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Helga G. Pataki
First appearance Arnold Escapes from Chruch (1988, Claymation short)
Last appearance Phoebe's Litte Problem (2004)
Created by Craig Bartlett
Portrayed by Francesca Marie Smith
Nickname(s) Pataki
Gender Female
Occupation 4th grade student
Family "Big" Bob Pataki (father)
Miriam Pataki (mother)
Olga Pataki (sister)

Helga G. Pataki is a fictional character in the Nickelodeon animated television series Hey Arnold!. She is voiced by Francesca Marie Smith.[1]



Helga's second name never was revealed in the show except by her initial, but in one of the chats[2] Craig Bartlett stated that the initial "G." stands for "Geraldine" and is tribute to former Nickelodeon executive Geraldine Laybourne. In the series, Helga is apparently named after her older sister Olga Pataki. The names Olga and Helga are variants (respectively, Russian and German) of the same name. Thus Saint Olga, a princess of Kievan Rus, was called "Olga" by her Slavic subjects and "Helga" by Varangian ones. Her surname, Pataki is originally a Hungarian surname.


Helga is something of a tomboy, as evidenced by her interest in playing contact sports alongside her male classmates, blatant lack of femininity, and disregard, to near dislike, for stereotypical female behavior, as seen in the episode "Helga's Makeover". She can also be very sarcastic, cynical and bossy, bullying her fourth-grade classmates with an iron fist, and often taking advantage of her best friend, Phoebe. However, Helga also has a much softer side, which becomes apparent mostly when she is alone and in her school work. She is heavily emotional, and as such, able to comprehend spectrum emotions such as love and hate. Occasionally Helga has acted in a more selfless manner the biggest examples being when Helga blackmailed Olga's boyfriend into leaving knowing Olga would be miserable with him and when she helped in finding Mr Hyunh's daughter during both these events Helga made sure she was able to cover up her involvement. This emotional extremity is a running joke throughout the series; although Helga is seen as a "tough girl" by her classmates, she is frequently the first to go into hysterics in times of crisis.

Helga is extremely intelligent. In the episode "The Aptitude Test", in which the class takes a standardized exam, it is eventually revealed that she achieved a perfect score on the test and the most outstanding result since her perfectionist sister, Olga Pataki, took the test. Presumably, however, the types of grades she receives on an average basis in school vary from low to high—in the episode "Quantity Time," Helga tells her parents that she failed another math test at school, though in "A Day In The Life Of A Classroom", her teacher Mr. Simmons encourages Helga to help Harold because she received excellent scores on the past two math exams. Her bad grades are most likely caused by her lack of motivation, attention (from both her family and Arnold), and academic concern. Helga appears to excel academically in literature classes, as evidenced by Mr. Simmons's constant praise of her literary work though always withholds her name possibly out of respect as she gets embarrassed from when he reads them aloud. Helga displays a remarkable gift for poetry, creating dramatic soliloquies expressing a situation or feeling with a generous use of vocabulary, especially for someone her age. These instances were more simple in the earlier episodes, but as the series progressed, grew in their intensity. Aside from poetry, Helga exhibits further aspects of cultural experience, being able to identify the work of Edward Hopper and make reference to George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four in "Helga on the Couch".

Relationships with peers

Helga is regarded by most of her peers as a bully. She makes rude remarks and does not hesitate to use or threaten physical force to get her way, which intimidates many of her classmates. She even gave her fists names: Ol' Betsy and the Five Avengers.


