New Trolls to See in the Northwest: A personal reflection

May 23, 2024 at 11:11 a.m.
Roger with the Bainbridge Island troll, named Pia the Peacekeeper, an 18-foot-tall art installation awaiting discovery at Sakai Park
Roger with the Bainbridge Island troll, named Pia the Peacekeeper, an 18-foot-tall art installation awaiting discovery at Sakai Park Roger Urbaniak |

During the summer of 2023, six large trolls ranging from 15 to 20 feet tall were constructed around the northwest to amplify the cultural connection of the Coast Salish tribe community and Scandinavian traditions. Five of the trolls are relatively close to Seattle, with a sixth located in Portland. 

Portraits of all 6 Northwest Trolls, courtesy of, which provides background information and how to visit each site


My sister, Nancy, first introduced me to the new arrivals by taking us to view the Issaquah troll. The parking lot to the trail was nearly full.  Once we arrived at the troll, there was positive buzz from the people who surrounded the structure -- everyone was taking photographs. Trolls present great photo opportunities; we are allowed to touch them but are asked not to climb on them.

Next, Nancy took us to the Ballard troll, then gave us photographs and maps to find the rest. Her enthusiasm was contagious and prompted me to see the others. We wrapped up the Washington state tour by visiting the West Seattle/Lincoln Park troll, which is just as good as all the rest.  While it's a little longer walk to see it, the terrain is flat once you get down to the beach. Portland is next!

I will personally show off the Bainbridge Island troll to my YMCA pickleball group. We plan a June visit to the pickleball founder courts at Bainbridge Battle Park, where we will play the locals, then visit the troll and likely have a picnic as part of our outing. I expect roughly a dozen to participate. 

The presence of trolls will likely increase attendance at each site and get more people outdoors in the process. Having something this special gifted to the taxpayers was a new concept and took me some time getting used to. I gladly salute all those who had the vision to make it possible. 

There are over one hundred twenty similar trolls that have been placed worldwide over the past ten years. The trolls have been built by Danish environmental artist, Thomas Dambo, using recycled pallet wood and other found organic and/or decorative material.

Danish environmental artist Thomas Dambo 


These creations were commissioned by Scan Design Foundation and initially seed-funded by Paul Allen Family Foundation. Many public partners have since contributed to the ongoing troll-building project. At each site, it is stipulated that they can be visited for free and will remain in place for at least three years. By using durable, recycled material, it is expected that some of the trolls may remain in place for up to fifteen years. 

The head, hands and feet of each troll are constructed in Dambo’s Denmark studio and then shipped to each site. By design, the head is always roughly 1/3 of the statue size. Onsite construction of each figure is usually accomplished in 7 to 10 days by a crew of roughly 10 seasoned workers, plus many volunteers. Occasionally, two nearby projects will be built simultaneously. Usually, a total of 50 to 60 people are involved in the construction, including delivering recycled materials. Another roughly 40 people are involved with finding new sites, fundraising, media and various promotional activities. 

Traditionally, trolls are known to be fierce protectors of the natural world. The stated purpose of building the troll installations is to encourage protecting nature, to encourage exploration to find the trolls, and simply interacting with the outdoor world. Dambo’s stories featuring these captivating wooden figures give them individual personalities and extra enjoyment to their viewers. Note that each location also features a bright cluster of birdhouses used as Dambo’s mission signature. Additional insight into the artist’s creative purpose can be obtained by viewing his video: Thomas Dambo: The fine art of dumpster diving | TED Talk.

For many years, the troll under the Fremont bridge has been entraining the public by disbursing its troll magic all alone. Now, with the addition of his new companions, we are encouraged to go outside and enjoy many hours of troll magic ourselves as we visit the multiple new troll sites. 

The internet gives us photos and promotes preliminary expectations, but the real impact of the troll should be felt with an actual visit. Standing next to a giant troll, photographing and touching it, is an experience we should all seek. There is a mystical power you will feel when you walk in nature and stand next to a giant troll. 

Locally, troll locations include Bainbridge Island, Vashon Island, Issaquah, Lincoln Park in West Seattle, and Ballard next to the Nordic Museum. Directions to find each site can be found by visiting or

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