During the early medieval age, the population of trolls is declining. These are savage creatures who aren't as cunning as humans, and not only are we part of their diet, humans are in fact their only source of food.

An adult troll is about ten times as large as a mature human but half as agile. They use their sensitive noses to track and swallow humans whole. They usually reside in mountains and are nocturnal animals; when night falls, they are often sighted terrorizing villagers.

However, things change when humans launch a worldwide campaign to exterminate the trolls, and within a period of two decades their numbers have fallen to around a couple hundreds. The reason for their rapid decline is due to stress: humans erect tall fences to keep them at bay, but since the trolls can't eat anything else, they are starved to death. Many people have become concerned about the imbalance their disappearance could place on the ecosystem. They have also begun to wonder if these once terrifying creatures also have the right to live.

How can we preserve this now-endangered species? They are not scavengers, meaning they prefer to chase food.

Acceptable answer should touch on how the remaining trolls can flourish and co-exist with human and yet at the same time their diet stays the same.

  • $\begingroup$ I think you should clarify the bit at the end about the answer you're not looking for. It's better to be more concise about the kind of answer you want than it is to say what answers you don't want. Especially since your example seems rather complex for its intended point. $\endgroup$
    – user5083
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 8:26
  • $\begingroup$ @William Kappler I've revised the post $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 8:31
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    $\begingroup$ I guess this time do feed the trolls? :) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 2:09
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    $\begingroup$ IRL, there's no such thing as a predator that can eat only one kind of prey. (Some might mostly subsist on a single prey species, because it's the only thing abundant where they live, but they'll still catch and eat other stuff if they get a chance.) Why would your trolls hunt humans, but ignore all the fat sheep and cows the humans have with them, anyway? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 11:40
  • $\begingroup$ Feed them death row prisoners. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 21:29

6 Answers 6


Many animals also prefer to chase their food, but are not allowed to at zoos. And a troll that has to decide between starving and scavenging almost certainly would prefer the latter.

Therefore a solution could be to feed the dead to the trolls instead of burial. Given that cultures developed that feed the dead to vultures, I think feeding the dead to trolls would not be inconceivable.


Reality TV / Hungry Troll Games

Build a giant enclosure, and move the trolls into it. Place humans in it, these could be children selected by ballot (why would you do that?! nevermind...), political dissidents, criminals, spammers, internet trolls, old people - whatever kind of person the storyline of the world permits to be fed to trolls. It could also be fully consensual, for example, a huge cash prize for the survivor(s) of the Hungry Troll Games. You could probably find plenty of people willing to risk getting eaten by trolls, for a good chance to win several million dollars.

Anyway, the selected or self-selected people are put in the troll enclosure and armed with ineffectual weapons, and the trolls hunting them down and eating them is televised live. Every Hungry Troll Games has a survivor or two, because it improves the entertainment value and acts as incentive to participate.

The trolls flourish with food and conservation money and people are entertained. Win-win.

  • $\begingroup$ Well those dilapidated colosseums can use some renovations, at least the answer serves to balance the economy erm.. correction it's ecosystem. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 10:31
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    $\begingroup$ "During the early medieval age" — I wonder what a medieval TV set did look like. ;-) Anyway I got you a +1 because the basic idea already worked without TV (and without trolls, of course) in ancient Rome. $\endgroup$
    – celtschk
    Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 12:06
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    $\begingroup$ @celtschk the question itself is quite confused in regard to that, "worldwide campaign", modern conservation ideals $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ The weak point of this answer seems to be that it couldn't solve any imbalances in the ecosystem which is the entire reason for this 'save the trolls' campaign according to the OP as far as I understand it. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 0:32
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    $\begingroup$ @DavidMulder It's a valid point and I cede it. This is like wolves and deer, wolves eat deer, but they also make deer frightened to enter thickets, so wolves protect forests in two ways - reducing deer population and frightening deer away from the haunts of wolves. The latter effect is considered more potent. Something similar occurred in Thailand, where the spread of Buddhism displaced superstitions which made people afraid to enter "haunted" forests. Once people lost their superstitious fear of evil spirits, they naturally entered and destroyed the forests they had previously been afraid of. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 11:59

Why do they have the right to live? Serious question.
They eat us. It's all they do, and we have a right to defend ourselves from being eaten.

