Thomas Dambo sprinkles magic across the world. The Danish artist uses reclaimed materials like scrap wood, old pallets and twigs to build giant trolls that live in places like Australia, China, and Denmark.
And now, the trolls are coming to the Pacific Northwest.
Nordic Northwest in Southwest Portland will host Oregon’s troll which is scheduled to be unveiled today near Nordia House, the organization’s cultural center.
“It’s in the back, in the garden,” Dambo said. The troll appears to lift up the roof of a red cabin while looking for a snack in the “big human cookie jar.”
Five other troll sculptures are currently being built in Washington state for the Northwest Trolls: Way of the Bird King project, and will be hosted at each site for at least three years.
Dambo has been traveling across the country and documenting his troll-making adventures on social media. The sculptures are accompanied by poems and fanciful stories to explain their motivations and origins which reflect the history and features of their surroundings.
He recently completed Rita, a troll he built in Colorado. Rita lives in Victor, a town where gold was discovered in the late 1800s. Rita took a nap and woke up to find her land covered in holes, so she covers the holes to protect humans and the nature around her.
“I give my trolls the option to communicate with the human,” he said. “So if you’re treating the trolls and the animal and plant friends good, then they’ll provide for you and your family. But if not, then maybe they’ll come and blow your house over.”
Dambo remembers his mother singing a song about a troll when he was a kid in his native Denmark.
“There was a troll living on this little Danish island and then I would rent cassette tapes with trolls,” he said. “It’s embedded in Danish folklore and that’s what people believed before Christianity came.”
The trolls, which he calls the voice of nature, can be found all over the world and often have distinct features like long beards or playful hairdos. The pieces have also inspired troll hunters and are created with recycled materials, like used wooden pallets. Dambo said it’s important for people to remember that trash has value.
“Instead of having a world that’s drowning in its own trash, we can solve that issue by making beautiful and important things out of our trash,” he said.
Dambo spoke to “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller about his art. Listen to the full conversation: