The Princess and the Trolls

John Bauer1913

Nationalmuseum Sweden

Nationalmuseum Sweden
Stockholm, Sweden

This illustration, with its princess and two trolls, is one of several that Bauer produced for author Helena Nyblom’s tale Bortbytingarna (The Changelings). It was published in the fairy-tale anthology Bland tomtar och troll in 1913. The story is about a troll father who is so taken with the little princess Bianca Maria that he steals her from her cradle and replaces her with his own troll child instead. The children grow up and neither of them fit in with their new families. By the time they reach marrying age the situation has become untenable. On their respective wedding days, both flee to their own homes and everything is put right again.

As is often the case, Bauer here allows the forest to form a diffuse backdrop in muted colours, held together by line-drawn outer contours. The tree trunks of the forest are tall and the boulders enormous, and they are covered with moss and lichen. The background creates a fairy-tale atmosphere and stands in contrast to the foreground, which is more detailed and painted in brighter colours. Just like in the story, Bauer works with opposites in his pictures – rich versus poor, the frightening and ugly trolls versus the ethereal beauty of the princess, the dark and threatening versus the light and good. The illustration can be described as more atmospheric than narrative. It also works as a stand-alone piece, outside the story that it illustrates.

John Bauer’s illustrations for the annual fairytale book Bland tomtar och troll (Among Elves and Trolls) have shaped generations of Swedish children’s perceptions of princesses, knights, trolls and other fairytale characters. Bauer illustrated the anthologies from 1907–1915 (with the exception of 1911), and they were so popular that he became something of a household name.


  • Title: The Princess and the Trolls
  • Creator: John Bauer
  • Creator Lifespan: 1882/1918
  • Creator Nationality: Swedish
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Death Place: Lake Vättern outside Hästholmen
  • Creator Birth Place: Jönköping
  • Date Created: 1913
  • Title in Swedish: Prinsessan och trollen (En kväll vid midsommartid gingo de med Bianca Maria djupt in i skogen)
  • Signature: JOHN BAUER. 1913.
  • Physical Dimensions: w250 x h250 cm (without frame)
  • Artist Information: John Bauer was a Swedish artist and illustrator. He is best known for his depictions of trolls, elves and other folkloristic creatures. In 1904 Bauer visited Lapland on behalf of his client C A V Lundholm to illustrate the life of the Sami people. This trip made an indelible mark on Bauer’s art, as he constantly returned to the rich source of folkloric features that he found in the costumes, interiors and tools of the Sami. In 1907 he started illustrating the annual fairytale book Bland tomtar och troll (Among Elves and Trolls), which was printed in large editions. His paintings of forests and trolls have influenced generations of Swedish readers. After 1915 Bauer focused on monumental painting and works for the theatre. Bauer drowned, aged 36, with his wife and son Bengt, when the steamer Per Brahe capsized during an autumn storm on Lake Vättern.
  • Type: Watercolour
  • Rights: Nationalmuseum, Nationalmuseum
  • Medium: Watercolor

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