Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Trolls in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels, unlike the monstrous trolls of folklore and J.R.R. Tolkien, have been subverted into a moderately civilised race. Trolls have grown to overcome those vicious stereotypes of yore and have lived very prosperous lives in heavily populated cities with (relatively) little killing, and have held jobs as diverse as police officer to concert promoter. They have also held jobs as "bridgekeepers," taxing those that cross their bridges. It is relatively harmless, althrough farmers in the company of billy goats have to pay a hefty tax.
They are nocturnal, silicon-based creatures, hence the stories of them turning to stone when hit by the sun. Though apparently unintelligent, this is due to heat negatively affecting the conductivity of their brains. In the coldness of the high mountain areas that they usually call home, they can, in certain respects, be quite clever.
Rock and stone is also the natural diet of trolls, and they have diamond teeth to enable this. They can gain some nutrition from the mineral content of carbon-based animals (including humans, although they never do that any more, honest), but not much. The troll language (like dwarfish) has hundreds of words for different kinds of rock, however only one meaning 'vegetation' - Oograh.
Trolls are theoretically immortal, but as they get older they get bigger and slower and tend to be more inclined to sit and think. They call this "getting philosophy". Eventually they just stop moving altogether, gradually "decomposing"/eroding into an oddly-shaped heap of minerals with a tiny living spark in the center. Many of the Discworld's mountains are actually very old trolls.
According to The Discworld Companion, there exist, in addition to humanoid trolls, troll dogs, troll horses and troll ducks (although the ducks tend to sink a lot). However, none of these have been seen in the novels thus far.
Troll society is based on rocks and hitting people. They have numerous gods, all of whom bless their worshippers by hitting them on the head with a rock. In a troll courtship the male troll hits the female troll on the head with a rock, although the rock must be a suitably attractive one to gain the female's favour.
Trolls tend to be named after rocks, minerals and geological features, such as Detritus' girlfriend Ruby, the Ankh-Morpork City Night Watch's Sergeant Flint, and Lance-Constable BlueJohn the riot shield. Female trolls tend to be named for gemstones. This is used to make puns and jokes on popular real people such as Cliff (Cliff Richard) and Rock (Rock Hudson).
One of the more sophisticated aspects of Trollish culture is their traditional view of time. As the past, which lies behind us, can be 'seen', wheras the future, which cannot be seen, lies in front of us, the logical conclusion is that they are walking backwards through time.
Some troll tribes play a game called argrooha, which is rather a lot like soccer. The game involves kicking a human head around on a field with obsidian boots, although it is of course no longer played by civilized trolls--honest!
Trolls and other cultures
Troll society is unsophisticated, but some trolls in urban areas such as Ankh-Morpork manage to direct their tendency towards violence in more civilised directions. Many trolls have joined the City Watch, beginning with Sergeant Detritus. Others have found a niche in the opposing profession; there is a troll organised crime family, called the Breccia, led by the "Ton" Chrysophrase.
Trolls and dwarfs have an ongoing feud, ostensibly stemming from one being a race of living rocks, and the other being a race of miners. But really, this feud goes on because it is a Tradition strongly ground into the cultures of both races. Representatives of both races have, however, been known to get along very well, especially in the case of Detritus and Cuddy, but this is rare.
Other kinds of troll
Discworld yeti are a kind of troll, dwelling in the high Ramtops. They are noted for having thick, white, insulating fur, apparently woven from rock, and large feet, which are considered an aphrodisiac in the Agatean Empire. At least some tribes are unaware that attempting to eat humans is considered inappropriate these days. Yetis have a hunting technique of lying still in the snow until their prey was near them, then pouncing.
The most suprising thing about yeti is their ability to manipulate time. A Yeti can "save" its life up to a certain point and, at the point of death, can return to that point, with the knowledge of what was going to kill it. According to the History Monks, the entire species has been rendered extinct three times.
One species considered a relative of trolls are gargoyles. Gargoyles are either urban trolls who formed a symbiosis with guttering, or pieces of stonemasonry initially brought to life by accident, or the standing magical field of the Unseen University. They are mainly filter-feeders, but also consider pigeons to be a particular delicacy. Many are employed by the Ankh-Morpork Watch, and more recently by the Grand Trunk Semaphore Company (the clacks), due to their ability to stay in one place watching for long periods of time. They have no concept of money, however, and are paid in pigeons.
Another relative to the troll is the Gnoll, which resemble humanoid compost heaps, and seem too organic to really be a kind of troll. It has been suggested that they have the same relationship to soil as trolls do rock. They are scavengers, although no-one has enquired too closely as to what, exactly, they scavenge. Many of the gnolls in Ankh-Morpork work for Harry King, collecting rubbish for recycling, although they have to be watched to ensure they don't eat it.
An odd troll named Tethis was encountered by Rincewind in The Colour of Magic. Tethis' body was made up of animated water, as opposed to the more normal rock, and his height and body shape changed with the tides. He was a Lengthman for Krull which meant that he patrolled the vast nets the citizens of that continent arranges around the rim of the Disc, to trap debris. Tethis himself however claims to have come from another world altogether from the Disc, named Bathys. Tethis and other 'water trolls' like him have never appeared in any of the other books.
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