Helga is secretly in love with Arnold, despite the fact that she is constantly teasing him and calling him names (usually 'Football Head', in reference to his rather oddly shaped head). Various episodes have her going to the extreme to prevent her secret from being exposed. One such example is the episode “Helga Blabs it All” in which, under the influence of Nitrous Oxide (laughing gas) from a dental filling, she leaves a love declaration on Arnold’s answering machine. After beating up and taking the clothes of a “Campfire Lass” (equivalent to Girl Scouts of the USA), she pretends to be selling cookies in order to gain entry to Arnold's house and steal the tape before he can hear it. In one of the show's most noteworthy episodes, "Helga on the Couch", she actually discusses her obsession with the school psychiatrist (voiced by Kathy Baker). Herein it is revealed her limerence towards Arnold is the result of transference; where her family relationships were weak, Helga subsequently transferred all feelings of love towards the one person who fulfilled her idea of care, Arnold. This is revealed by a flashback in which during Helga's first day of pre-school, her family seemed to completely ignore her existence, forcing her to make the trek to school alone in the rain and mud. Upon arriving at school, it is Arnold who offers her a helping hand and true kindness.

Helga confesses her love after being caught helping Arnold, by Arnold, in Hey Arnold!: The Movie though the two both agree afterward that it was in the heat of the moment.

It is also sometimes hinted in the series Arnold has strong feelings for Helga. Events in episodes like "Married", with Arnold's nightmare of married life climaxing with a heartfelt attempt by the dream Helga to express her love, also implies he has as much trouble as Helga has coming to terms with how deep his feelings are. The show's producer, Craig Bartlett, revealed during an Internet chat that had the second movie, The Jungle Movie (which was planned but never produced), been made, Arnold would have realized he and Helga were meant for each other, and finally reciprocated her feelings.

Although Helga has acknowledged her feelings regarding Arnold, she opts to keep them private by publicly denying and rejecting Arnold through displays of verbal abuse. It is suggested in various episodes that Helga treats Arnold as such due to her fear that revealing her true feelings would cause her embarrassment and humiliation. In "Helga On The Couch," Helga also expresses her fear of being rejected by Arnold.


In contrast to Helga's feelings towards Arnold, she is almost always followed by Brainy in each episode, where he is right behind her breathing very hard (usually after one of Helga's emotional monologues). Though it's apparent that he is in love with Helga, she never returns the feelings as mutual; on scant occasions, she has kissed him due to something going right for her. Usually every encounter with Brainy has Helga punching him between the eyes, which became a running gag for the series—indeed, in one episode in which Helga believed she had lost contact with her emotions and simply responded casually to Brainy and left, he became nervous and ended up punching himself.

Lila Sawyer

Helga is very jealous of Lila Sawyer, who is the object of Arnold's affections in season 3's "Arnold & Lila" and onwards. Unlike Helga, Lila displays indiscriminating compassion, wit, and stylishness—all qualities Helga outwardly lacks. The two do not get along very well from Helga's perspective. Helga's jealousy of Lila worsens when Olga "adopts" Lila in a "big sisters" program in the episode "Big Sis". However, she was able to figure out that Helga was in love with Arnold during the play of Romeo & Juliet, where she noticed Helga desperately wanted to play Juliet when Arnold was selected to play Romeo. She gets Helga to confess to her of this feelings, which she does, and allows her to take her place as Juliet (which leads Helga to take full advantage of the death kiss scene, kissing him for a full minute). She also helped Helga act more kind towards others, though disregarded this advice after Arnold accidentally called her Lila.

Phoebe Heyerdahl

Phoebe Heyerdahl is Helga's best friend. The conflict between Phoebe's quieter, less demanding personality and Helga's more aggressive one occasionally emerges in episodes such as "Hall Monitor", "Preteen Scream", and "Phoebe Breaks a Leg". Phoebe often follows Helga around, taking down notes and appearing more as an assistant rather than a friend to Helga. However, the two do care about each other, as they listen to each other's concerns and help each other out. Phoebe knows about Helga's love for Arnold, and the two refer to him as "Ice Cream" when talking about him (as seen in 'Helga's Love potion'. She is also understanding of Helga's rocky relationship with her family. A running gag throughout the series is when Helga says something embarrassing, she orders Phoebe to forget what she just said, which leads Phoebe to cheerfully state "forgetting".


