Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Karius and Baktus: Thorbjorg Egner's dental trolls

Cute, lovable little trolls, right? Wrong! Unless you like cavities and tooth decay. Read on...

Here's an unusual and interesting book for children: Karius and Baktus, written and illustrated by Thorbjorn Egner. It's a European classic that uses the cartoonish trolls to teach children about proper dental care and how to prevent cavities.

Originally published in 1949, the copy pictured at left is an extremely rare copy of what I believe to be the first American printing (Bobbs-Merrill, 1962) of this children's book. It was translated from the Norwegian by Virginia Allen Jensen. And speaking of Scandinavia... troll lovers should check out The Trolls of Scandinavia.

I'm sure many books or pamphlets have been written since to educate children about good dental hygiene, but I couldn't say how many preceded Egner's story. I'd have to think that his was a pioneering effort or at least near the beginning of such such efforts to publish such literature. At any rate, the story became quite popular and the book has gone through many printings. Films and stage plays have even featured the almost likable little trolls.

These little trolls are the main characters in this humorous and charming little tale. Karius and Baktus are dental trolls who live in the mouth of a young boy named Jimmy. They thrive on candy, soda, and other sugar-based foods. This diet enables them to build a nice home (cavity) in Jimmy's tooth and he gets a pretty bad toothache as a result. A visit to the dentist destroys their home and prevents them from returning. But Jimmy must learn how to get rid of them altogether to protect the rest of his teeth. The author's illustrations add a humorous touch to deliver the message about taking care of your teeth.

I should have read this many years ago. Karius and Baktus built a subdivision in my teeth. All's well now, but these little devils didn't go quietly or cheaply.


  1. Anonymous2/12/10 15:11

    Thanks for this information. I hope you do not mind that I linked to this page at http://www.facebook.com/enigmaticreader because I have a copy of this book that I am trying to sell.

  2. I don't mind helping a fellow bookseller. I'd appreciate a link to Whiting Books in return. Best of luck! Chuck

  3. Anonymous3/12/10 19:16

    Thanks. I'll put a link to your bookstore. Was not aware you were a bookseller.