Hilda and the Troll: An intriguing start to this graphic novel series

Hilda and the Troll by Luke PearsonHilda and the Troll by Luke PearsonHilda and the Troll by Luke Pearson

The HILDA graphic novels had been on my radar for a while, but knowing they’ve recently been adapted into a Netflix original made me finally give them a read (I like to read the source material before watching any adaptations).

In Hilda and the Troll, Hilda is a young girl living with her mother in an unspecified part of the Scandinavian countryside, in a little wooden cabin on a great grassy plain. She spends her days wandering outside, drawing in her sketchbook, and reading texts about mythological creatures — which, the reader soon realizes, are not mythological at all.

Hilda encounters sea spirits and giants and trolls, recording them faithfully in her sketchbook. And this isn’t treated as particularly extraordinary; it’s taken for granted that her world is filled with such things. A little man made out of wood occasionally invites himself into Hilda’s house to lie by the fireplace, and Hilda is accompanied everywhere by Twig, her pet… something. Whatever it is, it’s adorable, and looks rather like a blue fox with antlers.

The story is rather thin, but in a very gentle, purposeful way. Hilda explores the countryside, and comes across what she thinks is a troll that’s turned to stone. To prevent it from coming to life while she’s sketching it, she hangs a bell on its nose, knowing that trolls hate the sound of bells. But this will have some unexpected ramifications…

The stakes aren’t remotely high, but like I said — the gentle story is less about creating a suspenseful narrative and more about inviting children to join Hilda on her adventures. There is a large map to pore over in the inside flap, with tantalizing landmarks such as the ruins, the old bridge, the blue pine forest and the wood-man’s house, so readers can track Hilda’s progress across the wilderness.

Luke Pearson’s illustrations become a little more polished in later books, in which Hilda’s design becomes more rounded and cute, but his colour palette of soft browns and faded orange is beautifully off-set by the blue of Hilda’s hair.

Hilda and the Troll is a lovely book that shares with the reader its values of protecting nature, being curious about the world around us, and appreciating the little things in life, whether it’s a hot cup of tea or the sound of rain on the roof. It might even send children out into the garden with their own sketchbooks…

Published in 2010. Hilda can never sit still for long without setting off on another adventure. She can’t resist exploring her enchanting world—a place where trolls walk, crows speak, and mountains move. The magic and folklore of the wild, windswept North come alive in this book about an adventurous little girl and her habit of befriending anything, no matter how curious it might seem. While on an expedition to illustrate the magical creatures of the mountains around her home, Hilda spots a mountain troll. As the blue-haired explorer sits and sketches, she slowly starts to nod off. By the time she wakes up, the troll has totally disappeared and, even worse, Hilda is lost in a snowstorm. On her way home, Hilda befriends a lonely wooden man, and narrowly avoids getting squashed by a lost giant.

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REBECCA FISHER, with us since January 2008, earned a Masters degree in literature at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Her thesis included a comparison of how C.S. Lewis and Philip Pullman each use the idea of mankind’s Fall from Grace to structure the worldviews presented in their fantasy series. Rebecca is a firm believer that fantasy books written for children can be just as meaningful, well-written and enjoyable as those for adults, and in some cases, even more so. Rebecca lives in New Zealand. She is the winner of the 2015 Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SFF Fan Writer.

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