The story goes that a Danish woodcutter named Thomas Dam needed a birthday gift for his young daughter one day in the late 1950's, and, lacking the extra money for such frivolities, instead carved the girl a doll out of wood. The doll was made to resemble a troll, one of the ugly subhuman creatures that pop up so often in Scandinavian mythology. Dam's daughter dressed up her new little friend and showed it around to her playmates; it happened to catch the eye of a local toy store owner who liked it and asked Dam to make him some to sell. The ugly little dolls - which were supposed to bring their owners good luck - gained an enthusiastic following, and were soon being sold all over the world.
The trolls became a fad in America in late 1963 and turned into a hot item for adults and children, the height of their popularity lasting nearly two years. They were featured on the covers of both Time and Life magazines, and more than a million were sold in the United States in 1964 alone. Trolls were the second highest selling dolls of the 1960's, after Barbie.
The original Dam-manufactured dolls were of high quality - they employed the use of lambs'-wool hair, soft rubber, and glass eyes. Unfortunately, a glitch in the original copyright notice, as well as the sudden popularity and ease of manufacture of the dolls, created a huge opening for knock-offs and generic trolls that lasted for years. In 2003, a change in the American copyright law gave the exclusive right to manufacture troll dolls back to the Dam family.
The little creatures can still be purchased today in toy and gift stores as well as online. Vintage trolls of various sizes, colors, and shapes have become sought-after collectibles. The trolls, with their wild hair, pinched faces, and pot bellies, have brought good luck and a smile to millions of people. It sounds like a fairy tale - the kind that features mythical creatures - but a humble gift carved for a woodcutter's daughter has found love all over the world, and has truly earned its place in the Pop Culture hall of fame.