Kerstin Ekman (born 1933)

Wonderful Swedish novelist with a rich imagination, writing both historical realism and a Swedish kind of magical realism. Has a special fascination for the Swedish troll who appear naturally in her novels and in the crime story Blackwater is reflected in the old lonely people living alone in their little cabins in the forest in the dark North. Trolls also appear in her masterpiede, Rövarna i Skuleskogen (Forest of Hours), which follows the life of a troll named Skord through many centuries. A few years later K. Ekman published the poetic novel Urminnes tecken (not translated to English, but to the other Nordic languages) which is set in an parallel timeless world among animals and supernatural creatures, reflecting upon the human world that passes through/intrudes upon their dimension. Very recommendable! Her last work of interest in this troll connection is her essay collection Herrarna i skogen (2007) which can best be described as a cultural history of the Northern European forests from the early Middle Ages till today - here the prime forests in all their sublime medieval darkness, the locus of werewolves and troll, emerge first through the eyes of popular imagination (folklore) and later through the clearly conflicting domains of science and commerce that finally conquered the inhabitants of the forests and turned them into something exploitable (Ekman recounts how, in the age of reason, scholars planned to tame the moose and turn it into a dairy animal) and ultimately - from Ekman’s pessimistic view - dispensable, if we do not learn to respect the forest again as a whole. There is a special focus on the supernatural - from Olaus Magnus’ matter of fact description of trolls and gnomes to romantic academics collecting stories from peasants which they rewrote completely to create a different kind of forest that appears in pretty fairytales - to later writers such as Selma Lagerlöf whose view of the forest is not too different from K. Ekman.

Beppe Wolgers

Beppe Wolgers, Swedish poet and writer, wrote and directed the story of Dunderklumpen, a Swedish troll in the mountainous region of Jämtland. Dunderklumpen is sitting in the front end of the boat on the picture below:

Here is a scan of a postcard from the release of the movie, drawn and animated by Per Åberg.

Alfred Smedberg (1850-1925)

Swedish writer of fairy tales who is commemorated on this site (only Swedish). He wrote a famous children's song about gnomes, but also various fairy tales about Scandinavian folklore creatures, incl. "Trollen och tomtepojken" (The trolls and the gnome boy) which was published in Bland tomtar och troll in 1909 with the following wonderful illustration by John Bauer. There is a German translation online, but any English?

The story is about a gnome boy who listens to the old gnomes' stories about adventurous visits to the trolls' mountain, goes there himself but only escapes with great difficulty.

Karin Fryxell (1911-2003)

Swedish Children's book writer, famous (in Sweden) for her troll stories, illustrated with photographs of troll dolls made by herself. She created the two troll characters named Sotlugg and Linlugg..
You can read more here

Pessi and Illusia

Classic Finnish troll story from 1944 by Yrjö Kokko

This fantasy novel, which describes the friendship and love between a troll and an elf, was written while the author was on the frontline in 1944. It can be read as an allegory of war. War problems are mirrored in the relationship between pessimis- tic troll Pessi and optimistic elf Illusia, who comes from the land of the rainbow. The central topic is the relationship between nature and humans, as well as that between children and the war. This newly-illustrated edition raises the problem of the dialectic of Good and Evil, of weak and strong, by resorting to the law of nature, where the stronger beings always dominate the weak ones. This problem is still of importance today and will continue to be so. Illustrator Kristina Segercrantz lends a personal touch and spirit to the story and its characters.

Reference to trolls by Albert Engström

Albert Engström, Swedish artist and cartoonist, well-known in Scandinavia for his funny and very big-nosed drunkards and greatly admired by the troll painter John Bauer writes the following in a short essay:

"Vid Domberget stannar jag och stampar i marken, ty här är vägen ihålig och härunder bo troll, som ha varit farliga förr i världen, men nu kunna skrämmas med stampningen av en barnfot. Jag tänker mig deras håla med röda sandväggar och tallrötter i taket, hopsnodda som ynglet i ett snokbo. När jag stampar, faller sand i ögonen på mordfolket och de slicka ögongloberna rena på varandra och åja sig. Det låter som när vesslor gnissla i ett stenröd."

Source: Fattigstugan


"At Cathedral Hill I stop and stomp in the ground as the road here is full of holes and underneath live troll which were dangerous in olden days, but now could be scared with the stomping of a child's foot. I am thinking of their cave with its red walls of sand and pine roots in the ceiling, interwoven as the spawn in an adder's nest. When I stomp, the sand falls down into the eyes of the murder people, and they lick each others' eye balls clean and sigh. It sounds as when ferrets squeak in a pile of stones."

Johanna Sinisalo

Finnish novelist, whose debutnovel about a human who rescues and befriends a troll simply was translated into English as Troll: A Love Story.

I have not read it, but here is a promising review in the blog called Bookslut.

