When we launched our current reading theme, I immediately sought a few of the D’aulaires’ books that may be in keeping with the fantastical realm. I just fell in love with their Norse and Greek myths and I was thrilled to discover that we have more of their books in our public library.
For readers who have a deep fascination with trolls and their ilk (including gnomes and hulder-maidens), this is the perfect book for you. The D’Aulaires have crafted a universe for this gigantic, hairy, utterly-disgusting creatures – and made their monstrosity seem affable. It doesn’t matter that some of the troll hags carry their heads under their arms and that they have red elongated noses that may be used to simmer a boiling stew – they just seemed innocuous somehow, notwithstanding the fact that they steal human babies and boil humans in their pot of stew.
I also learned that there were different kinds of trolls, not just those that live under the bridge as found in Three Billy Goats Gruff which was alluded to in this drawing:
I enjoyed the trolls with the dozen heads, each one with distinct traits and demanding to be fed first by their pair of hands:
These trolls who hardly bathe at all, if ever, had a mop of unruly hair filled with “burrs, beetles and berries, and birds built nests behind their ears.” What is even more odious is the fact that they demand their heads to be scratched by the smooth dainty hands of beautiful human princesses.
Then there are trolls who shared only one eye amongst themselves, which they manage to pass around from one person to the next:
Apparently, the trolls’ eye had a splinter that allowed them to see the world in a peculiar way. This was one of the twist that I particularly enjoyed in the narrative:
Unlike their earlier Greek and Norse myths books though that are neatly divided into themed stories, this one flows as a long, uninterrupted narrative with fragments of stories thrown in here and there. While the transitions still seem relatively seamless, I would have enjoyed separate sections that would detail helpful bits of information on the typology of trolls, their habits, and ways through which human beings are able to outwit them. Despite this, the D’Aulaires’ lithographic stone illustrations continue to be timeless and awe-inspiring.
D’Aulaires’ Book of Trolls by Ingri and Edgar Parin D’Aulaire. An NYRB Children’s Collection Book, 1972. Book borrowed through inter-library loan. Book photos taken by me.