It’s apparent from the outset that Hilda isn’t your typical blue-haired little girl. For one thing, she lives with her mother in the mountains, on the edge of a forest populated by magical creatures. In Hilda’s world, boys are made out of wood, antlered foxes gambol alongside itinerant water spirits, and furry beasts flock across the skies.
Hildafolk is an amuse-bouche of a tale. One of London publisher Nobrow’s 17×23 series, a format for emerging artists to “tell their stories in a manageable and economic format,” the book offers a glimpse into a world that’s tantalizingly, almost vexingly, brief.
Luke Pearson’s spare but animated line art invokes the best of Hergé, Tove Jansson, and Hayao Miyazaki. Like Tintin and Chihiro before her, Hilda has a knack for following her instincts, even if those same instincts inevitably land her in trouble.
For Hilda, trouble comes lurching in the form of a troll rock.
For Hilda, trouble comes lurching in the form of a troll rock: a harmless if peculiar-looking rock by day and, according to her research, a man-eating troll at night. Feeling the need to sketch it, she places a tiny bell on the rock’s nose-like protrusion; “just in case a cloud goes over or something.”
But Hilda falls asleep, waking up hours later in the middle of a snowstorm. The rock is gone, the sun is setting, and she can hear the tinkling of a bell close by.
There’s also a giant, towering above the tree line as it sets out on an evening stroll.
Early in the book, Hilda spends the night in her tent in anticipation of heavy rain. “Nothing makes you appreciate the feeling of being snug more when your protection is canvas-thin,” she says, wrapping herself tighter with a blanket. “A million assaults on my coziness, thwarted noisily every time.”
Hildafolk, and the vicarious thrills it gives, is our shelter from the storm.