August 9, 2021

Wooden Trolls

         Here’s another cool thing I recently learned about from a friend.  These are huge wooden sculptures of trolls by Thomas Dambo (Denmark, b. 1979).  Made entirely of scrap and reclaimed wood, and built by teams of volunteers along with Dambo, the sculptures are placed so that they interact with their environments, as this one holding onto the tree trunk.  The sculptures are given names and little back stories, and often come in sets that go together in a theme.  The group I heard about from my friend is “The Guardians of the Seeds,” and consists of six trolls each representing a part of a tree.  Here is Roskva, who stands for the tree trunks.  These are at the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden.
        Sometimes the trolls are hidden away so that people have to search for them or come upon them unexpectedly, while other times they’re placed in more public areas.  Either way, people are encouraged to interact with them, from walking around to climbing on them.  You can see how this fierce troll is built so that people simply can’t resist the photo opportunity of being seized.  Unlike this one, though, the majority of Dambo’s trolls are friendly.  Another example holds a swing for children in a city in Denmark.  Although Dambo has built sculptures all over the world, not surprisingly the most trolls are in Dambo’s native Denmark.
          These trolls are basically humanoid, but occasionally have tails or other monstrous features.  They are often furred with shingles, or given crazy hair and beards with natural twigs and branches.  Their faces are wonderfully expressive, with faceted features built up out of 
hundreds of planes of wood.  Their hands and feet, too, are carefully built up like elaborate boxes complete with soles and finger- and toenails.  Like the stereotypical idea of trolls in English literature, they are often squat, with big noses, dragging arms, and big hands and feet — but not always.  Some of Dambo’s trolls are more gracefully-limbed or pert-nosed instead.  I really like this fishing troll, who has long legs, and ears more like an animal.  Still, I confess to a general preference for the more “traditional” trolls.
        Of course, how traditional is a troll made of wood, anyway?  Although they are denizens of forests, they are generally held to be creatures of stone rather than wood.  But Dambo has recast his trolls with a distinctly tree-hugging message!  With their recycled construction, they’re reminding us that we can salvage and reuse what we already have, rather than continually using up new resources.  With their placements in nature, they draw attention to the trees and parks around them.  And with their names and back-stories they often have an explicit environmental message, as well.  Some of Dambo’s trolls are quite angry at humans for their environmental destruction.  Still, I like the ones that are more willing to extend a hand to us humans, such as these two.  The first holds out cupped hands into which people can climb, and the second stretches out his arm to make a bridge over a little stream.
        I’m sorry I won’t be going up to Maine to see some of these trolls in person, but perhaps someday I will encounter one in the wild!

[Pictures: Roskva (Guardians of the Seeds), recycled wood sculpture by Thomas Dambo, 2021 (Image from Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens)

Snorra of Suwannee, sculpture by Dambo, 2015 (Image from Thomas Dambo);

Troels the Troll, sculpture by Dambo, 2015 (Image from Thomas Dambo);

Runde Rie (Den Kæmpestore Troldefolkefest), sculpture by Dambo, c. 2020;

Bjarka Cirkelsten (Den Kæmpestore Troldefolkefest), sculpture by Dambo, c. 2020 (Images from Thomas Dambo);

Teddy Friendly (The Six Forgotten Giants), sculpture by Dambo, 2016 (Image from Thomas Dambo).]


Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

I love Thomas Dambos Trolde, but have yet to seen any of them Corona is once again the big baddie here, worse than any troll. Dare I correct your Danish (you can have your revenge by correcting all my English ;) ) It is "Den Kæmpestore Troldefolkefest" (the letter æ (a digraph of a + e) is made by holding dovn alt and typing 145 on the numeric keyboard).

crgalvin said...

Thanks for posting these delightful pictures of the trolls. What incredible ingenuity with recycled wood.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Charlotte, it was not my Danish that was at fault, but my typing skill! =D In English we call that digraph "ash" as it appeared in Old English. It is occasionally still used for words like Aesop and encyclopaedia. I will now attempt to fix it in the post with your tip.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Heh, nope that didn't work... but I just cut and pasted in the letter from elsewhere. =)

Narayana Rao K.V.S.S. said...

Interesting to know this information. Pictures reveal the intent and practice.

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Charlotte (MotherOwl) said...

Thank you for correcting the 'æ' in your post. I find it strange, that alt + 145 does not work for you - it does for me, at least here in the comment form - try the other alt button ;) Only my left one works. And now I'm at it, and you did not get angry; thanks a load! - I'd like to say that you have written "Die Kæmpestore Troldefolkefest". The first word 'Die' is German, the correct Danish word is 'Den'
Sorry, I'm just a language nerd ;)
Feel free to reciprocate!

Olga Godim said...

Amazing post! Thank you. I want to see these trolls so much. Maybe one day, when the pandemic ends...

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Okay, the "die" was certainly me getting the Danish wrong. My German got the better of me -- although actually I can't blame German, either, as it would be "das" in German. Anyway, I always appreciate the chance to correct my mistakes!

Olga, at least they're outside, so if there were any nearby it would be possible to see them... It's the travelling to get there that's so hard these days. =(

Gail M Baugniet - Author said...

Such delightful trolls, especially the cat-like troll with the fishing pole. There is a story or two in that photo. Imagine an unexpected encounter with one during a walk in the woods. I hope these trolls on display have an impact on how humans treat the environment.