Are there any antecedents other than Tolkien for trolls turning to stone?

When I was a kid, I remember trolls appearing in one of the earliest episodes of The Real Ghostbusters (the fifth episode "Troll Bridge"), the plot is resolved by having one of the trolls apparently* turned to stone after being shot with the Ghostbusters' proton packs.

Venkman with the stone troll

As a kid, familiar with The Hobbit, this seemed like perfectly logical outcome for a troll bombarded by highly energetic particles. The episode also invoked classic elements of troll folklore, particularly in having a group of trolls emerge from under a bridge to occupy the span.

Years later, it occurred to me that I was not familiar with any older folklore tradition of trolls turning to stone. My own feeling of familiarity with the notion came entirely from Tolkien. So is The Hobbit really the original source for trolls that turn to stone (under whatever circumstances)?

*In fact, the stone troll was a fake—a garden statuette modified to fool the other trolls. So it was actually left unclear what would have happened if the Ghostbusters had shot one of the trolls.

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    Have you read the Wikipedia article on trolls? en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll “Additionally, into the 20th century, the origins of particular Scandinavian landmarks, such as particular stones, are ascribed to trolls who may, for example, have turned to stone upon exposure to sunlight.”
    – Mike Scott
    Jun 19, 2019 at 7:18
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    In the kids' stories that I heard while growing up in Sweden, many trolls came from stone and went back to stone, according to the old myths. A big stone in the middle of the forest or a field could be either a troll turned to stone or something a giant had thrown. However, important to note, the old myths do not separate trolls and other beings as clearly as did Tolkien. Depending on the story, where in Sweden it came from etc, trolls, dwarves, giants, elves and many other types of forest-living beings could be the same.
    – Johan
    Jun 19, 2019 at 8:49
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    @johan, thanks for the info! Also en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll#Scandinavian_folklore seems to predate Tolkien's work ; do not forget that he was a fan of old norse myths Jun 19, 2019 at 9:30
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    The term "troll" for online users is definitely a direct reference to Gandalf's scene.
    – Bakuriu
    Jun 19, 2019 at 19:11
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    @Bakuriu No, that comes from the sense of troll related to fishing; tge original phrase was trolling for newbies.
    – Buzz
    Jun 19, 2019 at 19:28

1 Answer 1


Trolls have turned into stone for a very, very long time

One example is the myth about "the seven sisters", which tells the story of how seven trolls in Nordland, Norway, was turned into mountains when the sun rose. The myth was referenced in writing by the poet Peter Dass (1647 - 1707).

This peculiar weakness of trolls is again referred to in "Norwegian Folk Tales" by Asbjørnsen and Moe (1841). In the story Lord Peter the troll burst when the sun's rays hit it. Conversely, in "Fiskersønnene" ("Fisherman's sons") a Troll is able to turn humans into stone, something the hero manage to reverse after killing the troll in a more conventional manner. The trope is repeated in The giant who had no heart

7 trolls Seven trolls in Norway, turned to stone by the sun Image: Public domain by Event

Speculating further, we can note that the seven sisters is just one of several origin myths for landscape formations in Norway, which involves trolls. (e.g the troll-like Styggmann formation, Blåmannen mountain, the Jutulhogget canyon and explanations for glacial erratics and Giant's kettles) In stories, the trolls are often referred to as "Jotun", showing the link back to "Jötunn", the frost giant antagonists of Norse mythology. It is possible that "giant turning into stone in fight with a god" was a recurring theme in pre-christian myths. In fact, Norse mythology, which was prevalent up until about 1000 AD, tells us that the whole world was created from the corpse of Ymir, the ancestor of all Jötunn.

So not only did trolls turn into stone, but you are standing on one of them!

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    There is even an old Danish expression, "fare i flint" ("faring in flint") for becoming very angry, since several legends refer to trolls turning into flint when extremely angry. One was Finn, who supposedly built Lund Cathedral in a single night, but was cheated of his prize (the contractor's eyes) because the contractor guessed his name. He then turned to flint. Jun 20, 2019 at 7:53
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    It might be good to add that Tolkien's Trolls turn to stone because Scandinavian trolls turn to stone. As the lord of the rings was heavily inspired by Scandinavian mythology. Jun 20, 2019 at 17:36
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    "In fact, Norse mythology, which was prevalent up until about 1000 AD, tells us that the whole world was created from the corpse of Ymir, the ancestor of all Jötunn." Yes, but that's not much about turning anyone into stone. The article you linked to says Odin and his brothers "from [Ymir's corpse] fashioned the Earth, from his blood the sea and lakes, from his bones rocks, scree and stones his teeth, molars, and bones." So they made rocks out of his bones and teeth, which were already hard parts... It's kind of a stretch to say this was turning Ymir to stone.
    – LarsH
    Jun 20, 2019 at 21:04
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    @LarsH At least we hope not. Stone clouds are very undesirable for aviation.
    – reirab
    Jun 21, 2019 at 20:14
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    The English word "giant" comes from Greek, not from Germanic. Jul 1, 2019 at 14:53

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