The first image that may come to mind when someone mentions trolls is probably a small plastic figurine with a shock of bright hair, large eyes, and a bejeweled belly button.
These Danish troll dolls were the US’ biggest toy fad in the 1960s and then again in the 1990s (you may remember them fondly from your childhood).
Whatever your familiarity with trolls may be, you probably haven’t given them much thought to these cute but often inconsequential characters.
However, with a bit of strategy, imagination, and storytelling, trolls can do so much more for you as a parent than sit on a shelf and collect dust. Trolls have the power to teach our children valuable lessons about empathy, kindness, and perseverance.
Put down your bedazzled belly button troll and take note from the Scandinavian parents who have been putting trolls to work for hundreds of years.
Take this game to your local playground bridge and play the part of scary, disgusting troll. It is fun hearing the shrieking laughter of your children as they try to run past you before you grab and eat them. Bringing the story to life on the playground will give this hundred-year-old fable new life.
A more recent Norwegian tale written by Aleksander Nordaas, Stroll Troll, teaches children empathy. The Stroll Troll character may look shabby and tired, but that is because he has been strolling for a year and he is looking for a place to rest.
None of the woodland animals will give him food and shelter for the night until an unlikely group doesn’t judge him by his appearance and give him comfort. They are rewarded in a wonderful way, and the Stroll Troll is a friendly reminder of why we should be kind to people in need and offer our help when people asking even if we don’t have much to give.
In the book, Ingrid och Bassiluskan by Katerina Janouch, the main character gets sick by a germ troll called Bassiluskan. In my children’s Swedish preschool this story is used to reinforce the importance of personal hygiene, and Bassilukan’s image is depicted on the mirror above the sink to remind the children to wash their hands.
Danish children’s book duo, Peter Madsen & Sissel Bøe, have created a world of mystery for children to explore and look for trolls in their backyards.
Their book series, Trolleliv, available in multiple languages, takes readers on adventures with twins Paja and Pajko, two trolls who romp around the forest with their large family living in a troll cave under an old oak tree.
Through their adventures, children learn lessons about friendship, generosity, acceptance, and tolerance.
Overall, trolls have changed over time from frightening creatures intended to scare children into obedience into helpful fictional friends who help your children work through life lessons in a fun, relatable manner.