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Film / Rollo and the Spirit of the Woods

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"Aren't all living creatures equal? Equally worthy and important?"

Rollo and the Spirit of the Woods (Finnish: Rölli ja metsänhenki, also titled Rolli) is a 2001 Finnish fantasy film directed by Olli Saarela. It is the second film based on the children's television character Rölli, with the first being Rölli – hirmuisia kertomuksia (English: Rolli – Amazing Tales) from the year 1991. Unlike Rölli – hirmuisia kertomuksia that was much truer to the TV character, Rollo and the Spirit of the Woods was taken further into the traditional world of fantasy and adventure.

A tribe of hairy and rowdy troll-like creatures called rolleys (röllit) have sailed to find a new home. They beach in a lush and beautiful land, finding in the forest a village inhabited by peaceful elves (menninkäiset). Scared by the dirty strangers, the elves retreat from their village, and the rolleys take it as their new home. When everything seems to look fine for the tribe, the Old Chief decides it's his time to leave this world and departs, leaving his leadership position open for the rolleys to compete over. It's during these turbulent times that the elves gather up the courage to meet with the rolleys and offer friendship. Unfortunately, with the tribe being directed by the glib adviser Lackey (Lakeija), the rolleys aren't willing to share the village and drive the elves away.


The brave elf girl Millie the Elf (Milli Menninkäinen) decides to try and make peace with the rolleys. She befriends the kindest rolley known as Rölli (Rölli). The other rolleys aren't pleased with one of their own fraternizing with an outsider, but Rölli and Millie must work together in order to form peace between their peoples, for they learn that the hostility is threatening the balance of the entire forest.

The film won three Jussi Awards in 2002. The Awards were Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, and Best Costume Design.


This film provides example of:

