Trolls are one of the five main Races depicted in Terry Brooks' Shannara series. Like the Dwarves, the Gnomes, and the Race of Man, Trolls are descended from humans who survived the Great Wars. Their natural home is the Northland, which is characterized by harsh, rugged terrain.
(There are several types of Trolls, but Rock Trolls and Mwellrets are the only ones described in any substantive detail in the Shannara series, and "Troll" is often used as a general shorthand for Rock Troll.)
Trolls have large, massive physiques, much bigger than those of other Races, and thick, bark-like skin. Their facial features tend to be small and blunt, their bodies are hairless, and their skin is brown. (Keltset Mallicos, a famous Rock Troll, is described as having skin the color of "meat well done, but not yet charred.") Their extremities are the same as those of other Races, except that they lack little fingers.
Unlike Dwarves, whose human ancestors took shelter from the cataclysm of the Great Wars below ground, or Gnomes, whose human ancestors found shelter in the dense forests, Trolls are the descendants of humans who survived the apocalypse above ground and were therefore directly exposed to the dangerous radiation unleashed at the time.
The radiation caused these humans to develop either scaly or bark-like skin, enlarged physiques, featureless faces, and in some cases the inability to speak their native language. The mutant humans were initially known as the Lizards due to their skin. Generations later, the descendants of the Lizards became known as Trolls. They were called Trolls after the fairytale creatures of the same name, due their resemblance to them.
Trolls are tribal and nomadic, but settled communities and semipermanent encampments do exist, like the cities of Norbane and Taupo Rough. Elders and leaders in tribes and communities are given the title of Maturen.
Due to their size and tough build, Trolls are the finest and the most formidable and feared fighters in the Four Lands. They typically wear heavy armor and carry large, heavy weapons, and the foundries and forges in camp cities like Taupo Rough are some of the best in the Four Lands. Yet despite a stringent code of honor and a history of warfare and invasions into the Southland, Trolls are a relatively peaceful people with little desire to expand into other territories.
Rock Trolls occasionally live in the Callahorn, despite a history of invading and fighting the Border Legion. Newer Northland cities such as Anatcherae tend to be diverse, featuring a mixed population of Trolls and Men. With the invention of the airship, Rock Troll armies took to using large troop transport vessels to speed their advancement.
Forest Trolls and River Trolls are aggressive and nomadic peoples who have had little contact with other Races. They fought for the Warlock Lord in the Second and Third War of the Races, although it is conceivable that some tribes may have fought on the side of the Druids in the First War of the Races. Forest and River Trolls acted as rank-and-file foot soldiers for the Warlock Lord, possessing greater combat prowess than Gnomes but lacking the strength or physique of the much larger Rock Trolls.
Unlike Rock Trolls, Forest and River Trolls did not become trading partners or allies with other Races after the Wars of the Races. None of the different Troll types have any allegiance with another; in fact, Forest and River Trolls are sworn rivals of the Rock Trolls.
Mwellrets are a variant species of Troll who adapted to live in the swamp land of the deep Eastland. They are mostly resistant to magic and have evolved reptilian physiologies and the ability to contort and greatly alter their body size and shape. Some Mwellrets such as Stythys commanded powers of great persuasion and manipulation, probably aided by some form of magic. Mwellrets use these powers to coerce others into doing their bidding, and they refer to individuals of other Races as "little people." Owing to their reptilian physiology, they tend to speak in highly sibilant tones.
Urdas are a people who are part Gnome, part Troll. According to the Tracker Horner Dees, "No one has ever been sure of the exact mix." They live deep in the Northland and are not found south of the Charnal Mountains. They are a highly insular people whom even Rock Trolls regard as primitive savages.
Urdas are small, squat people with yellow eyes, bony features, and hairy, gnarled limbs. They have thickly muscled bodies with short, powerful legs and long arms. Their appearance allows them to blend in easily into wooded areas and brushland, with only their short pants and weapons seeming to distinguish them from the brush. They are very tribal and superstitious, and although they are small, in large numbers they can be very dangerous.
Urda tribes consider Old World ruins such as Eldwist and Stridegate to be sacred ground and respond aggressively to incursions by outsiders into such territory. Their ancestral home is the valley known as the Inkrim, and they typically live in small fortified villages.
First Druid Council
After millenia, the Earth had more or less recovered from the cataclysm of the Great Wars. The population had been decimated, and except for the ruins of humankind's greatest cities and monuments, the world as everyone had known it had disappeared. Genetic mutation caused by radiation from the Great Wars brought about the appearance of new Races alongside the Race of Man. These mutant human races were named after the creatures from Man's ancient fairytales which they most closely resembled: Dwarves, Gnomes, and Trolls.
The surviving Elves also reemerged in the forests of the Westland, coming out from their magical concealment now that there was no longer a threat of being overrun by humanity or harmed by the Great Wars' aftereffects. However, they were greatly changed: No longer creatures of Faerie, they had evolved in the struggle to survive to become nearly identical to the other Races, with a shortened lifespan but an increased ability to give birth. As such, many believed that the Elves were merely another Race descended from humans.
