Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Troll Dolls have seemingly been around forever. Modern generations can thank the retro-crazed 90s for the resurgence of a more-brightly hued version of the little lucky toys, while older generations can thank Thomas Dam, a Danish woodcutter who, as legend has it, simply didn’t have enough money to buy his lovely daughter a toy. Rather than put on a sad face over the whole matter, Dam delved into Nordic fairy tales for a bit of inspiration and carved up a troll doll for his daughter. She loved it, dressed it up and showed it off to anyone that might take a look. Slowly but surely the ugly little doll won a spot within the hearts of the townspeople and thus, the beginning of the Troll Doll.
Troll Dolls, as we’ve come to know them today are generally short, potbellied, possessing large hands and feet and exaggerated facial features. A tuft of crazy-colored hair sprouts from the top of the troll’s virtually non-existent forehead; the lost strands of which were the troll’s calling card to anyone left sweeping up classrooms.
The first troll dolls came in the late 50s and it didn’t take long for those crazy Americans to catch onto the craze. The Troll Boom of the 1960s infected everyone from the hippies to the preps, and even Lady Bird Johnson who professed her love for the little dolls. With mass appeal, naturally, comes a steady stream of impostors and more than a few wanna-bes. Of course, it probably didn’t help that Dam’s original copyright notice contained a flaw or two. Soon, there were “Treasure Trolls” and “Norfins,” “Wishnik Trolls” and many other creatures with a decidedly similar appearance. Luckily for the Dam family, the situation was righted in 2003, when a Congressional law allowed them to restore their original U.S. copyright, making them the sole official manufacturer of their treasured Troll dolls.
Throughout the decades, troll dolls have come in a variety of costumes and forms. Some could be found with Halloween themes like vampires and ghouls, while more pleasant versions, such as the bridge and groom, appealed to those of us not looking for a trollish fright. Some came with beards and others came with embellishments, from earrings to the more-punked up nose-ring-laden dolls. Others were styled after athletes, superheroes, movie stars and even Teenage Mutant Ninja Trolls! Troll dolls are typically made of hard vinyl, though some can be found made of wood, porcelain, rubber and even hemp (perfect for Rastafarian dolls!). Troll dolls came in a range of sizes, generally from 18-inches to one and two-inch versions. With the school-age set, troll dolls could be found as pencil-toppers, with kids around the classroom furiously twirling their pencils in an attempt to give their toll friend a terrifically wild hairstyle.
Want to see one of the more extensive troll collections you will ever lay your eyes upon? Look no further than here:
The most valuable of troll dolls today come from the original manufacturer, Dam Things. Otherwise known as the Dammit, anyone who has one of these rare beauties can consider themselves lucky. Other valuable versions include the super-rare animal line, which included Troll versions of turtles, giraffes, alligators, monkeys, donkeys, pigs… you name it!
Popularity for the Troll doll is cyclical, rising in some decades and falling in others, such the troll doll backlash that occurred in the late 1990s – early 2000s, thanks to an over-saturation of exposure. Troll dolls are slowly working themselves back into the fabric of pop culture, however, and as their popularity increases yet again, it only goes to show that it’s hard to keep a good troll down.
If you found yourself bitten by the troll bug at some point in your life, perhaps managing to accumulate a small army of the diminutive dolls, we welcome your recollections in our comments section, as we pay tribute to the wee little trolls of our youth, here at Retroland.