No troll stories here

Book review: Norwegian Trolls & Rosemaling

Doug Warne
KKNW Scandinavian Hour

Norwegian trolls

Book cover: Norwegian Trolls & Rosemaling by Joan Dahl

Okay, I admit it: when I first noticed the title and then the cover of this book, I was hooked on the idea that Norwegian Trolls & Rosemaling by Joan Dahl was going to give me a little pleasant collection of troll stories to read and pass on to grandchildren.

Opening the book, I began to suspect that my original ideas were faulty. First, page 3 showed me paint brushes like miracle wedge size 6 and rake size 1/8. But, wonder of wonders, everything was written in both English and Norwegian. So I read the foreword about Dahl, and it became clear that this was a how-to book on painting trolls along with rosemaling.

The trolls in the book have less to do with Theodor Kittelsen, one of the original troll artists, than with the charming characters so loved by Disney. Long ago, musician and artist Professor August Werner did a series of ugly but charming trolls as a little aside from his well-known ocean paintings. I loved them and even talked then with him about commissioning note cards. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after that and those who have his original troll paintings have a real treasure.

Dahl’s trolls are ugly in their own right, but not scary—I think it has something to do with the eyes and the smiles.

My experience with trolls extends to a literature class at the University of Oslo in Norway where the professor invited the class to his home for a midnight supper; rommegrøt and other Norwegian fare were part of it. But the walk at 1 a.m. to Bonkjarn in the dark after the professor’s stories of nasty trolls changed every brushpile, unusual shaped bush, or tree into a waiting troll in our imagination and we saw what Kittelsen presented.

As I said, Dahl’s trolls are less frightening and really friendly looking. The book is a rosemaler’s guide to painting trolls and discusses methods, brushes, and even specific paint shades like burnt umber and cadmium yellow. Specific steps and colors and techniques are outlined, as well as troll outline sketches at the end of the book.

So you won’t get a troll story from this book. But if you recognize burnt umber and cadmium yellow and know a palette knife from a cheese slicer, then this is the book for you. At the discounted price this book is available, it would be a grand present to any of your friends who are—or plan to be—rosemalers. Retail price is $39.95, and at it is $14.89 including shipping.

That’s good enough for me. Even though the only thing I’ve ever painted was a house, I have to go now and order my gift copies.

Doug Warne is the host of The Scandinavian Hour, which has been a community fixture for over half a century in Seattle. He sponsors many scholarships through the Leif Erikson Lodge of Sons of Norway, and serves on the board of that organization. In 2012, he was named Person of the Year by the Seattle chapter of the NACC.

This article originally appeared in the November 16, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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The Norwegian American

The Norwegian American is North America's oldest and only Norwegian newspaper, published since May 17, 1889.