Like the other characters on the show, Helga's attire rarely changes: she usually wears a pink dress over a white shirt and a large pink bow in her hair. She has bright, blonde hair, which she wears in long pigtails without any visible hair ties, and a black unibrow. She has made some appearances in other outfits, though: throughout the show's run, she has dressed up as a French girl, a hall monitor, a sophisticated lady, and others. In the pilot and clay animation shorts, Helga's outfit consists of a dark pink dress with sleeves and a white collar.

The color of Helga's eyes has never been mentioned in the show.


Helga has a very dysfunctional family that does not pay attention to her. It is heavily suggested that Helga's home situation is the root cause of her anti-social behavior.

For a brief period, a spin-off series called "The Patakis" was planned. The premise was a continuation of Helga's life into her teenage years with a joint focus on her family. Nickelodeon decided that the idea was too "dark" for the network. MTV considered the show, but ultimately decided that it was too similar to their own production Daria. [3]

Robert "Big Bob" Pataki

Her father (Maurice LaMarche), a successful pager salesman, rarely notices her existence, favoring her over-achieving, neurotic college-aged sister Olga, whom Helga rarely gets along with. Helga refers to him as "Bob" or "Big Bob", indicating she does not really see him as her father. Bob generally does not pay attention to Helga unless she is involved in competition, but only to serve his own competitiveness or to encourage Helga to become a copy of Olga. In "Spelling Bee", Big Bob pushes Helga into winning for the sake of the family name. In most episodes, Big Bob prefers watching television to listening to Helga, and usually, absent-mindedly calls her "Olga". Although Big Bob is far more boorish in personality, he and Helga share some similarities that occasionally bond them. Both enjoy wrestling, ridiculing melodramatic theater, bullying, and eating. They also share similar speaking patterns, though Helga possesses a better command of language. Helga is deeply resentful of Big Bob's excessive attention to Olga.

Miriam Pataki

Her mother, Miriam (Kath Soucie) often gives off hints of being an alcoholic: by being depressed, forgetful, struggling to stay conscious, and frequently drinking "smoothies" and "coffee". Helga also refers to her mother as "Miriam" and relates poorly to her. Though apathetic at home, it is suggested in multiple episodes that Miriam is capable, but stunted by her marriage to an overbearing Big Bob Pataki. In "Olga Gets Engaged", Miriam advises Olga not to make the same marital mistake she did, and in "Road Trip" Miriam reveals that she used to be a rodeo queen. Miriam's abilities are showcased in "The Beeper Queen", where she fills in for Big Bob at his Beeper Emporium when he must stay home due to a back injury. Miriam packs Helga an exceptionally nutritious lunch, shares stories and listens to Helga, and helps Helga with her homework—all implying that Miriam is held back by her unemployment and marriage to Big Bob, affecting Helga's own upbringing.

Olga Pataki

Olga (Nika Frost) and Helga do not relate to each other well, causing great conflict and resentment between the two (Much of the resentment is exerted by Helga, for Olga doesn't seem to resent her little sister at all.) Helga is jealous of Olga's image of perfection and the attention she receives from both Big Bob and Miriam. Olga is kind to Helga, but Helga does not respond to her kindness because she feels it is insincere, as Olga does not listen to Helga's more serious concerns about their family and relationship. Olga condescends to Helga, calling her "baby sister" and refusing to address the problems in their family. However, during one episode (wherein Olga, rather dramatically, retreated to her bedroom for a few days, believing that she had got a B+ grade on her report card rather than her usual straight A's. It turned out that Helga had deliberately changed it to knock her sister down a peg or two and to gain some attention for herself) it is revealed that Olga does feel pressured by their parents, telling Helga that she's lucky that their parents don't notice her, whilst Olga "has to perform all the time like some little wind up doll".


  1. ^ T. Mike Childs, The Rocklopedia Fakebandica (Macmillan, 2004), 133.
  2. ^ Craig Bartlett's chat transcript, June 2002, on Hey Arnold Wiki
  3. ^ The Unofficial Rugrats Online, Nicktoons Rejects.

External links

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