Axel Törneman (1880-1925)

Modernist Swedish painter. Not a real troll painter but qualifies to this gallery with his wonderful painting "The Troll King and the Princess" from 1905, painted in his typical, very dramatic and dynamic style, more influenced by German fairytale illustration than Bauer's soft organic trolls. In a letter to his parents Törneman explained that the troll represented the dark forces in the human while the princess represented the good. Looking at the picture today one does notice that the princess voluntarily follows the troll king who gently leads her into his realm, she does not seem either forced or drugged, but rather as someone accepting her fate/capture. But can one really trust what a young male artist says to his parents?

Troll King and Princess

Nils Bergslien (1853-1928)

Norwegian painter/illustrator with his own museum here who drew Norwegian pixies and trolls like Dovre Gubben below, the famous troll said to reside in the Dovre Fjell in the cold interior of mid-Norway and whom Henrik Ibsen invented in his play Peer Gynt. This troll looks quite similar to Bergslien's pixies and very different from later Norwegian trolls:

And here's a painting from 1877 called "Matauk hos trollen" or "Food gathering among the trolls":

Andreas Bloch (1860-1917)

Norwegian illustrator and painter, esp. of military subjects. But he also worked for various funny magazines and although obscure in comparison to Bauer, Kittelsen and Moe, his trolls are very original. Birger Sivertsen does however mention in "For noen troll" (2000) that Kittelsen once expressed surprise that Bloch had been given a commission to draw trolls, saying to his daughter : "Bloch draw trolls? But he has never seen any!" Kittelsen is known to have said the same about the other major Norwegian troll painter Erik Werenskiold. It is thus tempting to conclude that Kittelsen felt a strong sense of ownership towards trolls. Only his vision was a true representation.

First a troll receiving electrical treatment (to cure its temperament?):

Electrified troll by Andreas Bloch

Then a troll shouting:

Shouting troll by Andreas Bloch

Then a lovely ink wash of a very sad troll:

Crying Troll by Andreas Bloch

A very thirsty troll:

Thirsty Troll by Andreas Bloch

Then a troll looking into a house:

And finally a troll escaping into his cave:

Asgrimur Jonsson (1876-1958)

Great icelandic painter of landscapes and the Norse underworld.

First his famous "The Night Troll at the Window":

Then two watercolours of strong and aggressive trolls fighting respectively a horseman and each other, reflecting the incredibly rough nature on Iceland:

And two fighting troll women:

Finally, here is a drawing of the so-called Mjóafjardarskessan, the Giantess of Mjol Fiord in Eastern Iceland, who according to legend would appear at the local church every christmas eve, presumably annoyed with the service, and make a terrible noise that would agitate the priest so much that he would run out to stop her. She would then take him to her home in a nearby gorge and eat him. Finally, one priest was able to chase her away by having 6 armed men bar the church door while ringing all the church bells. She made a hole in the church wall and swore that it would never be whole again. Here is Asgrimur Jonsson's picture of this giantess with the skeleton of one of her captured priests in her arms - almost like a baby:

And one more mountain troll from the Icelandig folktale Bukolla, showing Jonsson's great drawing skills:

Ridley Borchgrevink (1898-1981)

Exciting British-born Norwegian illustrator from the first part of the 20th century who did many troll drawings like the one below of a woman mistreating a changeling in the hope that the troll woman who has taken her baby, will return it to save her own troll baby from further abuse.

Christian Skredsvig (1854-1924)

Norwegian painter, friend of Erik Werenskiold. Not a troll painter and never illustrated Asbjørnsen and Moe's fairy tales, but did a few times touch upon the world of trolls, especially in the work Valdresvisa from 1895, where he captured the dramatic side of trolls through his sketchy line and soft colours:

John Bauer (1882-1918)

Bauer selfportrait 1908

John Bauer is without any doubt the Scandinavian artist who defined the modern fairytale troll that separates us from the trolls of rural superstition or folklore. Through his delicate eyes and gentle brush stroke the troll became a sympathetic and often misunderstood creature, uncivilised in an innocent way and thus a perfect companion for the modern child in the town or city who would rarely have the chance to get lost in a real forest and therefore sees it as an idyllic stage of rural fantasy unlike the modern urban landscape of factories and apartments that was just emerging at the time of Bauer with the great immigration of farm labour to the cities. The Bauer troll lives in a distinct world that is consistent from picture to picture, from fairytale to fairytale and is often telling a much more interesting story that the actual stories Bauer was commissioned to illustrate. The picture below called "Root Trolls" is a good example of Bauer's sympathy with both the child and the troll. It could have been a scene of horrible abduction by ugly ogres, but rather evokes safety and friendship. These trolls are curious about the human child, maybe even admiring its beauty, but they pose no threat. Bauer, like Tove Jansson many years later, thus invites the child to explore the world, to seek the unknown, to challenge its own fear.

Bauer Root Trolls

Bauer's world is always set up as at stage with a clearly separated foreground and background and often framed by trees. His style is very decorative as seen above. Below is a typical example with the motif of a beautiful human being led into the troll's world. In Bauer's work it is always the humans who enter the troll's domain, never the opposite, seeking or being forced to encounter some mind- or life-changing experience.