Chaos ensued as the five Races each tried to declare their power over the other. Fearing that the mayhem would lead to the end for all living creatures, the Elf Galaphile brought together a group of learned and liked-minded men and women from all the Races to form the first Council of Druids, a body of peacekeepers, historians, and scholars.
Under the order of the Druids, the known lands were divided up into the Four Lands, with roughly one territory for each race: Westland for the Elves, the Northland for the Trolls, the Eastland for the Dwarves, and the Southland for the Race of Man, with Gnome tribes scattered across the Northland and Eastland.
Wars of the Races
For a time the Druids' efforts to bring lasting peace and order to the land worked well. However, several powerful members of the Druid Order became convinced that magic, not science, should be the guiding force of the new world, and that it was their destiny as Elves and magic-wielders to shape the future of the Four Lands. These Elves left the Druids to form their own group, consisting of all Races and led by a Druid named Brona, who took with him the Ildatch, a book of unparalleled evil power that originated in the Age of Faerie.
Brona, who had become known as the Warlock Lord, orchestrated a rebellion against the Druids by recruiting people from the Race of Man to wage war against the Order. Attacking out of the Southland, the Warlock Lord and his forces began a conflict that soon widened into what became known as the First War of the Races, with the Race of Man pitted against all the races that were supported by the Druids—mainly the Elves and the Dwarves, but also the Trolls. Eventually, the combined power of the Druids and their allies crushed the Southland force and the Warlock Lord escaped to rebuild his legion, leaving the Race of Man to rebuild their shattered lives. The fallout of of this war was the beginning of a deep distrust between Men and the other Races, and indirectly, this war led to the isolationist policy of the Federation, the primary governing body of the Southland.
When the Warlock Lord returned in the Second War of the Races, the tribal nature of the Rock Trolls, combined with their deep distrust of magic, made them easy victims for Skull Bearers. In the Third War of the Races, Brona tapped into the Trolls' fear of the undead by promoting himself as the Spirit King, a returned hero from a bygone era. In both the Second and Third Wars of the Races, the Rock Trolls were united as the backbone of the Northland Army of the Warlock Lord, and they were sent to war against the Races of Man, Elves, and Dwarves.
During the Third War the Warlock Lord and his Skull Bearers attacked the Troll city of Norbane, quelling all resistance to his dominion, and capturing a Troll of high status named Keltset Mallicos. Keltset would go on to escape and be instrumental in Shea Ohmsford's quest to find the Sword of Shannara and defeat the Warlock Lord.
Restoration of the Ellcrys
After the defeat of the Northland forces, the Rock Trolls were seriously weakened as a force. The Skull Kingdom became a taboo land, and the Rock Trolls eventually became more cosmopolitan in their outlook:
Fifty years after the Warlock Lord was vanquished, the Elves were forced to reenact their ancestral struggle with the Demons: the Ellcrys was dying and the Forbidding was failing, allowing the Demons to escape. The Elves and a number of allies had to battle the Demons while Amberle Elessedil went in search of the Bloodfire, the only thing that could restore the Ellcrys.
Amantar, a Maturen of the Kershalt Territory Rock Trolls, led an army of 1,500 Trolls to stand with the Elves and their King, Eventine Elessedil, in the fight against the Demons. By pledging the services of the Trolls to Eventine, Amantar effectively put an end to centuries of conflict between Trolls and Elves. Ultimately, the Elves just barely managed to hold the Demons off long enough for Amberle to succeed in restoring the Ellcrys.
Conflict with the Federation
In the time of the Elf Queen Wren Elessedil, Trolls allied themselves with the Free-born in the war against the Shadowen and the Federation. Just as the Elven army was about to be overwhelmed by the Federation, the Free-born fighters appeared out of the east along with a force of Rock Trolls, commanded by the Maturen Axhind. Under their combined might, the Federation army was defeated.
Third Druid Council
Since the creation of the Third Druid Council, Trolls have been allied with the Druids of Paranor. When she was in the process of creating the Third Order, Grianne Ohmsford had gone to the Trolls and asked for their support. Although the Trolls declined to the opportunity to become Druids, they were impressed by Grianne's efforts to reach out to their people and instead pledged themselves as a defense force for Paranor. Since that time, the Druids have always had a Druid Guard staffed by Troll soldiers.
When Grianne, the Ard Rhys of the Third Order, disappeared under suspicious circumstances, the Druid Guard was dismissed by the acting Ard Rhys Shadea a'Ru, who feared the Guard due to its loyalty to Grianne. Despite their dismissal, however, Kermadec and other Trolls who served in the Druid Guard were instrumental in retaking the fortress from Shadea and the rest of the mutinous faction, pending an attack upon the forge city of Taupo Rough. Centuries after Grianne's time as Ard Rhys, the Fourth Druid Order continues to employ a Druid Guard made up of Troll warriors.