I discovered this show the same way I discover most of my strange fixations: procrastinating on something important, falling down a Wikipedia rabbit hole, and eventually waking up from my trance with the all-consuming desire to mainline a multi-seasoned show I had just learned about. In this case, the topic I had been searching for was the Yule Lads, a Scandinavian tale of a group of pranksters who cause mischief during the holiday season. A few clicks later, I was introduced to the world of “Hilda.”
Long-time readers (aka my friends who read my blog out of kindness) will know I’ve written about “Hilda” on this blog before. First, it was to recommend the holiday episode and then later to recommend the show as one of many rainy-day watches. However, I think this show is special enough to warrant its own blog post. Also, that blog post about shows to watch on a rainy day got almost no views despite the hours of work I poured into it, so I think I’m entitled to recycle the content.
“Hilda” is a sweet animated show based on the graphic novel series “Hilda” by Luke Pearson. The series debuted on Netflix in 2018 and was well-received by critics, leading to a second season and the movie “Hilda and the Mountain King.” The show follows a bright, adventurous young girl, Hilda, voiced by Bella Ramsey (that actor who killed it in “Game of Thrones” and “The Last of Us“). We follow Hilda as she explores her world, a Scandinavian folklore-inspired landscape, encountering new and old friends and mythical creatures, all before returning home at the end of the day for dinner and board games with her mum, Johanna, voiced by Daisy Haggard.
The unique setting sets “Hilda” apart from other fantasy series. The majority of “Hilda” is set in Trolberg, a modern metropolis with running water and indoor plumbing. It may seem as though the sight of a working television set or a horseless carriage would take you out of the world of Trolberg, but these modern sights help to further form the world. A close comparison might be the 2020 Pixar movie “Onward,” which also features fantasy creatures living in a modern setting (though straight up, “Onward” wishes it could be as good as “Hilda”).
I usually try to show people the first two episodes of “Hilda,” and then let them decide to continue watching the show. Even though sometimes my media recommendations are like pearls before swine, I owe it to this show to continue trying. Also, the first two episodes are like a mini-movie and go best when watched together.
The first episode shows Hilda and her mother living in their small cozy cabin in the forest. Although their days seem idyllic, trouble is brewing in the form of a neighborly dispute. More specifically, the tiny, invisible elves who populate the land outside of Hilda’s home have had enough of the constant tramplings, and they want Hilda and her mom out. Hilda, understandably, doesn’t want to leave her cozy cabin in the woods to move to the lame city of Trolberg. In an effort to save her and her mum from eviction, Hilda joins forces with Alfur, a friendly elf, to find the elf king and convince him that she and her mother serve as no threat to the elf people.
In the second episode, Hilda’s plan is somewhat derailed by the reappearance of a gentle giant, Jorgen. Jorgen is a melancholy fellow who has long waited for a special friend. While Hilda continues her crusade to befriend the elf king, she is interrupted by an avalanche with strange consequences. The avalanche was no regular avalanche, but rather a sleeping giantess awakening and shaking off the millenium of snow. Specifically, this giant is Jorgen’s friend and lost love, who waited so long for him that she fell asleep, laying dormant throughout their separation.
Is the story of a mountain revealing itself to be a beautiful giantess and the lover of another lonely giant a universal story? No, it’s not, unless you have some strange family history I don’t know about. But “The Midnight Giant” is crafted with so much love and yearning that we, as the audience, cannot help but empathize with these characters. How would you feel if you waited so long for someone that you forgot to live in the process? And when that person finally returned to your life, you no longer remembered who you were when you first met? Do you feel sorrow for the time lost? Joy to be reunited with your beloved? Or do you feel some combination of those feelings?
Also, the episode ends with the giants crushing Hilda’s cabin, so she and her mom have to move to Trolberg anyway. Womp womp.
By the end of the second episode, I usually dissolve into a puddle of tears, then turn expectantly to whoever I’m watching with and demand a similar reaction. I’ve had mixed results with this tactic.
“Hilda” is a deftly woven tale about the thrill of adventure, discovery, love, and friendship. It is a show that acknowledges the excitement of change and growth and the poignancy of knowing that nothing lasts forever.
Throughout the series, we watch Hilda as she bravely encounters new situations and matures from those experiences. We see the tender love between her and her mom, but we also see how Hilda chafes against that love as she strives to grow up and become her own person. The fact that I’m also nearing Johanna’s age, more than I am Hilda’s, probably contributes to my complicated feelings when I’m watching this show. On the one hand, I’m like, “You go girl, you fight that kraken!” On the other hand, I’m incensed on Johanna’s behalf because who the hell wants to know their small child is fighting a grown-ass Kraken?
We watch as Hilda builds and maintains friendships with the other children in Trolberg. David and Frida, Hilda’s closest friends and fellow Sparrow Scouts, happily accompany Hilda on her adventures, all while learning about themselves as well. David begins the series as a cowardly, insecure young boy, but gradually becomes someone willing to take risks to achieve his goals. Frida is determined but somewhat self-centered at the beginning of the story, and she learns to show her friends the care they deserve, while also growing into her own power as a witch. Although different, these friends support each other and work together to achieve their goals. They’re flawed, but they still love and support one another, the way we all wish our friends would.
There are moments when watching “Hilda” feels less like a TV show and more like an experience. It’s all too easy to want to step into the world of Trolberg and look around. We want to be able to buy some jorts-themed snacks from the vending machines, then go to the top of the great walls surrounding the city, and gaze below at the trolls outside the city walls. We want to spend more time getting to know the elves, the lindworms, and the nisse, all while keeping an eye open for the next creature.
In “Hilda,” even the most frightening creatures are approached from a place of compassion. We learn that the terrifying lindworm loves to garden. The nisse, a creature renowned for mischievous ways, is the irreverent guardian of nowhere space. The frightening storm spirits are only frightening because they’re looking for their baby, who’s scared and alone without them.
Each episode of “Hilda” is like the proverbial box of chocolates. We’re never quite sure how the story will proceed or what will be the focus of that episode. What we do know is that appearances within the world of “Hilda” can be deceiving. However, with a little trust, and an open mind, you’re bound to discover something you would never have conceived.
So please, watch the third season of this show when it premieres, because I need to have someone to talk to about it. The show pairs nicely with peppermint tea, savory pies, and vegetable broth.
3 thoughts on “Please Please Please Watch “Hilda””
– Excuse you, miss! I commented on the rainy day show blog!
– Wow I had not heard of Onward except one time when I saw a mini trailer for it on TV LOL wonder how that did…
– She waited so long for him that she fell asleep… that is so sad… again anti-romance kick.