In André Øvredal’s Trollhunter (2010), a college film crew shoots a documentary about a man who hunts down and destroys trolls. The film can be interpreted as an allegory for four aspects of human nature: reason, intolerance, courage, and fear.
Thomas (Glenn Erland Tosterud) represents rationality and human reason. When Hans (Otto Jespersen) says that he hunts trolls, Thomas responds with incredulity, “You actually believe trolls exist?” Like doubting Thomas of the New Testament, Thomas only believes what he can see. Later, when he sees a three-headed troll in the forest, he is no longer a skeptic. He wants to go with Hans and film more trolls, to prove their existence to the world. Thomas stands for what can be measured and observed by science.
While Thomas is rational, the trolls are irrational. They hate Christians for no rational reason. Hans says the trolls have the ability to “smell the blood of Christian man”, so he empties a pail of “Christian man’s blood” on a bridge in order to lure one. In the climax of the film, he taunts the Jotnar by playing, “What a friend we have in Jesus.” The song is anathema to the giant troll who roars and chases after them. The intolerant trolls hate Christians and Christianity.
Although it cannot be proven definitively, it is possible that Hans is a Christian. When he pours out the pail of blood on the bridge, an obvious question is raised: Where did he get the Christian man’s blood? Unless it was provided by an unknown donor in the Troll Security Service, the blood must be his. At the battle on the bridge, he wears a suit of armor like a medieval Crusader. Literally or symbolically, Hans is the lone Christian knight who takes a stand against the evil that threatens Norway.
Hans, who has no fear of the trolls, embodies fortitude, one of the four cardinal virtues.1 Thomas calls him a “superhero.” Before destroying the Jotnar, he stands face to face with the giant troll like David battling Goliath. Hans’s courage leads him to victory in destroying countless trolls. In sharp contrast, Kalle (Tomas Alf Larsen) has a panic attack when he sees the Mountain Kings. He becomes a tragic victim of the trolls.
In Trollhunter, Kalle and Hans are opposites, as are Thomas and the trolls. Together, they form binary oppositions. For every positive trait that each character represents, there is a counterbalancing negative one. In a crisis situation, Hans is courageous, while Kalle is overpowered by fear. Thomas underscores the need for reason and rationality in the face of the unknown. The irrational trolls, who are violent and hate Christians, represent the darkest aspects of human nature.
- Peter Kreeft, “Justice, Wisdom, Courage, and Moderation: The Four Cardinal Virtues,” Catholic Education Resource Centre, http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/culture/catholic-contributions/justice-wisdom-courage-and-moderation-the-four-cardinal-virtues.html