Pia the Peacemaker, on of Thomas Dambo’s Northwest Trolls, sits in the trees on Bainbridge Island. Credit: Jennifer Johnson
A magical new adventure is unfolding around the Pacific Northwest this month, and families are going to want to be a part of it.
Giant troll sculptures are sneaking into town, one by one. As each troll is built and its secret location is revealed, local families will have several fun new outing destinations. The charming giant trolls combine art, nature and environmentalism into an interactive, climb-on-up public art form.
This exhibition of public art is called “Northwest Trolls: Way of the Bird King.” The project is the work of Thomas Dambo, a Danish artist and storyteller. Dambo is concluding a road trip across the United States, where he has stopped in various places to create troll sculptures in local parks and natural spaces. The last leg of Dambo’s road trip centers on the Pacific Northwest, and right now he’s in the midst of building six unique new trolls, right in our neck of the woods!
Pacific Northwest trolls
Our first PNW troll has moved in at Nordic Northwest, a museum and cultural center in Portland. This troll’s name is Ole Bolle and he has his own little red play house. Kids are welcome inside! Do stop in if you’re in the Portland area.
The second regional troll made her debut on Aug. 19 on Bainbridge Island. My daughter joined me for the reveal — or “awakening” — of this troll, and we learned that her name is Pia the Peacemaker.
Pia and the other trolls are created from local materials from the forest, meadows, mountains, farms and sea, including fir branches, driftwood, moss, shells, cedar and apple branches. Pia holds her hands in such a way that visitors can climb within her grip, imagining they are puppets that the troll is manipulating. Kids will love to climb onto her sturdy arms and legs.
Update! The West Seattle troll has experienced her awakening the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 25. Her name is Bruun Idun and she has moved into Lincoln Park, near the Colman Pool. From her spot in the trees she is singing to the orcas. Watch for more info on social media!
Another update! The Issaquah troll has awakened! He is Jakob Two Trees and he lives along the Rainier Trail near the Issaquah Community Center. Because Jakob Two Trees lives right in town (but still in the trees!), he’s been very popular since his debut. Pack a little patience if you go for a visit soon.
Ballard’s troll, Frankie Feetsplinters, made his debut in front of a crowd of adoring fans on Monday, Sept. 18. Unlike other trolls, Frankie is not lurking hidden in the woods. He’s keeping watch at the entrance of the National Nordic Museum right along Market Street in Ballard.
Secret troll locations
The precise location of each troll is a secret until the day each one is unveiled. Using clues from the artist’s Instagram and YouTube channel, together with a rough map on the Troll Map, families can try to figure out what trolls are near them. Once a troll has been revealed, its location is added to the Northwest Trolls website, and troll hunters can then go on a quest to see them.
Our local giant trolls will be added to the more than one hundred already in place around the world. Each troll gets a name as well as a delightful backstory that connects to a theme.
Dambo uses recycled materials and weaves themes of honoring the land and protecting nature into each story. His team is working closely with local tribes, such as the Muckleshoot and Snoqualmie, plus parks departments, museums, funding agencies and volunteers.
With trolls spread across the world, some troll superfans travel to other regions to find the trolls that Dambo has created, forming a community around the world.
Previous trolls include Benny the Beard Fisher, fishing with a long beard in a river in Michigan, and Rita the Rock Planter, who wakes up from a long nap on a mountainside in Colorado.
Through his art, Thomas Dambo hopes to encourage everyone to be curious, to get outside and explore, while also prompting us to think about protecting the nature around us.
“I want people to know that trash has value. My trolls do that, and also help me tell stories, like the legends I grew up with,” Dambo said in a press release. “In nature, there is no landfill. Nature is circular, everything has a meaning and everything is recycled.”
In the Pacific Northwest, the ScanDesign Foundation is managing the ambitious project, with funding from the Paul G. Allen Foundation and many other local donors.
If you go ...
Find the trolls:
How long will the trolls be around? Trolls are installed for three years and may stay in their locations longer, if the host organization so chooses.
Tips for families:
It’s free to visit the trolls but keep in mind that locations can get busy. Pack your patience and come back later if the troll is overrun with fans. (Access to a troll in Vermont had to be closed down because of crowds.) Of course, be respectful of the public art as well as the facilities hosting the trolls.