It's pretty common, when you encounter a troll in a fantasy video game or fantasy table-top RPG the troll is able to regenerate from damage. Typically trolls only have 1 weakness; fire, which somehow stops the regenerative process.

I've been curious where this idea of trolls being able regenerate originated from. Is there a specific novel or possibly an old fairy tale that tells of a regenerating troll? Does this original text also talk about Troll's weakness to fire, or was that established later in over-all "troll lore"?

1 Answer 1


I imagine that most modern RPGs got their inspiration from Dungeons & Dragons and its long chain of imitators, but D&D got the idea from Poul Anderon's 1961 novel Three Hearts and Three Lions. According to an archived Geocities compilation of D&D's literary sources (which cites the first edition of the Dungeon Master's Guide, see excerpt below), Anderson's story inspired both the regeneration and weakness to fire:

Troll While trolls can be found throughout folklore, and are well-known to readers of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit, the D&D troll comes from Three Hearts and Three Lions, by Poul Anderson, including the long nose and rubbery skin, ability to regenerate, and weakness to fire.

Literary Sources of D&D Compiled by Aardy R. DeVarque

I haven't been able to find any reference to regenerating trolls, or a weakness to fire, in any mythology, or in any earlier fiction, so I'm inclined to suggest that Poul invented it.

1st Edition AD&D Excerpt

  • 2
    I was actually just about to update my question to state that the earliest I've managed to track down within games is D&D 1st edition (1977), but I knew Gary Gygax got the idea from somewhere else; so this answers the question as to where he got the idea from.
    – onewho
    Sep 18, 2015 at 17:59
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    The only mythology I know of which is quite similar is Hydra from Hercules. For every cut off head two would grow in its place. So Hercules cut them off and then burned the wound with torch and that stopped the regeneration.
    – Zikato
    Sep 23, 2015 at 8:43
  • Jason I made a documenting edit, but will not be offended if you want to roll it back. :) (also +1, good show, etc. :)
    – Lexible
    Jan 28, 2022 at 20:18

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