TITLE: The Troll With No Heart in His Body
AUTHOR: Lise Lunge-Larsen
ILLUSTRATOR: Betsy Bowen
PUBLISHED BY: Sandpiper, 1999 (reprint 2003)
It is day six of the great snowpocalypse here in Washington, so it seems only natural that I review a book full of Norwegian folk tales. Perhaps I shall gleam from them wisdom to help me deal with all this snow.
Lise Lunge-Larsen was born and raised in Norway, and then moved to Minnesota. Growing up in Norway, trolls were everywhere. Besides being in the mountains and hills and forests, they were in the language (when she was bad she was called a en troullunge, "troll child"), and most of all in the stories.
Lunge-Larsen discovers that American children as as hungry for these stories as she was, and so she has compiled stories familiar ("Three Billy Goats Gruff") and strange ("The Boy Who Became a Lion, a Falcon and an Ant") in this wonderful collection. They are magical and terrifying, and just--perfect for reading aloud. Best of all, she presents them like a parent would, with short introductions in her own voice that reminds us of what we've learned about trolls, and add to the legend and lore:
Next time you're out for a walk in the woods, look for dead trees, especially overturned tree roots. They might well be trolls that died of old age instead of bursting and becoming stone. Study them carefully and you might spot eye sockets, arms, and a nose (it'll be long). They might look like the troll in this story [The Handshake].
Betsey Bowen, a fellow Norwegian, has created remarkable woodcuts for this collection of stories. She brings to life the mystery and wonder of the Norwegian landscape, as well as the terror of those evil trolls who "return and shape the landscape around them when they die."
In the book's introduction, Lunge-Larsen explains why she has compiled these troll stories, which both terrify and excite:
But perhaps the greatest reason children love troll stories is because children need stories like them. Nothing can truly show children, even adults, more about how to live, about who they are, and about their place in the world, and the struggles of life than a good folktale, and these troll stories I count among the best. Yet today many children have never heard any of the great folktales, including troll stories.Ok, so perhaps I won't discover secrets to managing epic snow-fall. I think I'll learn something much more enduring and valuable instead.
NB: The publisher recommends this book for ages 9-12. I'd recommend reading them on your own, and seeing if you can read them to your younger children. This book was also an ALA notable book in 1999.