I first encountered troll dolls in the mid-1970s. My younger sister had one that she loved greatly and played with all the time. In fact, she played with her troll doll (named “Sloppy Joe Head”) so much that eventually all of his hair fell out and his felt clothes were torn to shreds. When we moved to a larger house in 1976, somehow Sloppy Joe Head was lost forever. Forty years later, my sister still mourns his loss. But when and where did these troll dolls originate?
In Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore, trolls were considered abhorrent creatures that lived under bridges or deep in forests and mountains. Legends characterized trolls as mean, unhelpful, even dangerous beasts that humans should avoid. However, over time, the negative depictions have been replaced by more pleasant portrayals of trolls as smaller, friendlier, and cuter creatures who can possibly provide good luck. The troll dolls most of us are familiar with today fall into the latter depiction, and much of that change in image can be attributed to one man, Thomas Dam.