Okay now that I have gotten Goblins and Orcs out of the way, it is time too look at the far less related “Troll”. Of all the outcast races Trolls are perhaps the most consistent with their depiction, but that does not mean there is no variation among the Trolls, often even within the same context trolls can vary greatly.
Trolls can be big or small, but are usually big owing too their mythological origins as giants, and they can come in virtually any color. There is also often an association with stone or plants, an example of this would be Tolkiens trolls turning to stone in daylight.
What is most consistent with Trolls is the fact that they are loners, hermits, or otherwise lonely (this does not mean there aren’t non-loner trolls in some fiction). This profound loneliness of the Trolls can either lead to great sadness or great cruelty, most often Trolls are a nuisance to everyone and everything, living alone but not by choice. Other times trolls willingly isolate themselves because of fear of humanity.
Trolls are creatures that dwell in dark environments, and most of the time only interact with the outside world to be a nuisance towards it. What constitutes being a nuisance changes culturally, long ago it was their lack of Christianity, these days the term troll has a much different meaning that I am sure you have all heard.
The “Internet Troll” the psychopaths that use their anonymity to bully and harass other people online, most often assumed to be living in a basement alone, it is easy to see why the term Troll has been applied. And while it may not be the most flattering legacy of these ancient giants, it has made the myth and the idea of them more enduring than almost any other species in the entire fantasy lexicon.
Trolls (Fantasy ones) are not always bad of course, there is the lovable Troll Dolls which are small almost gnome-like creatures, and there is also the Warcraft trolls which portray them as social creatures with a rich culture. Typically the less evil a troll is portrayed the further they are from their fantasy origins, but there is one notable exception though, a book written and illustrated by Eric Orchard.
His book, Bera the One-Headed Troll, rolls with many of the classical fantasy ideas surrounding trolls. They are isolated beings with a lot of sadness, they have a stone affiliation in that they turn to stone with age and sunlight, and they come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. Most importantly he got their cultural mindset right, they are loner creatures that generally live alone, and he gives each Troll in the story their own unique reason for doing so… Yet he was not afraid to show that this type of life can be unhealthy, and can lead to anger or sadness.
It shows that even trolls need someone to keep them company, even if you think you need to be alone. Maybe I am over analyzing his book a bit, but I really loved it and I would go as far as to say that Eric Orchard’s trolls are perhaps the archetypal example of this fantasy race, if you want a good idea of how to write Trolls or you want to get a sense of the Race/Species pick up his book.
(Also its adorable… the book is just, adorable in a really unique way)