If they can be taught to eat something else, fine.
But the real message of history is "adapt or die".
This is just evolutionary pressure to become something more. Either the inflexible ones will die and leave the ones that can adapt to eating something else, or the dumb ones will die leaving the ones smart enough to hunt us.

Or they'll go extinct.

There are not a lot of animals that hunt humans, and that's because we killed them all.

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    $\begingroup$ Your evolutionary pressure arguement doesn't work. If the trolls depends solely on humans for food, and they are unable to eat humans, they would starve much faster than they could evolve. $\endgroup$
    – Taemyr
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 8:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Taemyr what is it about humans that makes us the only thing they can eat? Meat is meat. They could try deer, they could try sheep, they could eat wolves. If there is something special about humans that they need, we could find out what it is and provide it another way. Say they need human gallbladder bile. That could be extracted and served with beef. I don't see why any human should be sacrificed to feed a troll. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 15:28
  • $\begingroup$ OP Specifies that humans are their only source of food. OP does not specify why this is. $\endgroup$
    – Taemyr
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 18:32
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    $\begingroup$ @Taemyr I know. And that's my point. Let the trolls evolve to eat something else, or go the way of the dinosaurs. 30,000 species go extinct every year, I'm not sad about one that want to hunt me or mine. If one was chasing you through the woods to eat you, you probably wouldn't be to concerned with their right to survive. What about your right to survive? $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 1:51
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    $\begingroup$ It's not that I don't agree with your conclusion. - The trolls must go we should not be sad to see them disappear, and for this I have already upvoted you. However in this context "Let the trolls evolve to eat something else, or go the way of the dinosaurs." is identical to "Let the trolls go the way of the dinosaur". Brining the option of evolution into it is a false track, because evolution does not work on the relevant timescales. $\endgroup$
    – Taemyr
    Commented Aug 25, 2015 at 7:20

I agree with another answer that, if your cultural values permit it, giving over the dead to the trolls could work. That'd be a tough sell for early-middle-ages Europe, but then, caring about troll welfare would be too and you've got that, so this might work.

Two other approaches:

Military application:

Given that it's the early middle ages, wars are widespread. Offer the trolls a treaty: if they agree to be the shock troops in your army, they can eat as much as they want from the enemies you face.

Down-side: you still have a problem in peace time.

Judicial application:

Capital punishment just got a whole lot easier.

Down-side: this might encourage a harsher judicial system or even -- gasp -- a corrupt one.


As per chasly's answer, there has to something in it for someone.

You have an early medieval setting along with world wide conservation efforts - sounds a bit different to our history.

Assuming an ability to communicate, seems to me like there's a good opportunity to hire trolls as an elite battalion for an army.

A couple of hundred trolls will make all the difference in a medieval battle, even against fortifications given the right equipment.

The victor then has a ready supply of food to supply his army . . .

It follows from this that the hiring lord needs little capital and hence need not be a major established monarch. In effect, the trolls are a resource just waiting for any aspiring and unscrupulous warlord to take his chances.

From this perspective, the troll battalion is a necessary outcome of the situation.


Imitation Human Meat

Trolls are stupid. They might not be able to tell the difference between pig meat and human meat (also known as long pork). Have your villagers construct realistic effigies out of pork, put them atop horses (so they move), and send the horses to certain doom.

  • $\begingroup$ Distinguishing flavors is unrelated to intelligence. If trolls find out those “humans” don't taste the same, they might not want to eat them. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 23, 2015 at 23:14

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