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Hilda

Entry updated 24 January 2022. Tagged: TV.

UK/Canadian animated online tv series (2018-current). Netflix. Based on the Graphic Novels by Luke Pearson beginning with Hildafolk (graph 2010). Executive producers Clint Eland, Kurt Mueller, Luke Pearson and Stephanie Simpson. Directed by Andy Coyle. Writers include Kenny Byerly, Ben Joseph, Luke Pearson and Stephanie Simpson. Voice cast includes Rachel August, Ameerah Falzon-Ojo, Daisy Haggard, Rasmus Hardiker, John Hopkins, Dino Kelly, Ako Mitchell, Oliver Nelson and Bella Ramsay. 26 usually 24-minute episodes to date, plus one 85-minute film. Colour.

In a Nordic wilderness Hilda (Ramsay), aged eleven or thereabouts, lives in an isolated cottage, happily exploring the surrounding Pastoral landscape and its creatures. When her mother (Haggard) decides to move to the city, Hilda is upset. Meanwhile, a giantess is reunited with her boyfriend: she had slept 4,000 years waiting for him (mistaken for a mountain all the while); together they leap into space, as had the other giants (see Great and Small) when humans first arrived, the world now too small. Just before departing, the boyfriend obliviously steps on Hilda's home, who notices her mother has similarly trodden on an Elf house: she reluctantly accepts that it is time to leave.

Trollberg is a (fairly) modern walled city (see Cities), built on Troll land. There Hilda joins the Sparrow Scouts, befriending super-organized Frida (Falzon-Ojo) ("research is the greatest adventure of all") and timid David (Nelson). Hilda also discovers the local Library's secret room, whose stock includes a book of spells (see Magic), whilst the helpful goth (and witchy) librarian provides Hilda with the tools to raise the dead.

When a severe storm disrupts Trollberg, Hilda visits the weather station to meet the local meteorologist, Victoria Van Gale, whose Technology enables limited Weather Control, but "the atmosphere only truly answers to one thing: the weather spirits". Her attempts to study these spirits have gotten out of hand (imprisoning a baby spirit has angered them): she is a borderline Mad Scientist.

Most of the fauna is drawn from northern folklore (see Mythology), there being Trolls, Vittra, Giants, Elves, Marra, Nisse, Lindworms and Barghests. The Elves are fixated on paperwork; one, Alfur (Hardiker), becomes a friend (once the right forms have been signed, of course). The Nisse each live in a composite room formed of a house's unused, unseen spaces (see the discussions on topology in Dimensions and Mathematics); the outdoors' equivalent aggregation forming a place "vast and cold". Other inhabitants include Woodman (Mitchell), a small wooden biped inclined to enter your home without so much as a by-your-leave (who, when Hilda tries to chat, responds "I don't come here for the conversation you know"); a Rat King who trades in secrets ("Oh we're so bad, no pudding for us!") and Hilda's Deerfox, Twig.

Season 2 highlights the town's colonial history ("Why did they build a city in the middle of troll-country?" "Why not? The trolls weren't doing anything special with the land."), through the ambitions of the new head of Trollberg's Safety Patrol, the self-aggrandizing Erik Ahlberg (Hopkins), who seeks to surpass his ancestor, the founder of the settlement and acclaimed troll slayer. Ahlberg wishes to "protect" the town from trolls, exaggerating their threat, and is indifferent to the damage his plans do to the ecology and non-human sentients of the district.

Episodes include Frida becoming a witch (Hilda will be her familiar); Vikings caught in a Time Loop – each day they die and are brought back to life to battle again (David's head is lopped off); Van Gale creating an artificial Nisse ("How?" "Rigorous scientific methods."), with Frankenstein (1931) being invoked. A neighbour regularly Time-Travels 50 years into the past where his multiple copies witness the night he met a girl he never saw again: Hilda's interference creates a new timeline, bringing forth a timeworm that seeks to harmonize events by removing anomalies (see Time Paradoxes), pursuing Hilda into the present, before matters are tidied up (Hilda: "All things considered, it didn't work out too badly." Alfur: "We saw ourselves die ... twice!"). But the season's main focus is on the trolls, culminating in the finale when Hilda is transformed into a troll.

The television film Hilda and the Mountain King (2021) continues the story: Trylla (August), a troll mother, believes her daughter would be better off as a human in the city and, noticing Hilda prefers the countryside, arranges a changeling spell – the troll baby becoming a human child and Hilda a troll (more a species exchange than an Identity Exchange). Upset, Hilda flees the mother and meets Trundle (Kelly), an imprisoned troll, who assures her he can reverse the transformation if she performs some tasks to free him. This she does, only to discover he is the Trolls' former Mountain King. Amma, the gigantic mother of trolls, sleeps beneath Trollberg: she does not rise for fear of killing the inhabitants, but the King now leads a militant troll faction to the town, to incite a violent response – he sacrifices his life, intending Amma to be compelled to rise and defend her people. This is averted by Hilda and it is agreed that that once a year, on The Night of the Trolls, the trolls can enter the city to commune with their mother: as Hilda says, "It's a start". Hilda and the child revert to their original forms, though Hilda retains some Troll qualities; she has also learnt about troll culture and to avoid generalizations.

Hilda is a Hero, kind, smart, inquiring and brave: on meeting a gigantic black hound her first response is delight, while fear must wait its turn. However, she is also reckless and unmindful that something wonderful to her might be received less enthusiastically by others. Though the first season's prevailing mood is upbeat, sometimes an undercurrent of things being lost, of Thinning [see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below], will rise close to the surface; this continues in season two, through the matter of the city's founding (see Imperialism); the film builds on the themes raised by these seasons, such as racism and the treatment of indigenous people. A charming art style, engaging characters and imaginative storytelling make this an excellent animation series, deservedly winning three 2018 Annie awards and a 2019 Daytime Emmy. [SP]

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