Jacob Two Trees, Frankie Feetsplinters, Pia the Peacekeeper, Bruunidun, and Way of the Bird King aren’t just names that spark intrigue. These names beckon you into a world of giant wooden trolls, given life through the creative genius of Thomas Dambo, a "recycle activist" committed to turning trash into treasure.
If you've stumbled upon images of these colossal creatures on your social media feed, in magazine articles, or even on the local news, you've likely witnessed the enchanting work of Dambo who inspires the world to see that “trash equals treasure… and we need to learn to love our trash for the valuable resource that it is.” These trolls speak to the importance of reutilizing discarded materials, spare parts, and left-over wood.
We’re fortunate in Washington State to have five of these massive, whimsical structures tucked away within our borders. Intrigued after delving into some research, I wondered what it would be like to go on a troll-hunting expedition – reaching all five trolls in a single day! After all, who could resist the thrill of an engaging scavenger hunt that sparks the spirit of adventure?
Start in Issaquah, then hit the Scandinavian Museum in Ballard, jump the ferry to Bainbridge and back, then hop over to West Seattle’s Lincoln Park for Troll four, take the Fauntleroy ferry to Vashon Island. Easy breezy!
#1 Jacob Two Trees, Issaquah WA
We started our hunt in Issaquah, reaching the first troll around 9 am. Dambo’s website, the Northwest Trolls: Way of the Bird King project site, as well as other blogs, articles, and Google maps helped create a plan and narrow down each troll’s location. I’ll leave the locations at that, as part of the fun is creating your own plan of action! I had a clip board with each troll’s approximate location, a notes section, the ferry schedules, etc. I also created a Google map with each troll’s approximate location, which was very helpful later when we hit a couple snafus.
HINT: If you see a post with a cluster of colorful birdhouses you know you’re on the right track!
Upon my initial encounter, I found myself drawn to the intricate details. The nail beds, the shape of the troll itself, everything stands out. Jacob’s hair is tied back with a band, adorned with a bracelet and a necklace of bird houses, and his gentle eyes seem to follow you as you explore his face. Each shingle that makes up his round body was obviously applied with great care and skill.
"A hundred circle suns not old
cause time will stretch
and loop and fold
So stop breath in -
Breath out. behold
The trees has sung
The story is told"
#2 Frankie Feetsplinters, Ballard WA
Unlike his counterparts, Frankie can be found at the National Nodic Museum, in Ballard. The museum is dedicated to Nordic history, art, and culture. This is a fitting place for Frankie, as his creator is based in Demark. It’s a beautiful location, and I’d love to return one day to explore inside; this trip I was on a mission to find trolls!
Behold Frankie, stationed proudly at the museum’s entrance. His fists tightly clenched with one foot crushing a substantial wooden object, he stands as a testament to his raw strength. Frankie emanates a cantankerous vibe about him, adding an edge of unpredictability.
“Frankie don't like slimy fish, cause fishes are all so dumb??
And Frankie don't like little humans, humans are so dumb????
Frankie don't even like trolls, cause trolls are also dumb??
But Frankie's mouth's the only one that says the word of dumb??”
#3 Pia The Peacekeeper, Bainbridge Island WA
Got to the ferry with moments to spare and drove right on! I am issuing a warning when you’re trying to visit them all in one day – be careful how much time you spend at each troll. They are so captivating, and many photos were taken!
Pia is hard not to love. She has amazing arms that reach low to the ground, and you can tuck yourself right into her hands. She is sitting on the earth and her head gently tilts downward as if she is gazing at you in her arms with warmth and affection. Her gentle smile plays on her lips, detailed shoulders, and striking necklace with a large wooden pendant, draw you in.
“Pretty pretty please, let’s keep the peace beneath the trees
Hold you in my hand I will remind you with a squeeze
Quiet little people cause your criers make me tired
Pia likes to play with people, people they keep quiet”
#4 Bruun Idun, Lincoln Park, Seattle WA
By the time we reached Lincoln Park, the wind and rain picked up and the fog rolled in off the water. We wandered around the trails in the park, until we came upon a mother and small child making their way along the many stairs down to the water. They happily guided us to the site where Idun stands looking out onto the Puget Sound.
She is beautiful with long twisting hair of intertwining sticks. Her eyes are closed as she breathes life into her flute. She stands amidst the enchanting forest, a vision to behold, tall and firm among the trees. She doesn’t mind the rain, wind, and moody Pacific Northwest weather.
As for us, we could see the cars lining up at the Fauntleroy- Vashon Ferry, visible from the park. We had less than 15 minutes to make the next ferry, soaking wet, freezing, and happened to park at the log farthest from Idun, and we were running out of daylight!
“In the night, there was a storm, there at the beach
Where she was born
And Idun felt a feeling wrong, and so she walked there
In the dawn
And in a flute, the magic horn, a tune so passionate and Strong
She played for them an orca song to ask them where they all had gone”
#5 Oscar the Bird King, Vashon Island WA
Well, we missed the ferry! We were there, but we didn’t fit in by about 6 cars! We snuck out of line and decided to drive around to the south end of the island and take the Point Defiance ferry over. An hour and a half of fighting late afternoon Seattle and Tacoma traffic, we finally made it to the ferry line. We could see the ferry and it was already loading. When we reached the booth to pay, the attendant let us know that we wouldn’t make it on this ferry, too full – so we missed this one too!
After a refreshing break and a quick beverage at the charming Anthony’s Point Defiance, we eagerly boarded the ferry, arriving on Vashon just before 6 pm, only to find ourselves enveloped in pitch-black darkness. Perhaps a bit more daylight at this time of the year would have enhanced the overall experience of our adventure.
Battling the gusts of wind and relentless rain, we plodded through the mud, and found the imposing figure of Oscar using only the lights on our cellphones. Oscar is by far the largest troll, perched atop a colossal log chair, his wide-open eyes fixed directly on you. His large nose, full of character, sits atop a fluffy beard which covers his mouth. Pay special attention to the intricate crown adorning his head, a masterpiece crafted from bird houses, because he is indeed the bird king.
“He swam here from the island, where his momma once
Had birthed him
He walked across the mountains till his giant feet was Hurting
He spoke to a crow and little girl, the Orca he heard him Sing
He used to be a little troll, now Oscar is The Bird King”
Dambo's trolls invite us to reassess, reimagine, and rejoice in the profound lessons hidden within the artistry of repurposed scrap wood. Dambo explains in his joyful TED Talk that 2.5 million trolls’ worth of scrap wood is discarded each year. Thousands of volunteers have created over 120 trolls, in 17 countries that are visited by millions of people, in hopes that we learn a “valuable lesson that something made of something old can be just as good as something made of something new.”
After 179.1 miles, 6.48 hours of drive time, 9 hours of adventuring, countless potty breaks, one full bag of jalapeño potato chips consumed, 1 hour of googling troll info, lots of laughs, 2 missed ferries, 4 ferry rides, I can say this is a fantastic journey to embark on.
So, buckle up for a day filled with adventure, laughter, and the thrill of the hunt. Washington State beckons you to unlock the magic hidden within its lush landscapes, all while celebrating the art of repurposing and the beauty that arises when we learn to cherish our trash.
The question is, are you ready for the ultimate troll-hunting escapade?