For nearly a decade, the artistic wizardry of Thomas Dambo has been fashioning a whimsical troll army. These mystical giants, approximately 12 to 20 feet tall, have emerged as over 100 grand sculptures gracing landscapes worldwide, from forests to coastlines. Crafted from repurposed materials, these trolls embody eco-conscious artistry, captivating hearts and inspiring conservation contemplation.
Now, these extraordinary trolls have set their colossal feet in the enchanting Pacific Northwest. This migration marks the “Northwest Trolls: Way of the Bird King” project, a testament to Dambo’s commitment to environmental consciousness. These creations beckon the public to venture into the great outdoors, fostering a deeper connection with nature.
In Dambo’s own words, “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. In nature, there is no landfill. Nature is circular, everything has a meaning and everything is recycled.”
These delightful trolls have taken up residence in locations such as Portland, Issaquah, Ballard, West Seattle, and on Bainbridge and Vashon Islands. Since mid-August, Dambo has been revealing their exact whereabouts gradually, with the final pair arriving just this week.
Given that these trolls now dwell on traditional Coast Salish territories, Dambo has worked closely with the Muckleshoot and Snoqualmie tribes. This collaboration extends beyond art, as it includes an artistic exchange with Muckleshoot tribal member and artist John Halliday, also known as Coyote. Halliday painted a mural on one of Dambo’s buildings, emphasizing shared values of environmental stewardship.
For Dambo, these trolls represent not only art but also an invitation for visitors to immerse themselves in their surroundings. As he puts it, “It’s not really only about my art; it’s also a lot about that experience you get when you walk around in nature and in the forest.”
The journey of these trolls began with Dambo’s first creation, Jack Lumber, conceived for a Danish cultural festival in 2014. This initial troll sparked a wave of requests for more installations, each possessing unique features and stories. Dambo forges distinct elements like heads and feet in his Danish workshop, while the rest takes shape on-site, with the assistance of his team and enthusiastic local volunteers.
Each handcrafted sculpture possesses its own name and narrative, a testament to Dambo’s storytelling prowess. Take Hector El Protector, erected on Puerto Rico’s Culebra Island in 2014, where it stood guard at the water’s edge. Armed with a rock, it symbolized a protector against intruders. Tragically, Hurricane Maria ravaged the sculpture in 2017, but Dambo swiftly returned to rebuild Hector. Today, this troll brandishes a solar-powered lantern, guiding boats safely along the coastline during storms.
In the eyes of Mark Rivera, an artist who crossed paths with Dambo in Puerto Rico, Hector El Protector became an “icon to the island,” earning admiration and love from the locals.
Among the newly unveiled trolls are characters like Pia the Peacekeeper, nestled under the canopy of trees on Bainbridge Island, and Bruun Idun, serenading orcas at the water’s edge in West Seattle with a flute. In Portland, Ole Bolle, enticed by the aroma of cooking, curiously peers into the rooftop of a house.
These captivating creations, including Dambo’s latest works, will grace their respective locations for at least three years, with the potential for an extended stay. The six trolls in the Pacific Northwest form part of a broader nationwide tour, meticulously documented on Dambo’s YouTube channel.