In the Mountain and Under the Bridge: A Scholar’s Advice on Handling Trolls


Your kingdom has trolls. Of course it does. Live anywhere long enough, and they are bound to show up. The question now is what do you do about them? Don’t fret: There are simple methods of handling the troll problem and keeping things in balance.

A Scholar's Advice on Handling Trolls Logo

Logo by Bill Austin

1) Remember, killing a troll is a last resort. Trolls, no matter what the kind, are extremely territorial, and if you kill one, you will have at least three or four others fighting for the same territory. I am sure you can see why four trolls battling over territory is more trouble than one peacefully minding its own business.

2) Take a few minutes to assess the situation: What kind of troll do you have? Is it a bridge troll, a mountain troll, or a cave troll? What is it doing and why are you worried?

3) If it is a mountain troll:

  • Has it come down into thickly populated territory? If so, can you encourage it to go back to the mountains? Most trolls dislike bright lights, so it may be as simple as keeping the streets well-lit for a time.Trolls also dislike loud noises, but we recommend against throwing loud parties while the troll is in the territory. They generally express their displeasure by killing everyone at the party.
  • If it is in the mountains, is it really causing you trouble? How much trouble? Trolls near trade routes are a problem, trolls in the wilderness help keep the number of bandits down. In the less-populated areas, shepherds can minimize loss by keeping their flocks and themselves in stout buildings at night. We assume, of course, that they have planted the correct protective trees near the buildings. Any adventurer who happens to get killed wouldn’t have survived for very long anyway, so there is no need to worry about them.
  • If the troll is on a trade route, try lighting the actual road and any regular stopping places. That should be sufficient to keep it away. You probably already have at least one garrison there, just make sure it is at full strength and, if necessary, assign them to escort travelers through the dangerous territory. Mountain trolls are fond of various treasures—some we recognize as precious, others not—but very few actually seek out fights. If it attacks, you have a rogue and should feel free to cull it.

4) If it is a cave troll:

  • How badly do you really need that cave?

5) Bridge trolls are the ones people most commonly encounter, and they pose the greatest difficulty.

  • While it is tempting to light the area under the bridges, this actually only makes matters worse. You will drive the troll out into the woods or into dark alleys, where its behavior will become unpredictable and dangerous.

It is far better to use one of the following methods.

  • Find out what the troll wants as toll and leave a box of it on either side of the bridge for all comers. They generally want things like food or pretty rocks, so it won’t be expensive.
  • Keep a herd of goats on hand in case the troll gets out of hand. Contrary to popular belief, it takes more than three billy goats to deal with a troll, but a well-managed herd can, indeed, intimidate a troll, often sending it under its bridge for days on end.Anecdotal evidence suggests that trolls regularly fed on goat cheese are less combative than their counterparts, but there has been insufficient study on this matter. If you try this experiment, please write and tell us the results.We recommend hiring a shepherd with some combat experience—a retired soldier, perhaps—in case things get too out of hand. Do not hire a former hero or knight. Heroes and knights get bored after a while and leave. They are also trouble magnets, which often makes them worse than the trolls.
  • Have people cross at the ford instead. Wet feet never hurt anyone.


If you have found other methods of troll-control effective, we ask that you write and let us know so that they may be evaluated and the guide updated as needed.





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