  • An Aesop: You'll be better off in life through tolerance and consideration. You must be responsible with how you use the power and recognition you gain. And while you can fool around a bit, you mustn't do so stupidly, else the consequences can be severe.
  • All Trolls Are Different: The rolleys are like a ragtag gang of hooligans who like doing naughty things and scaring people. Though supposedly distinct from trolls, they call themselves trolls at times during their songs.
  • Animorphism: Upon dying, the Old Chief of the rolleys turns into a turkey and joins the aviary of the Master of the Scales. When Millie's dead, Rölli fears that this will happen to her as well, but fortunately nothing like that happens.
  • Arrows on Fire: While leading the rolleys to attack the elves, Rölli plans to launch the attack with a burning arrow. He does intent to aim it at the sea, but Lackey intentionally strikes his shoulder, causing the arrow to set the elves' tents ablaze.
  • Badass Baritone: Encouraged by Cacophony's flute-playing, the terse and snarling Big Rölli sings a beautifully melodic song in a deep tone.
  • Bad is Good and Good is Bad: The rolleys like doing naughty things and dislike nice people and cleanliness.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Soon after replacing Big as the rolley chief, Rölli finds himself alone with the giant rolley. As Big looms over him menacingly, Rölli cowers, fully expecting a beatdown. Then Big starts laughing and applauding, even hugging and patting Rölli in the back.
  • Balance Between Good and Evil: The Master of the Scales has gigantic scales he uses to measure good and evil in the forest. Concerned about how much evil is outweighing good due to the hostilities between the rolleys and the elves, he asks Millie to help him with balancing the scales. He tells that if evil conquers the world, an eternal darkness will cover the forest. When Millie dies during the rolleys' attack, evil becomes so strong that the darkness the Master feared occurs. Rölli manages to return the balance and lift the darkness when he expresses his remorse to Millie's body, bringing her back to life in the process.
  • Big Bad: Lackey, the glib adviser of the Old Chief. He's ultimately the most mean-spirited rolley, and it's mostly due to his influence that the tribe engages in hostilities with the elves. The eventual peace includes him being stripped of any authority.
  • But Now I Must Go: As soon as his scales are balanced and the sunlight has returned, the Master of the Scales departs with his scales and birds, waving goodbye for Rölli and the resurrected Millie from a distance.
  • Catapult to Glory: After Millie's caught by the rolleys, Lackey decides to return her to the elves' camp by using a catapult. It's first tested with Knobbly, but he lands no farther than right in front of the catapult. Right after this, Lackey has to give up his plan when the new chief Big decides to have Millie for a lunch.
  • The Chains of Commanding:
    • The Old Chief of the rolleys is weary, and when he believes that he has fulfilled his purpose by bringing his tribe to a lush new home, he resigns from his position and departs to die in peace.
    • After replacing Big as the chief, Rölli enjoys his new status for a time. However, when Millie asks him to bring the elves and rolleys together, he refuses to bother his head with such complicated issues and sends her away. He soon afterwards goes to ask his best friend Cacophony to make a song about him and ends up quarreling with him when he refuses to give the leadership position to him. Rölli ends up lampshading this trope by admitting that it's very lonely to be a leader.
  • Covered in Mud: While first running from the rolleys, Millie trips over a root and falls face down into a sludge pond. With her face covered in mud, she goes to meet Rölli who doesn't at first recognize her as an elf until she washes herself.
  • Crown of Horns: The headgear of the rolleys' chieftain is adorned by two curved horns.
  • Cue the Sun: When the Balance Between Good and Evil is restored, the eternal darkness goes away and Millie comes back to life in the sunlight.
  • Dance Party Ending: The film ends with the elves and rolleys celebrating together in the village, dancing and having fun as Cacophony plays his flute and the elf elder sings "Juhlat alkakoon" ("May the celebration begin").
  • The Dandy: Cacophony is more neat in his mannerism and appearance than the other rolleys, haughtily considers himself more sophisticated and tender than them, and he's an excellent musician.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: After Rölli accidentally knocks out Big and replaces him as the rolleys' chief, Big takes it surprisingly well and becomes Rölli's supporter.
  • Disney Death: Millie's crushed under a rolling boulder launched by the rolleys' catapult. She's then carried to the elves' cemetery, but since she doesn't turn into a bird like the rolleys' Old Chief did, Rolli hopes that she isn't irreversibly gone. After his alarm clock fails to wake her up, he throws in the towel and fully confesses how much he misses her. This prompts good and evil to become balanced once again, and as the sun shines again, a dove of the Master of the Scales lands on Millie who then wakes up unharmed.
  • Dumb Muscle: Big is the largest and strongest rolley, yet he's very little on brains.
  • Empty Piles of Clothing: When the Old Chief leaves his tribe, Rolli follows him to the elves' cemetery that consists of scaffolds adorned by empty elf clothes. The Old Chief turns into a turkey upon dying, and his clothes are later still seen on the scaffold he died on.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Though Cacophony is angry at Big for taking away the former's election victory through violence and throwing him onto a roof, he and Rölli feel sorry for Big when the latter is unable to make a speech under Lackey's prodding, so Cacophony decides to alleviate Big's tension by playing his flute, prompting Big into singing his titular song.
  • Evil Chancellor: Lackey is the adviser of the rolley tribe's elderly chieftain. When the Old Chief resigns, Lackey runs for the chieftain position against Cacophony, but as soon as Big joins the election, Lackey decides to let the dim-witted brute be elected and direct him. He indeed takes it upon himself to uphold the tribe's hostility towards the elves. When Rölli knocks out Big and is made the new chief, Lackey quickly convinces "Rölli the Great" to make him his adviser. He eventually manipulates Rölli into attacking the elves and drive them far away. In an aftermath deleted scene, the ashamed Rölli is about to resign, so Lackey decides to replace him and make things worse than they already are. Refusing to allow this, Rölli duels with Lackey and beats him with Big's help.