Henrik Ibsen

Deserves to be added to the list for his contribution to the modern literary troll, having invented Dovre Gubben, who imprisons the hero in Ibsen's classic dramatic work (with many comic moments) Peer Gynt. The music composed by Edward Grieg captures the Scandinavian troll. Both Kittelsen and Munch have illustrated the play.

Here is an English interpretation of Peer Gynt's meeting with the trolls (by Arthur Rackham):

(click on thumbnail to view bigger version)

Then a short quote from the play where Peer is asked by the old troll to compare humans and trolls:

What difference is there ’twixt trolls and men?


No difference at all, as it seems to me.
Big trolls would roast you and small trolls would claw you;—
with us it were likewise, if only they dared.

True enough; in that and in more we’re alike.
Yet morning is morning, and even is even,
and there is a difference all the same.—
Now let me tell you wherein it lies:
Out yonder, under the shining vault,
among men the saying goes: “Man, be thyself!”
At home here with us, ’mid the tribe of the trolls,
the saying goes: “Troll, to thyself be—enough!”

Can you fathom the depth?

It strikes me as misty.

My son, that “Enough,” that most potent and sundering
word, must be graven upon your escutcheon.

PEER [scratching his head]
Well, but—

It must, if you here would be master!"

(From Henrik Ibsen, Peer Gynt, Act 2 which you can read here.)

Here is a more modern portrayal of Peer Gynt in Dovre Gubben's cave by the Norwegian painter Jarle Rosseland:

Finally listen to Grieg's work Wedding at Troldhaugen (Troll Hill) in MIDI format (Apple's Quicktime Player required):


Dines Skafte Jespersen

Danish children book's writer, famous for the series Troldepus which is still being reprinted. Troldepus lives in the forest with his father and mother and can speak all the languages of the animals. He has a small white magic pin which he can use to go anywhere and become either big or small.

Here is one typical cover:

Links to Danish Troll Poems in Danish

Sophus Claussen, Nattevagt (1917)
Jeppe Aakjær, Bjærgmands-Snak (1908)
Adam Oehlenschläger, Biergmanden (1803)

Holger Drachmann (1846-1908)

Danish poet and novelist who often returned to the subject of Denmark's supernaturals, esp. in the original collection of stories called Troldtøj, containing stories about mermaids, elves, the "helhest" (a ghost horse) etc, and which you can read here - but only in Danish!

P. C. Asbjørnsen and J. E. Moe

Norway's Grimm Brothers - P. C. Asbjørnsen (1812-1885) and J. E. Moe (1813-1882)
Collectors of Norwegian folklore, published the now classic collection, Norske Folkeeventyr, at first collecting independently and later joined forces and published jointly. A & M used simple language in their tales rather than any of the many regional dialects which at that time had not been standardised to a modern Norwegian. They also cleaned up some of the language in the original tales - thus the character Askeladden. who outsmarts trolls, was popularly known as Askefisen (the latter part meaning "fart"). Their collections were published in various editions betw. 1837 and 1852. Widely translated. The stories' original illustrators were Th. Kittelsen, Erik Werenskiold, P. N. Arbo and others who are today better known for their landscape paintings. When A & M first saw Kittelsen's trolls they thought children might find them too scary, but fortunately they respected Kittelsen's vision.

Here is a troll from the 1895 edition (artist unknown):

Look for the following book in your local library if you live in an English-speaking country:
Norwegian Fairy Tales: From the Collection of Asbjornsen and Moe

Illustration by Th. Kittelsen from Asbjørnsen and Moe's fairy tales

Jonas Lie (1833-1908)

Leading Norwegian novelist in the 19th century mixing realism and symbolism. Wrote two collections of troll stories at the end of his life called Trold (1891-92, some translated as Weird Tales from Northern Seas), which shows his deep knowledge of the folklore of Northern Norway and the magic of the Saami people. These stories were based on drawings by Th. Kittelsen that he considered writing stories for, but refused, and then wrote them anyway, but without using Kittelsen's drawings which was a great disappointment to the latter.

You can read his Weird Tales from Northern Seas in English online thanks to the Gutenberg project - you can find them here! And nicely illustrated they are.

Bland Tomtar och Troll

(Among Pixies and Trolls)
The annual collection of fairy tales (first published 1907) written by various authors that Bauer contributed to till the end of his life except in 1911. Here he published the famous story of the princess Tuvstarr captured by the trolls. Here are two illustrations:

And here is a later cover illustration by E. Norelius (who wrote and illustrated for the magazine for 50 years from 1926 to 1980) in a style rather like John Bauer's of a princess captured by the trolls:

Other illustrators who have participated are Gustaf Tenggren, well-known for his work for Walt Disney and who followed more closely in Bauer's step than any other artist, and, after Norelius stopped in 1980, Hans Arnold.
Among the writers one finds Tove Jansson, Elsa Beskow and adult novelists like Hjalmar Bergman.

William Heinesen

Faroese writer and painter.

