In many fantasy tales, trolls play the role of troublemakers or villains, but that is not the case in the work of artist Thomas Dambo.
In many fantasy tales, trolls play the role of troublemakers or villains, but that is not the case in the work of artist Thomas Dambo. This Danish sculptor creates monumental gentle giants that lurk in forests and elsewhere around the world.
These benevolent creatures are made from recycled wood, branches, and other debris. However, despite their often rigid material composition, there is a softness about them.
They have kind eyes and sweet smiles that attract visitors. With heights of up to 9 meters, Dambo’s trolls require the work of many people to assemble. He builds a frame for the figure and a group of local volunteers secure the hundreds of pieces that make up a character. Transport pallets have proven to be one of the most useful materials for Dambo, as they are easy to come by as they are widely thrown away.
The artist refers to his work as “rearranging other people’s garbage”, turning what was previously destined for a landfill and transforming it into a protector of the earth.
Dambo’s characters are influenced by where they are built. Isak Heartstone, a troll based in Breckenridge, Colorado, was inspired by the mining history of the state. Isak Heartstone was sitting on the ground, piling up rocks and basically “trying to build a new little mountain because he’s sad that the other mountain has broken.”
Once completed, the troll became extremely popular and had to be removed due to the number of people trying to climb it and take selfies with it.
Despite Isak Heartstone’s untimely demise, the idea that viewers have to hike somewhere (or at least go out of their way) to find the troll speaks to a larger goal Dambo has for his work.
He wants people to enjoy his sculptures and at the same time appreciate the nature these gigantic figures inhabit. If they are reminded that these places exist, hopefully they will do more to help protect them, just like the trolls.