  • Figure It Out Yourself: When Rölli asks from the Master of the Scales what he must do to bring the sun back and resurrect Millie, the Master merely says that he already knows the answer.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Lackey, the meanest of all the rolleys, wears spectacles all the time.
  • Gender Flip: Cacophony was female in the television series.
  • Heroic BSoD: Rölli after Millie dies.
  • Hey, Catch!: When first surrounded by the rolleys, Millie throws her bag in the air. As the rolleys catch it and start inspecting its contents, she starts running.
  • Hidden Depths: Big Rölli is a snarling Dumb Muscle who rarely utters a full word to the point that he's hit by stage fright when he's supposed to make a speech. However, when Cacophony starts playing his flute, Big sings with a deep voice and eloquently about tender feelings hidden under the rolleys' rowdy shells.
  • Hoist Hero over Head: The deleted scenes include an example done to a villain; while rescuing Rölli from Lackey, Big raises Lackey above his head before throwing him into the pond.
  • Human Hammer-Throw: Big does this to Cacophony when the latter protests against the former winning the chieftain election through intimidation. Cacophony lands on the roof of his house and gets his head bandaged.
  • In the Hood: The mysterious Master of the Scales covers his face with a hood until Rölli and Millie first meet him.
  • Jerkass: Lackey is mean, conceited, manipulative, and thoroughly hostile to the elves from the start. In a deleted scene, he mocks the broken Rölli for failing as the chieftain and being sad over Millie's death.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: During the election for a new rolley chieftain, Big intimidates the voters into supporting him, twisting the nose of the first voter who dares to vote for Cacophony. Losing his patience, Cacophony tirades to the voters in an offensive manner that they can support whoever candidate they want to and reap what they sow with the one they choose as their leader. He then tells Big (once again, highly offensively) that Lackey is using him. Unfortunately for Cacophony, Big throws him through the air, but the fact that Big (who doesn't seem to much understand Cacophony's verbose tirade) does that on Lackey's incitement proves Cacophony's point right.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • True to his portrayal from TV, Rölli is mischievous, irritable, and he tries to live up to his people's bad guy image, but fails at it due to his ultimately kind heart. Though convinced to lead an attack to scare the elves far away through peer pressure and anger, he calls the attack off before it can begin the minute his burning arrow starts causing real damage.
    • Big Rölli is a growling, ill-mannered and intimidating brute, and he even wants to eat Millie at one point. Aside from that, some of his misdeeds can be attributed to his stupidity and gullibility. He takes it surprisingly well when Rölli knocks him out and replaces him as the rolleys' chieftain. He's also shown getting along well with the rolley children, allowing one to ride piggyback on him in the opening scene. He also merrily dances with an elf female in the ending scene. In a deleted scene, just as Lackey gains the upper hand in the duel he has with Rölli, Big rushes to Rölli's aid and throws Lackey into the pond.
    • The rolleys on the whole. They're erratic, like to portray themselves as scary meanies, and they're not good at taking others into account. They don't want to share the village with its real owners, but they tolerate the ponies left there and have on the whole a good community spirit. They quickly support Lackey's idea to scare the elves away from the forest, but they lose their enthusiasm when Millie dies and the sunlight's blocked. In the end, all the rolleys except for Lackey learn to share the village with the elves. The novel based on the movie states that even though rolleys try to act meaner than they are, they're quite harmless, if thoughtless.
  • Lack of Empathy: Lackey cares nothing about how the elves feel about being driven out of their homes, and even his own people's feelings don't concern him unless he can somehow exploit them. He also remorselessly causes Rölli to hit the elves' tent with a flaming arrow, and he marvels at the sun being covered by the moon while everyone else are unsettled by this and dismayed by Millie's death. A deleted scene plays this even further by having him gleefully plan on how to make things worse as the new chieftain of his tribe even though everyone else are still unsettled by the permanent darkness, and he mocks Rölli for mourning Millie's death.
  • Loud of War: When Lackey insults Cacophony and tells him to "just blow in his pipe", Cacophony responds by playing a gratingly high tone with his clarinet… with the wind blowing Lackey right in the face.
  • Manchild: The growling dumb muscle Big can come off as a big irritated kid with speech impediments. During his coronation, he's eating porridge and petulantly knocks the chieftain's headgear off his head to continue his eating, with Lackey trying to make him act with more dignity. When it's time to make a speech and he can't think of anything to say, he writhes in the spot like a kid hit by stage fright.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Lackey, the glib adviser of the Old Chief. When Big asserts his position in the election for a new chieftain, Lackey decides to back off and rule the tribe by influencing the dim-witted brute. When Rölli accidentally knocks out Big, Lackey quickly gets in his good graces through adulation, even convincing him to lead an attack to drive the elves far away.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Though Rölli isn't heard saying anything, his expression all but screams this trope as he holds Millie who's just been killed in the attack he started.
  • Never Say "Die": Played straight for the most part. When the Old Chief tells his tribe that he's leaving them because "his time has come", Lackey tries to find a polite way to ask if the former plans to go to die and settles for using the "kick the bucket" euphemism. The Old Chief replies that he's leaving to rest, and later Millie calls the cemetery a place of resting. However, the rule is broken in the darker part where Rölli uses exactly twice the word dead in regards to Millie.
  • The Night That Never Ends: The Master of the Scales warns Millie that if the evil measured by his scales grows too heavy, the forest will be veiled by an eternal darkness. He also matter-of-factly tells Rölli that without the sunlight, all life in the forest (and elsewhere) will die. When evil triumphs upon Millie's death, the sun is covered by the moon. This is fortunately reversed when good and evil become balanced once again.
