In The Hobbit, in chapter 2: Roast Mutton, there's a scene where Bilbo sneaks up on some trolls. Rather than go back and warn the dwarves, he attempts to pickpocket one of trolls before he does.

From p. 47 (of my copy, at least, the Alan Lee illustrated version):

Bert and Tom went off to the barrel. William was having another drink. Then Bilbo plucked up the courage and put his little hand in William's enormous pocket. There was a purse in it, as big as a bag to Bilbo. "Ha!" thought he, warming to his new work as he lifted it carefully out, "this is a beginning!"

It was! Trolls' purses are the mischief, and this was no exception. "'Ere, 'oo are you?" it squeaked, as it left the pocket; and William turned round at once and grabbed Bilbo by the neck, before he could duck behind a tree.

So, it appears that the purse itself says "'Ere, 'oo are you?", given that "it squeaked, as it left the pocket". Does that mean the trolls had a magic purse?

Also, the fact that the tone of voice the purse spoke in sounded rather "trollish", meaning "commoner-like" rather than more "well to do", this implies that the trolls might have even enchanted it themselves, or at least altered the enchantment themselves. Not only that, but "Trolls' purses are the mischief" is said in a way that the narrator (Tolkien) is implying that this is apparently well known about trolls, which further suggests that the trolls might have enchanted it themselves.

Is this right? Do the trolls have a magic purse, and is there any further evidence to suggest that they enchanted it themselves?

  • 3
    I'm not sure of the question here. It's clearly evident from the text that it is the purse that speaks, so therefore it is presumably magic. Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 10:06
  • @Dan I suppose I'm just surprised to see such a thing, so a "No, you've got that right" is perhaps all that needs, but the real question is "if I've got that right, then is there any evidence that this a trollish enchantment?". It doesn't seem like something that trolls would be capable of in Tolkien's works. Do you think that aspect of the question needs more emphasis?
    – NathanS
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 10:44
  • 1
    Although @DanielRoseman has a reasonable answer, if you emphasize "Trolls' purses" it makes one think this might be trollish magic.
    – Spencer
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 12:53
  • 5
    This is one of the passages that fits better if you think of the Hobbit as being an extension of traditional tales (in which the distinction between elves, trolls, fey, goblins, etc., is more nebulous, and in which these creatures “are magical” and have magical effects surrounding them), rather than as the first wave of the magic-as-technology rules-based approach to fantasy that has grown up post-Tolkien and D&D.
    – RLH
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 18:33
  • 1
    This reminds me of the discussion on if the elven cloaks given to the hobbits in LotR were "magical". They don't seem to think the cloaks were "magic", and there's some discussion on the concept of elven magic here on-site. Certainly the elves seemed to have some strange powers to create such cloaks, so one might well accept trolls would also have power to craft objects that seem otherworldly to us, even if it's not "magic".
    – ilkkachu
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 20:23

1 Answer 1


I don't think there's any actual evidence either way as to whether or not the trolls enchanted the purse themselves. But, since the rest of their treasure was stolen - as Frodo mentions to his companions in LoTR - it's probably safe to assume that the purse was too.

  • 1
    We can imagine the purse was like one of those greeting cards where you record your own greeting to play back when the recipient opens it.
    – Spencer
    Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 12:49
  • 15
    The fact that the narrator states that “trolls’ purses are the mischief” would indicate that this sort of magic is an inherent (or at least common) property of troll purses, so it doesn’t seem likely that this particular purse was a stolen one that just happened to be enchanted. Whether that entails that trolls enchant their purses is a different matter, but it is described as a property of trolls’ purses. Commented Aug 23, 2020 at 13:27

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