26-Jan-2013 Filed in: History
John Bauer, Stone Troll
Scandinavia after 1850 underwent a fast industrialisation process (esp. Sweden, Denmark and Southern Norway) and for the new educated classes (and their children) trolls became part of the magic world that their parents or grandparents had left behind, either for the big city or foreign land (though - in reality - often in distress and with no hope or wish to return to the countryside). These were not the supernatural beings that their ancestors had known and with whom they had lived in an imaginary symbiotic relation, who had interfered with their crops, cured or stolen their cows or exchanged their children with ugly troll children or left gold in the field for the labouring farmer. The modern trolls of John Bauer, Louis Moe or Theodore Kittelsen were pre-cultivated nature as an otherness in a parallel, almost dehumanised world, to which humans had only access through the fairy tale) and often they looked more like 4th world peoples like the Saami or Samoyed whose cultures were uncovered by contemporary anthropologists and depicted by painters looking for a more homely and innocent expression than was offered by the Classical world. Not surprisingly John Bauer illustrated a book about the Saami before he discovered and unlocked the gate to his magic world of trolls in Värmland.
Sentimentalism was an integral part of this transformation of folklore as examplified by this drawing by Louis Moe, where folklore has become a vehicle of contemporary ideas - in this case the opposition between water and land: