Snow-Trolls and Stone-Giants in Middle-earth

La dix-neuvième Caravane des Dominicains d'Arcueil. [With a deThe evidence for the existence of both snow-rolls and stone-giants haunting the deep, shadowy passes of Middle-earth is, at best, poor.

To begin with, we have a stronger argument in favour of giants.

Mentioned several times in The Hobbit, there is an obscure passage during the Dwarves’ journey through the Misty Mountains where it is uncertain if the creatures are real or a metaphorical reference to the ensuing thunderstorm.

“When he [Bilbo] peeped out in the lightning-flashes, he saw that across the valley the stone-giants were out and were hurling rocks at one another…”
The Hobbit, ‘Over Hill and Under Hill’

There is a constant interplay between the giants’ rock-throwing and the raging storm around the hobbit and his companions.

However, what seems to strengthen the possibility of these giants being actual, physical beings is Thorin’s remark soon after.

“‘If we don’t get blown off or drowned, or struck by lightning, we shall be picked up by some giant and kicked sky high for a football.'”
The Hobbit, ‘Over Hill and Under Hill’

The reference to being grabbed by a giant is quite a convincing statement and not merely symbolical.

One might venture to quote an equally-obscure passage in The Return of the King, that describes the appearance of Minas Tirith for the first time.

“… with its seven walls of stone so strong and old that it seemed to have been not builded but carven by giants out of the bones of the earth.”
The Lord of the Rings, Book V, ‘Minas Tirith’

Just like the Ent-Wives and other beings, giants are destined to remain somewhat a mystery, but the bits of evidence available to us seem to indicate towards the probability of them being truly one of the many creatures populating an already rich and diverse Middle-earth.

Snow-Trolls are a different matter altogether.

In both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings we come across a wide variety of these lumbering beasts: hill-trolls, stone-trolls, cave-trolls, olog-hai. The possibility of there being yet another species of troll is not as impossible as it may sound.

So why do readers keep asking this question?

There’s one single quote in The Lord of the Rings that makes any sort of reference to snow-trolls. In the account on the history of Rohan, when Helm Hammerhand finds himself besieged in Helms’ Deep during the Long Winter, he is set to have journeyed away from the safety of his keep.

“He would go out by himself, clad in white, and stalk like a snow-troll into the camps of his enemies, and slay man men with his hands.”
The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, ‘The House of Eorl’

As far as evidence goes, it is rather non-existent. Yet, it is curious why Tolkien would compare Helm’s actions to that of a snow-troll rather than any other troll mentioned in the novel.

In addition, the specific trait of “stalking like a snow-troll” is an interesting characteristic. Perhaps snow-trolls haunt the frozen lands of the north, and their snow-coloured features would be the perfect camouflage for ambushing unsuspecting travellers. Hence, their almost complete exclusion from the annals of Middle-earth.

I am of the opinion that both stone-giants and snow-trolls exist. If not directly mentioned on the written page, they are alluded to and form an integral part of our imagination as we wade through Tolkien’s fantasy world.

What do you think? Let us know below!

11 thoughts on “Snow-Trolls and Stone-Giants in Middle-earth

  1. I like this idea. It’s really amazing to think of two whole new peoples living in the already fantastic continent.
    However, the two quotes from LotR seem unclear and ambiguous: they can lead to an obscure evidence of new species, but they can be mere literary polish as well. ‘Giant’ is commonly used in metaphors, especially when describing the shaping of something immense (like Minas Tirith); therefore, though not necessarily so, it is possible that Tolkien didn’t intend to mention a particular species in Middle-earth when he wrote ‘giant’ in the Minas Tirith quote. As to the snow-troll, it might be the case that Hammerhand acted crudely like a troll and it happened to be a snowy winter (during the Long Winter), so Tolkien made up a word ‘snow-troll’ to describe such a case, which was possibly not referring to a particular kind of creature, either.

  2. In J. E. A. Tyler’s excellent work, “The Complete Tolkien Companion,” in the article on Trolls (p. 624), the author lists Snow-trolls right along with Hill-trolls, Cave-trolls and Stone-trolls. I have found Tyler to be an outstanding and quite accurate resource. David Day also lists Snow-trolls in his work, “Guide to Tolkien’s World – A Bestiary” (p. 250). So clearly there are others who also regard them as real members of the Legendarium.

  3. Given that Tolkien almost never mentions something or someone in his books without it having a backstory of some sorts, I do believe that both these species existed in Middle-earth. It’s just that unfortunately we aren’t given more information on them. I’d love to know more though.

  4. You missed an important piece of evidence for giants. In The Hobbit, Gandalf speculates about the possibility of finding a friendly giant to block up the newly opened goblin gate on the pass.

  5. Having read the books and watched several versions of the movies….. as well as listened to I think all the audio versions I’m of the strong opinion that Stone-Giants are a definite ‘yes’. I never felt there was any ambiguity at all…. they simply, like the Blue Wizards, don’t happen to come into any of the stories. My guess is they are extremely reclusive and either completely uncivilized (else they would have certainly been conscripted into at least some of the many Middle-Earth wars) or for some reason refuse to get involved in a Bombadil-ish way.
    The passage where Gandalf indicates he might find a decent giant to block up an entrance suggests strongly they could be communicated or even bartered with. Surely they would have been eyed as potential ‘heavy artillery’ by both sides at some point in the eons of Morgoth/Sauron fighting.
    But, neither Morgoth nor Sauron ever managed to spell-enslave them, and Gandalf never considered them worth or able to be roused for the cause, as he certainly did with the Ents.
    But, that by no means makes proof of absence.

    As far as snow-Trolls, I would say extremely likely also. There were many kinds of trolls we know already, surely at some point a group of them adapted to and made home in the colder regions.
    Tolkien would not have bothered to have a character literally say ‘Snow-Troll’ in reference to an ordinary Troll in the snow. He instead would have said simply, “Troll”. Just my opinion

  6. Note the origin of the word Ent: eoten = ‘giant’ in Old English. When Tolkien discovered the Ents he had to change the name of certain places didn’t he? Whether there are ‘Stone Giants’ I do not know but there certainly were Stone Trolls.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s