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Literature / Helga's Dowry

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Helga's Dowry is a picture book by Tomie dePaola.
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Pretty but poor troll maiden Helga has a problem: she has no dowry, and without it, she cannot compete against Inge, who is trying to steal her boyfriend Lars. So Helga sets out to earn her own dowry — but will it be worth it?


This book contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Altar the Speed: Midway through Helga's work, Inge turns up and taunts her that Lars insisted on marrying her even sooner than the assumed date, rather than waiting for Helga.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Earlier, when pointing out what a good prospect Inge's dowry makes her, Lars mentions it would make him richer than anyone except the troll king. The troll king turns up at the end of the story, wanting to marry Helga and noting her dowry doesn't matter at all to someone of his wealth.
  • Deus ex Machina: While Lars does mention the troll king's existence at the beginning, he never appears or has any interaction with Helga before asking for her hand to provide the story with a happy ending.
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  • Dowry Dilemma: An attractive but poor troll maiden named Helga finds that she may not be able to marry her boyfriend Lars without a dowry to match that of her rival, Inge (which would in turn condemn her to wander the earth forever), so she sets out to earn one. Ultimately, she does, but winds up ditching Lars, having realized he's more interested in her goods than her. She doesn't wind up needing it, as the Troll King wants to marry her, and he already has much more than he needs.
  • Flying Dutchman: The other reason Helga needs a dowry; in addition to wanting to marry Lars in particular, she needs to marry someone or face a sentence of wandering the earth forever.
  • I Will Wait for You: Downplayed; Helga asks Lars to wait for her while she earns a dowry, which she doesn't anticipate taking a very long time. Indeed, it only takes a few days, but Lars doesn't wait.
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  • Marry for Love: Helga ultimately refuses to marry Lars, saying she wants someone who loves her, not her dowry.
  • Shapeshifter Showdown: Inge, shapeshifted into a tree, shows up to stop Helga from earning a bigger dowry by multiplying the trees she has to fell before she can claim her payment. In rage, Helga transforms herself into a rock and bashes down all the trees except her rival. When her temporary employer points out she didn't get rid of all the trees, Helga says that the one tree left will have to leave to attend a wedding before long.
  • Villain Ball: When Helga comes back, Lars, instead of pretending to be apologetic for thinking of marrying Inge, proceeds to gush over Helga's dowry being even bigger than hers. Predictably, Helga refuses him.
  • Would Rather Suffer: Helga comes back after earning her own dowry so she can afford to marry. However, in the process, she's learned that her intended doesn't love her and is only interested in marrying wealthy. She tells him she'd rather wander the world forever (the penalty for being an unmarried troll maiden) than marry him. (Fortunately, she winds up being able to take a third option.)

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