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The Gentling of the Trolls As many modern trolls in literature and on the Internet have retained (and have even surpassed) the cruelty of those trolls in the old folktales, some modern-day versions of Scandinavia’s traditional trolls have become tamer. Folklorists say that troll stories and images have mellowed over time. Artists, woodcutters, and storytellers in the twenty-first century are more likely to show a troll as a bumbling, silly prankster than a ferocious creature eager to consume as many humans as possible.

Inez Knutsen, personal interview with the author, February 11, 2011, Bloomington, MN. ”35 Without replying, the frightened boy throws down his ax and runs home as fast as he can. Disgusted with the cowardice of his oldest son, the farmer sends the middle son to do the chopping. But the same thing happens. Just as the boy begins to chop a scraggly pine tree, the troll lumbers out of the woods. He threatens to kill the boy, who quickly throws down his ax and runs for home. His father is as disgusted with him as with the oldest son.

47 Craigie also tells a folktale about a peasant who meets a nisse on a road one winter evening and is very rude to him. The man orders the nisse to get out of the way. The nisse, who has very little patience for humans in the best of circumstances, reacts very quickly, throwing the peasant over the fence into a snowbank before the man even knows what is happening. Loyalty to the Farm The nisse’s loyalty is not to the farmer, nor even strictly to the animals—though he always seems to prefer the latter.

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