I thought I’d write a word or two about trolls. The subject came up as the government or some other authoritarian body talked of putting legislation in place to catch the ‘trolls’ who plague social media. I’m not sure how they’re planning to do this. It might require some sort of vast inter-net possibly? (sorry, I couldn’t resist). It might require a stick and then another bigger stick. Obviously no carrots. Trolls don’t eat them.
I have a problem with internet trolls. It’s not just their idiotic, childish and bullying behaviour; I mean that I object to them being called ‘trolls’. I think it gets the mythical beasts a bad name, or at least a worse name than previously. An internet troll, it seems to me, is a bit of a sad sack with a limited vocabulary and an inflated sense of their own self-importance. They’re small minded and nasty.
Trolls aren’t. Well, ok, the limited vocabulary might come into play although the one sitting under the bridge that was the major trans-Alpine highway for the Three Billy Goats Gruff seems to have been quite the poet. ‘Who’s that trip-trapping over my bridge?’ he demanded with some theatrical gusto. This troll, it seems, had a sense of his own place in mythology and folklore and wished to make a good show of it. He was fair and logical when offered the choice of ‘eat my brother, he’s bigger and fatter than me’ although he did then fall foul of the superior fighting skills of the eldest Billy Goat Gruff.
Trolls, in Scandinavian folklore, have considerable skills with stone and wide ranging geological knowledge. They are excellent pot holers for instance, making their chief residences in cave systems. Admittedly this genus of troll, the Jotnar, are also a bit keen on a slice of long pork, or ‘human’ as it is also known but can we really despise them for that? I mean, a lion likes a nibble on a bit of leg especially if it is wrapped in safari suit. We don’t call lions ‘evil’ do we? Although I think that’s largely to do with the fact that lions have that elusive thing called ‘beauty’. A lion is majestic and therefore appealing whereas, poor stony-faced trolls, they can best be described as ‘craggy’ or possibly ‘rugged’.
The troll just happens to be a predator, albeit a giant one. If you’re tramping through fjord country, or possibly paddling through it since most of a fjord is underwater, then the Trip Advisor advice might be to not take shelter in any caves after dark. It is only polite to respect the indigenous residents of a country. If you don’t bother a troll they, most likely, won’t bother you. You are unlikely to see a troll in the daylight as, unfortunately, they are rumoured to turn into stone in sunlight. See, it isn’t easy being a troll, constant night shifts make people grumpy.
Not all trolls are giants. Some are Moomins. Others of course are the more football hooligan end of the social spectrum, the cave troll from Tolkein’s meisterwork is not a happy chappy. Consider his lot, he’s a henchman and heavy labourer. Perhaps, given the chance for some social mobility he could pursue his heart’s desire of being a stonemason or open his own showcave system, taking people on tours underground. If a cave troll fancied owning his own bridge he could do worse than start out at the Second Severn Crossing of course but the little booths might have to be enlarged. No Mr Troll, not smashed to pieces. Put that toll worker down!
There are trolls with gravitas and dignity, if slightly dodgy business practices. In Discworld there is Chrysoprase, him diamond, for a start. For me the internet namesakes with their limited intelligence and playground bully mentality are more like a goblin. But there, that carries its problems. What’s wrong with goblins then? I’m being Goblinist about this.
The point of this ramble is that this is how the monsters and beasts are woven into our culture. My only problem is that sometimes the epic creature is diminished by its association with us. To call these anonymous and vindictive people ‘trolls’ lends them a cachet that they don’t deserve. They have not earned the title.
Gits. I think we can settle and call them Gits. It is the politest term I can conjure before the watershed. I’d like to hear John Humphries announce on ‘Today’ the new law to slap down ‘Internet Gits’. Where do I sign that digi-petition?