borrowed or communicated it is uncertain. Ihre derives the name of the celebrated waterfall of Trollhaeta, near Gotenburg, from Troll, and Haute Lapponice, an abyss. It therefore answers to the Irish Poul-a-Phooka. See Ireland.
[b] In the following lines quoted in the Heimskringla, it would seem to signify the Dii Manes.
Tha gaf hann Trescegg Tröllum,
Torf-Einarr drap Scurfo.
Then gave he Trescegg to the Trolls,
Turf-Einarr slew Scurfo.
[c] The ancient Gothic nation was called Troll by their Vandal neighbours (Junii Batavia, c. 27); according to Sir J. Malcolm, the Tartars call the Chinese Deevs. It was formerly believed, says Ihre, that the noble family of Troll, in Sweden, derived their name from having killed a Troll, that is, probably, a Dwarf.
[d] Arndt, Reise nach Schweden, vol. III. p. 8.
[e] Like our Fairies the Trolls are sometimes of marvellously small dimensions: in the Danish ballad of Eline af Villenskov we read--
Det da meldte den mindste Trold,
Han var ikke större end en myre,
Her er kommet en Christen mand,
Den maa jag visseligen styre.
Out then spake the tinyest Troll,
No bigger than an emmet was he,
Hither is come a Christian man,
And manage him will I surelie.
[f] Thiele, i. 36.
[g] For this they seem to be indebted to their hat or cap. Eske Brok being one day in the fields, knocked off, without knowing it, the hat of a Dwarf who instantly became visible, and had, in order to recover it, to grant him every thing he asked. Thiele iii. 49. This hat answers to the Tarnkappe or Hel-kaplein of the German Dwarfs; who also become visible when their caps are struck off.
[h] In the Danish ballad of Eline af Villenskov the hero is called Trolden graae, the Gray Trold, probably from the colour of his habiliments.
[i] We deem it needless in future to refer to volume and page of Mr. Thiele's work. Those acquainted with the original will easily find the legends.