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Know Your Trolls: A guide to troll science from the director of TrollHunter

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Norwegian horror film TrollHunter looks set to be one of the summer's coolest movies, so we were excited to learn more about the film's mythology. Director André Øvredal shared some exclusive concept art, and answered our pressing questions.

Like: How do you kill a Raglefant troll? Why does a Tusseladd troll have 3 heads? How exactly can trolls smell the blood of a Christian? Why do they turn to stone? Øvredal also helped us delve into the massive world that he created for TrollHunter. Trolls are the new zombies, and we couldn't be more excited.


Why did you want to make a film about trolls?

André Øvredal: When I grew up we all read were these fairy tales. I always loved the tales about the trolls. And I also loved the drawings that came with the book we were read from, and they look quite a bit like they do in the film. It's a collection of fairy tales, like the Grimm Brothers. They traveled around all of Norway and collected all these stories from the country and put them in this book in the first time in the 1800s. They had some of the best artists of the time draw to accompany the stories. I always loved those stories and I wanted to do a film about Norwegian culture and make it in a Hollywood style. Something that has that dramatic visual impact, with big set pieces. And [I wanted to] make it very character-based.


It was so much fun to watch this film because we've seen a lot of retreaded monster mythology lately, but breaking apart the world of trolls was a wholly new experience, for me, and I assume the American audience. Can you help us break down the different kinds of trolls that exist in your movie?

There are a whole bunch in the mythology of the film. We have the Ringlefinch, the Tusseladd, the Jotne, the Mountain Kings, the Harding, the Dovregubben — [plus] another that was created by actor playing the Troll Hunter, he just came up with it [laughs] — and there are others as well. They are all part of the background mythology.

The Tusseladd, these were names we invented because they don't really have names, they're just "trolls." It's a very long and schizophrenic creature. It's very, very thin. It has all kinds of heads, the one in the movie has three heads. But they could have as many as nine heads, according to the Hunter. The heads grow as the troll ages, it grows more heads to seem powerful and to attract female trolls.

Which troll is the most grotesque?

The troll under the bridge, for me, is most grotesque [the Raglefant]. It has these teeth that are basically fish teeth. There was this one troll (that's not in the film), it was a sea troll. That might pop up in another version later, it has a wide mouth with just tons and tons of teeth. It's similar to the big flat fish with a huge mouth with just tons and tons of teeth (I don't know the English name for it). But the sea troll is based off of that, except with a humanoid body and that mouth. And the troll from under the bridge was based off of the sea troll idea.


Are all of the trolls in your world all giants?

I wanted it to be on a grand scale, because that's the way I wanted the movie to feel. But there are smaller trolls. The Troll Hunter talks about the Rimtusse trolls, and they are about human size on scale. But down to [about the size of a breadbox] I don't think so.


Do you have unused trolls that you could put in Troll Hunter 2?

Yes we made all kinds of designs and we made all kings of trolls, there are plenty more to explored at some point. If we make Troll Hunter 2, it would have more trolls.


The Troll Hunter character really reminded me of Quint (Robert Shaw) from Jaws, what were your inspirations for this character?


Absolutely! Quint is definitely a part of it. I think a little bit of House as well, for sure Indiana Jones but mostly Otto Jespersen [the actor] himself. Even people I know in my personal life, but certainly Quint was a big reference point for me as well.

What does it take to be a Troll Hunter?

You have to be physically agile. You have to be fearless. You need a good knowledge of various weapons. You must be in tune with nature. You must be able to smell the trolls and see the tracks in order to trace them. It's really hard to see traces of a troll in nature because they're so good at hiding themselves in nature. You must be in tune with your senses and what's around you. It's very important or else you'll get eaten. And for sure you shouldn't believe in any gods. Well you shouldn't be Christian.

That was my favorite part! Trolls can smell the blood of the Christian man! And it's one of the most important bits of troll rules in your film is you can't be Christan, why did you choose that bit of troll legend to play with?


I don't know it's so ridiculous. And the trolls always say it, they come into someones house in the fairy tale and they say, "I can smell the blood of a Christian man." I had to put that in, I had to make it real. And then you have to explain it because it's a documentary. And how do you explain that. There's actually a scene that we cut that's the Troll Hunter and the Veterinarian that talks about that. They have an argument about whether or not trolls can really smell Christians, she doesn't believe that, [because] she's a vet. She believes in facts. But he's actually seen it. It's a very nice scene, but we cut it. [Edit Note: Spoilery Clip]

But you justify some of the troll science in the movie, like how you kill a troll. How did you come up with the science behind troll slaughter?


I just sat down and talked and sorted it out. Trolls, according to mythology, when they're hit by sunlight they blow up, like a balloon or they turn to stone. But you can't turn anything to stone, so I had to figure out something else. It had to be a bodily reaction, what's in the sunlight, what action does that create in the body? The ultraviolet rays gives us Vitamin D and that is also related to calcium production in the body. When I was reading up on it, those connections pieced together. In addition I'm married to a veterinarian so she was helping me make sense of all of this.

Are there trolls anywhere else in the world, or are they all just in Norway? Can there be Canadian trolls?


In the fairy tales it's mostly set in Norway. Even in Sweden they have a very different mythology.

A lot of people say zombie films are metaphor for consumerism. What are trolls a metaphor for?


The only topic I baked into this film is related to how we treat our wildlife. How we treat our treasures, in a way. That is there in the film, for me, buried under the action. They are advanced animals, they have a human side to them. They are defenseless, all they care about is getting food, getting shelter, the things that animals (and we) care about as basic needs. They're not there to kill. They're defending themselves mostly and when they smell Christian blood they get very aggressive, it's like holding a red cape in front of an ox. It's that kind of thing. That is also related to the stories. Because it was the Christians that destroyed the trolls powers, so to speak. When the country was Christian in the 13th century the trolls lost all their power over the population, because they weren't worshiping or afraid of the trolls anymore. They stopped believing in them, and then they started hiding out in the forest to avoid humans and being killed.

TrollHunter is available Friday, May 6 through Magnolia On-Demand and in theaters starting June 10th.