Here is an old troll woman with hairy arms welcoming you inside her cave. Notice Bauer's custom palette of greyish earth colours reminding us that we are now entering the world of the subterraneans, far from our enlightened daylight world. Unlike the witches of the Grimm Brothers this troll woman does not seem to pose any threat. It is more likely that she will invite you in for a cup of root tea and some freshly baked bark bread.

The following two sketches give a good idea about how he developed his troll characters. Notice how soft and organic his line is.

And finally a drawing of a Saami boy, indicating Bauer's interest for more 'natural' peoples which is also reflected in the Trolls' clothes and other artifacts like hand-carved knives. Often neighbouring peoples, eg. Saami, Finns, Gypsies or even the Scanians in Skåne, have been attributed with certain magical powers:

Bauer lived and worked during the age that has later been called the age of National Romanticism, a period until the beginning of World War I when some Scandinavian artists, inspired by the movement of Symbolism, sought the soul of the Nation in the people's own voices, eg. old fairy tales or epic poems as the Finnish Kalevala. In Bauer's case the trolls represented what modern man had lost, an originality and naturalness that was magic. Obviously World War I killed any belief in this project.

Bauer also did a few sculptures, like the following of a trollboy that appears in many of his paintings and may be some alterego:

Let's also meet Bauer's favourite troll Vill - Vallareman who "was a small troll with human features. He was a fine musician and good at playing the bark horn. It could be heard all over the forest when he played. The big trolls were fighting about who should become the next king. But in the end it was Will with his mediating personality who became king. You don't have to be physically big and strong to get far. Even someone small can become king. Vill-Vallareman was "big" inside."
(From H. Schiller, John Bauer Sagotecknaren, Stockholm 1935).

In 1982 Bauer's fairy tale world was celebrated with a series of four stamps:

Finally the classic myth that some Scandinavians still are tempted to believe: John Bauer, tired of painting trolls and eager to develop his art, decided in 1918 to return to Stockholm with his family from their house Björkudden in Småland where he had lived and worked for years, but according to legend the trolls did not want him to leave and therefore created an autumn storm on the generally very peaceful lake Vättern causing the steam ship Per Brahe to sink with all its crew and passengers, including John Bauer, his wife Ester and their son Putte.

It has been discussed whether John and Ester were falling out of love with each other at the time of their untimely and tragic death. Ester felt alone while he was busy pursuing his career as an artist slowly building an international reputation. Whatever the truth was, Bauer's paintings are characterised by a very ephemeral, platonic love between princesses and knights. Women are decorative beauties in his fairytale world whose only role is to be abducted by trolls and saved by knights. In fact, Bauer's trolls are his most human characters - shy, curious, helpful, different, awkward (and as big-nosed as Bauer himself - maybe another reason for his attraction?).


Svenolov Ehrén (1927-2004)

Graphic artist, illustrator of a lovely book from 1961 by Ann-Sofi and Christer Topelius, retelling old fairytales about various supernatural creatures, incl. the devil himself. The book is called Jättar och Troll i Sverige ("Giants and Trolls in Sweden") and is now very rare. I will exhibit other illustrations by Ehrén elsewhere on

Here is Ehrén's graphic interpretation of a folktale from 1490 where trolls offer a young knave a goblet with poisonous wine, hoping to capture him that way (this is a well-known story in many parts of Scandinavia). You can read it here.

And here is his version of the story of the giant Finn who helped build Lund Cathedral, a story also mentioned here.

Albert Jærn

Norwegian illustrator and graphic artist, active before World War II, here with a graphically strong version of Asbjørnsen and Moe's classic fairy tale The Three Billy Goats Gruff:

Einar Norelius (1900-1985)

Tree Troll

Swedish artist of classic Swedish comics series, such as 'Pelle Svanslös' (about a tail-less cat's adventures in Uppsala).
Also illustrator of many stories in the Swedish Bland Tomter och Troll-story magazines where he worked for almost half a century. So far only one book has been written about him, but it is difficult to get hold of.

And finally a good drawing of a troll/giant:

Let's finish with this great painting of a rather confused looking troll king being advised something by another, maybe cunning troll. In this painting Norelius has definitely developed his own style though it is clear he is influenced by contemporary advertisement illustration, eg. American Norman Rockwell:

C. O. Zeuthen (1812-1890)

Here is a very rare pencil drawing/water colour of trolls/pixies dancing and playing music. It is dated 1856 and the artist is mainly known for his wall paintings in various houses in Copenhagen. The picture is called "Troldtøj" which in Danish is the collective name for trolls, pixies, dwarfs and similar. They wear the traditional red cap that later became associated with the christmas pixie but that trolls originally also wore in rural folklore.

Not great art, but trollologically of great interest!

Robert Högfeldt (1894-1986)

Swedish illustrator with quite a Disneyesque style who created a troll world fit for children's books and postcards but quite detached from the trolls of rural folklore. "Urban trolls" one might call them - cute and posing no risk to anybody. He may be said to be the best of the Scandinavian troll postcard artists.

First a bathing male troll with very long beard and hair and quite a stupid look:

Then some trolls teasing an angel (Högfeldt loved playing with the subject - beauty vs. beast - in many versions)

Trolls Teasing an Angel

Followed by some more rough looking trolls discovering a hot bowl of porridge:

Trolls and Hot Porridge

A small troll with two birds:

And finally a detail from a troll painting called "Jealousy" with two male trolls fighting over a troll girl:

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