  • No Body Left Behind: As the Old Chief waits for his death, he vanishes inside his clothes and emerges as a turkey.
  • Noisy Shut-Up: When the rolleys discover a footprint at the beach, everyone except for Lackey starts screaming in fright. He has to loudly yell "QUIET!" to get them to listen.
  • Older than They Look: The lifespan of rolleys is apparently a long one. While singing about their wandering, they claim to have been traveling for three centuries. Rölli claims he's young for a rolley, less than four hundred years old.
  • Our Elves Are Different: These elves are the Wood Elves variety; they're peaceful, fair-haired, more nature-friendly than the rolleys, and have green as their most prominent garment color. However, they're not called elves by the Finnish term (haltija) in the movie. They're instead called menninkäinens (singular as menninkäinen), creatures that are Finnish equivalents for the fair folk.
  • The Paralyzer: The village elder of the elves uses a spell to completely immobilize Lackey who's trying to sic the other rolleys into attacking them. The effect wears off when the elves start leaving only a moment later.
  • Peaceful in Death: The Old Chief spends his last moments sitting peacefully and having a serene expression that doesn't change even as his entire body is sucked up inside his clothing to reappear as a turkey.
  • Pietà Plagiarism: Done by Rölli to Millie after she's crushed under a boulder.
  • Pointy Ears: The elves, of course. Lackey has them as well, and maybe some of the other rolleys too (it's difficult to tell as their ears are covered by tangled hair).
  • Put Their Heads Together: Big does this to Lackey and Cacophony who are arguing whether or not Cacophony will still be a chief candidate against Big.
  • Ring-Ring-CRUNCH!: Anytime Rölli is awakened by an alarm clock, he starts hitting it with a hammer before throwing it into Millie's flowerbed where it finally shuts down.
  • Running Gag:
    • Rölli being annoyed by a ringing alarm clock to the point of hitting it with a hammer and throwing it into a flowerbed.
    • A character stepping/falling in a pond of mud outside Millie's house.
  • Shapeshifting Excludes Clothing: When the Old Chief dies and turns into a turkey, his clothes are left on the scaffold.
  • Smug Snake: Lackey is undeniably malevolent and considers himself more shrewd than the other rolleys. The soundtrack even includes a song in which he flaunts his superior intelligence, stating brainpower to be true power.
  • The Sociopath: Lackey arrogantly considers himself to be intellectually superior to everyone else, shamelessly revels in causing mayhem, lacks empathy even towards his own kind, regards caring as a weakness, is willing to manipulate and use anyone for his own gain, and is the only rolley who doesn't change for the better.
  • Staff of Authority:
    • The sceptre that every leader of the rolley tribe has carried.
    • The elves' elder has a staff that's adorned by something that looks like a big curved tooth.
    • The Master of the Scales appears at Millie's funeral with a staff that has a metallic spiral at its top.
  • Super Strength: Big Rolley performs a Human Hammer-Throw on Cacophony and carries a large boulder to be used in the catapult.
  • Tastes Like Friendship: When Millie and Rölli first meet without anyone else around, he's highly reluctant to socialize with a non-rolley out of the fear of what other rolleys might think and tells her to leave. She first attempts to get him to open up by offering to make him lichen tea when he sneezes, but the offer's immediately turned down. She then notices some captured viviparous lizards and offers to make soup from their tails. That piques Rölli's interest, and they're next shown conversing over lizard tail soup.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: When Millie's crushed under a boulder, the scene cuts to the elves' village elder having this expression.
  • Tickle Torture: When Rölli's first caught by his brethren after he escaped from them with Millie, they start tickling him to teach him a lesson. Millie provoking them to chase her instead puts a stop to this.
  • Token Evil Teammate: Lackey to the rolleys. He's right from the start the meanest rolley and at the forefront in showing hostility towards the elves. He's the only one who's in a good mood following the attack which leads to Millie dying and the sunlight being taken away. He's also the only rolley who doesn't turn nice.
  • Token Good Teammate: Rölli's the nicest rolley, even though he wouldn't want to admit it. His jerkass behaviour is just a defense mechanism.
  • Villain Song: Lackey is the lead singer of "Lakeijan Manaus" ("Lackey's Incantation") and "Sotaanlähtö" ("To War"). He sings the former as Millie's about to be cooked, and the latter when the rolleys march to drive the elves far away. Though it didn't make it to the movie, he has one more song of his own in the soundtrack, appropriately named "Lakeijan laulu" ("Lackey's song").
  • Wham Line: When Rölli accidentally knocks out Big while rescuing Millie, he's surrounded by the other rolleys and expects to be captured or attacked. Much to his surprise, Lackey — who has shown him nothing but disdain up until this point — calls him Rölli the Great and offers him the sceptre, saying that the first beater of Big is the new chieftain.
    Lackey: Unbelievable. No-one's ever knocked Big out. Rölli the Great, here's the sceptre. You're our new leader. [Rölli takes the sceptre in confusion] I'm your humble servant.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: At Millie's funeral, the Master of the Scales reproaches Rölli for causing Millie's death and bringing the eternal darkness over the forest by letting his people act selfishly.
    The Master of the Scales: Do you miss your friend?
    Rölli: Just a little, not too much.
    The Master of the Scales: Not too much? What do you most wish for, Rölli?
    Rölli: Is Millie too now going to turn into one of those great tits or wagtails? Is this all turning into a feathery tale as well? Is Millie now dead? I'd like her as an elf.
    The Master of the Scales: An an elf? Wasn't it you rolleys who wanted to drive all the elves and forest creatures away to… to…
    Rölli: To where the peppercorn grows.
    The Master of the Scales: Exactly. Aren't all living creatures equal? Equally worthy and important? Do you see, Rölli the Great? Darkness has fallen. If the light of the sun disappears, all life in the forest will be gone.
    Rölli: What should I do to return everything back to normal and get Millie back?
    The Master of the Scales: You do know the answer.