The Evolution and Revolution of Internet Trollz: A Creation Story

Once Upon a Time in the 1950s, a poor Danish fisherman and woodcarver named Thomas Dam couldn’t afford a Christmas gift for his young daughter Lila, so he carved a doll from his imagination and likeness.

The doll was small, timber and had long hair like Dam.

It can be reasoned that young Lila loved her new doll, as her peers in their Danish town of Gjøl surely did. The dolls were a hit, and in 1958, Thomas Dam began making his dolls for people under his new company Dam Things. These Dam Dolls were so popular with tourists and department stores that, soon, Thomas Dam built a factory.

The trolls were of very high quality: they were made of sturdy rubber and had eyes of glass and hair of Icelandic sheep wool. They were a little ugly, but also cute and cuddly.

By 1963, 1 million dollars worth of Dam trolls had been brought to the United States and named Toy of the Year by the U.S. Toy Association. Copycat dolls began appearing everywhere, but because of a mistake in the copyright of the original product, the court ruled the design to be in the U.S. public domain.

Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore once told of such stories around fires in the black of night. They were then collected and re-told by Norwegian writers Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe as fairy tales. About Billy Goats Gruff and millions of hideous, centuries old, dim-witted supernatural beings called trolls who suddenly took up residence under tech bridges and rocks. Who stamped their feet and hurled garbled nonsense and feces at the heads of passersby. Who appeared on bed sheets, stationary, hair accessories, jewelry and t-shirts by the end of the 1960s, and made millions exclusive of Thomas Dam’s Dam Things.

Dam returned to Denmark, disillusioned. He was happy to be a woodcarver, an artist, he was not a businessman. Then, almost as quickly as they had been summoned, trolls clambered back under their bridges and squeezed rocks amidst tolls of church bells and flashes of lightning and a storm of public disinterest.

They resurfaced with like vengeance in the late 1980s and the early-mid 1990s, again named Toy of the Year by the U.S. Toy Association in 1991. Video games and cartoons appeared, as well as Trollies Radio Show Sing-A-Long, a direct-to-video VHS of trolls singing American pop hits such as “Kokomo”, “Woolly Bully” and “Doo Wah Diddy.” Action figure trolls like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Trolls and The Original Battle Trolls from Hasbro appeared in attempts to market to young boys.

Battle Trolls

By the release of the 1988 movie Child’s Play, Good Guy doll Chucky had invoked the voodoo chant, Ade due damballa, Give me the power, I BEG OF YOU!, thereby completing the soul transfer from troll doll to human body. Dam Things reaped a fraction of 700 million U.S. dollars of troll sales in its inability to control the disembodied offspring of its original Good Luck Trolls. Contrary to negative connotations of myth and folklore, Thomas Dam had wished for his trolls to be kind and to make people laugh. Instead, they now said:

In 2007, Dam Things sued DiC Entertainment for its failure to create and market a modern-day troll doll toy campaign under the name Trollz, and so destroying the goodwill and image of the Dam Doll.

In 2003, the Dam family was restored copyright and exclusive manufacturing rights, as well as awarded a large settlement from U.S. toy giant Russ Berrie, which, at the height of the troll craze, sold over 2,000 different troll-related products at an annual profit of approximately 300 million.

2011 saw a deal between Dam Things and Dreamworks. The U.S. animation giant secured rights to produce a film and television series about troll dolls, and later purchased the rights to the troll doll outside of Scandinavia. Trolls is an upcoming 3D computer-animated musical comedy film based solely on Dam’s Dolls and slated for release in November 2016.

“Thomas always had a dream that his trolls would star in a movie, and if we had him here today, he would be so excited — it’s the fulfillment of his dreams,” says Dam Things CEO Calle Østergaard.

As Thomas Dam aged, he introduced a grandma and grandpa troll. Though sales fluctuated in the years between the end of the first troll craze and the beginning of the second, Dam continued carving and doing the damn thing, creating over 20 different troll expressions for his original Good Luck Trolls that never left Scandinavia, where copyright laws were stricter. He died in 1989 at the age of 74. An article written about Thomas Dam shortly before his death described him as “very energetic and agile, with a wry sense of humour.”

The End


Third Time’s a Charm, Mandi Keighra. Norwegian.com

“Troll Doll”, Wiki

“Troll” (Scandinavian folklore and mythology), Wiki

“What is the origin of the folklore that trolls live under bridges?” Reddit