Flashback Friday: Being trolled . . .

You are the fairest–but poorest–troll maid in three parishes.  You are in love with the handsome troll but have no dowry with which to get married.  Being the pragmatic sort, you set out to earn your own dowry.


Do you remember:

Helga’s Dowry: A Troll Love Story by Tomi dePaola (HMH, c1977)

I was talking with an old grade school classmate about books the school librarian read to us when we were in the early grades.  One of them I remembered “oh, yeah, wasn’t there that story about troll and a dowry?”  With a little searching I found the book online again.  Turns out this less well-known story of an enterprising, can-do female protagonist is by one of the well known children’s picture book authors, Tomie dePaola.

Helga is considered the most beautiful of troll maids, but she is orphaned and has no dowry, and the law of trolldom states that she cannot get married without a dowry.  Helga loves the most handsome troll in her village, Lars, but he’s considering wedding a plainer troll girl with a rich dowry.  Helga asks him to wait as she journeys off to the human lands to see if she can’t earn her own dowry.  Through some enterprising magic, she manages to acquire a substantial dowry of her own.  However, she soon learns that Lars had no intention of waiting  for her and realizes he isn’t worth her affection.  Another admirer who has been watching Helga winds up being a much better match, and our  troll-maid finds love and respect in her marriage, as well has self-respect for her own accomplishments.

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Tomie dePaola is one of those authors that just keeps popping up on book titles and causing me to think “wait a minute–he wrote that too??”  This charming fantasy/romance is the book that taught me what a dowry actually was. (the librarian at the time took some pains to explain it and it stuck with me).  Our trolls in this story are the heroes of the tale, and they’re drawn to look friendly rather than monstrous Clever Helga can pass for human if she hides her tail.

The book provides us with a female protagonist willing to go out and seek her own fortune, much the way male heroes often do.  She’s clever and capable, and learns something about herself and her own strength and worth along the way.  It’s an impressive message for children to take away, and I do remember being impressed at the time by it.  The idea of earning your way to your dreams  is fairly powerful.

So there’s our flashback from today!  What books did you hear in read-aloud from librarians that made an impression?  Comments welcome!



About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on June 6, 2014, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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