Trolls is a recurrent theme in his writing, both the magical trolls that he was told about in his childhood in the misty Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic, and the later trolls who resembled contemporary politicians and business people.

Wrote in 1957 the story "Grylen" about the troll woman who abducted naughty children.

Gustaf Fröding

Swedish poet.

Here is his poem "The Old Mountain Troll" translated by Charles Wharton Stork in 1930:

The evening draws on apace now
The night will be dark and drear;
I ought to go up to my place now,
But 'tis pleasanter far down here.

Mid the peaks where the storm is yelling
'Tis lonely and empty and cold;
But 'tis merry where people are dwelling,
In the beautiful dale's green fold.

And I think that when I was last here
A princess wondrously fair,
Soft gold on her head, went past here;
She'd make a sweet morsel, I swear!

The rest fled, for none dared linger,
But they turned when far off to cry,
While each of them pointed a finger:
"What a great, nasty troll! oh, fie!"

But the princess, friendly and mild-eyed,
Gazed up at me, object of fright,
Though I must have looked evil and wild-eyed,
And all fair things from us take flight.

Next time I will kiss her and hold her,
Though ugly of mouth am I,
And cradle and lull on my shoulder,
Saying: "Bye, little sweet-snout, bye!"

And into a sack I'll get her,
And take her home with me straight,
And then at Yule I will eat her
Served up on a fine gold plate.

But hum, a-hum! I am mighty dumb,--
Who'd look at me then so kindly?
I'm a silly dullard--a-hum, a-hum!
To think the thing out so blindly.

Let the Christian child go in peace, then;
As for us, we're but trolls, are we.
She'd make such a savory mess, then,
It is hard to let her be.

But such things too easily move us,
When we're lonely and wicked and dumb,
Some teaching would surely improve us.
Well, I'll go home to sleep-a-hum!

And here is is his poem "Bergslagstroll" (The Trolls in Bergslagen) in Swedish:

Birger Ljungquist, Bergslagstroll

"Och antingen ni tror eller inte gör detsamma,
men annars är det sant och anagga mig, anamma,
om inte det var trollpack, jag togs med en natt.
Vi vaktade vid milan i Västanåmyra
och natten led mot slutet och klockan var fyra,
då hörde vi ett buller och Pär han skvatt.
Det skallrade i fjälla, det dånade i jola,
det råmade som oxar i berga", sa Ola.

"Det stampade och trampade från alla fyra hållen,
och näggum det var roligt, för jaggu var det trollen,
som långsamt kommo skumpande med dunder och duns.
Det rungade och vren och sa knak genom skogen,
för somma var så stora som kyrkan i Bogen,
och tallar är som halm för en tocken en luns.
Och Pär han kröp ner vid en rot av en gran
och själv så kröp jag ner bakom kolkuja", sa’n.

"Det dunkade och klang som när skrotjärn slamrar,
och somma hade armar som stångjärnshamrar
och somma hade nävar såsom jättekast
och somma hade gap som ett hål till en gruva
och somma hade tak av ett kolhus till huva
och somma glyste eld som en gnisterkvast
och somma hade snut som en järnlyftkran
och jaggu var det allt lite kusligt", sa’n.

"De satte sig kring milan och stekte sitt tackjärn
och kokade sig soppa på spikar och klackjärn
och mumsade på plog som på höns eller får.
De dansade kring milan, det var som en hoppdans
med kyrkor i polskdans och hus i galoppdans,
det var som ett dön som när guffarn går.
Och nog har jag vandrat och varit in i stan,
men aldrig såg jag maken till dansgille", sa’n.

"Och rätt som jag ligger som ett hopviket knyte,
så kommer där ett troll med ett otäckt snyte
och tjåvar och tar på min fattiga kropp.
’Titt vint, titt på skack, det är ugglor i mossen,
här ligger litet gubbkött’, sa tryntrollklossen,
men just i detsamma rann sola opp.
’Se sola’, sa jag , det är ljusande dan’,
då nöso de och lade på långkutten", sa’n.

"Det dånade i berga, det skälvde i jola,
de skalade i väg bortåt fjälla där nola
och drumlade i kull sig där nolaskogs.
Det var som ett slagsmål av vettskrämda hyttor,
som bruk gjorde hjulkast och jättekullbyttor
och malmhus och kolhus och smedjor slogs.
För trollen äro lika förfärade för sola,
som jag för att skarva och ljuga", sa Ola.

Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940)

This Swedish writer who lived most of her life in Värmland and became the first woman writer to receive the Nobel prize (1909) also wrote a story collection called Troll och Människor (Trolls and People) in which she explores rural folklore in her beloved home region Värmland. Her most famoust troll story is The Changeling which you can also find in the Troll Book Store.

You can read her wonderful stories here in the free Project Runeberg (only Swedish).

More to come.

Search Trollwriters

Dec 2008
Mar 2008
May 2007
Apr 2007
Mar 2007
Jan 2007
Nov 2006
Jul 2006
Dec 2005