News Column

Funeral services set for Wilmington's 'Troll Lady'

July 9, 2014

By Ben Steelman, Star-News, Wilmington, N.C.



July 09--Funeral services are planned July 19 for Minna Kuuskoski, a Wilmington storyteller, artist and puppeteer who was beloved as "the Troll Lady."

Kuuskoski, 61, died Monday.

Born in Finland, she joined the family business, making and selling whimsical dolls inspired by Scandinavian myths about trolls. Kuuskoski gained a following with her regular Saturday afternoon storytelling sessions for children at "U.S. Trolls," the family's retail outlet at 2305 Market St.

"The nice thing about troll magic is you never run out of it," she told children. "When you sprinkle it ... you'll always get more. It's almost like smiling."

"She spread her troll magic to everyone she knew," said Terry Linehan, a local filmmaker, whose 2008 documentary about the Kuuskoski family, "Troll Story," was screened at the Cucalorus Film Festival. "She was as kind as she looked."

Linehan, who teaches film studies at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, often sent students to document Minna Kuuskoski's storytelling sessions. Kuuskoski invited over students and faculty for coffee every year, he said.

Born April 6, 1953, in Turku, Finland, Kuuskoski was the daughter of Martti Kuuskoski and Hilkka Helena Viljanen. A year earlier, in 1952, her mother had begun making trolls from leather, fur, felt and other materials.

"Originally, trolls were supposed to be ugly beings who lived under bridges and caused trouble," Linehan said.

Kuuskoski and her mother, however, decided that some trolls had to be good, so they created colorful, usually furry creatures "who spread love and comedy," Linehan added.

As youngsters and teens, Minna Kuuskoski and her brother, Johann, happily joined in the family's cottage industry, Fauni Trolls. The family employed a large number of neighbors and even developed a "Trolldom" theme park, with teenagers in troll costumes, that became a Finnish tourist attraction.

Then, Minna Kuuskoski later told an interviewer, "The tax troll got on our case." Heavy Finnish taxes made it extremely hard to continue to do business, so the Kuuskoskis emigrated, first to Canada in 1973 and then to the United States in 1989. Minna Kuuskoski settled in Wilmington in 1993.

Kuuskoski enthusiastically drew pictures of trolls -- more than 40 different characters with names like Trumpetnose, Honeylips, Boxtroll (actually a robot from outer space), Buster and Bob the Sailor. She also sketched an elaborate map of Trolldom with a complete backstory. (To provide villains, she came up with the mean, messy but funny Mudhats, who live in the nearby Mudswamp.)

Troll dolls come in small, medium and large sizes, noted author Abby Slutsky on the travel website Interesting America, with prices ranging from $6 to $37.

Minna Kuuskoski was also a member of Quilters by the Sea. She sang in the choir at St. Andrew's On the Sound Episcopal Church.

Survivors include her brother and his wife, two nephews and a niece.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m.July 19 at St. Andrew's On the Sound, 101 Airlie Road. Wilmington Funeral and Cremation is handling arrangements.

Ben Steelman: 910-343-2208

___

(c)2014 the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.)

Visit the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.) at www.starnewsonline.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel



Source: Star-News (Wilmington, NC)


Story Tools






HispanicBusiness.com Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters