The Northwest Trolls around Washington

The grandeur of the Pacific Northwest’s outdoors is rooted in environmental story, and Danish environmental artist Thomas Dambo debuted an immensely whimsical art project in 2023 to depict it, “Northwest Trolls: Way of the Bird King”. It features six giant, mythical, hand-built troll sculptures found around Washington, fashioned entirely out of recycled materials, and specifically to amplify the connections of cultural heritage between the Coast Salish tribe communities and Danish/Scandanavian traditions. These connections tell mythical tales with themes of protecting nature and honoring our lands and waterways.

Thomas Dambo's Trolls

Thomas Dambo is considered the world’s leading recycle artist, famous for the large-scale whimsical Trolls he’s been building around the world for the last decade. The trolls are a fixture of Scandanavian folklore, and the magnificent creatures are said to live atop mountains or deep in the woods. Dambo’s Northwest Trolls are a special affair, as this project was the first time Dambo created six varying subjects tied to one story – protecting the natural marvels of the Northwest.

Special thanks for this project goes to the Scan Design Foundation for managing the collaborative effort with funding, media, and site partners. Because the trolls are located on traditional Coast Salish territories, the project was made possible with support from the Muckleshoot and Snoqualmie tribes. 

Best Way to Visit the Northwest Trolls

The six trolls can be found in Issaquah, Bainbridge Island, Ballard, Seattle, Vashon Island, with Portland being the furthest one out. Bellevue, Washington makes the ideal, centrally located base camp city for tackling this adventure. The installation is intended for the public to enjoy for at least three years, so be sure to visit them before they disappear as magically as they arrived.

Renting a car makes it a fun road trip adventure as you head out from Bellevue on your troll hunting adventure. You can stock up on food and snacks at the local delis and coffee or tea at cafes in the mornings and return to relax and savor the culinary allures around town in the evenings.

Jacob Two Trees in Issaquah

Jacob Two Trees, the wooden Northwest Troll living in Issaquah, is 12 miles southeast of Bellevue and the first Thomas Dambo troll to have a ponytail. The band that ties his hair is hand-crafted by the Snoqualmie Tribe. 

Direct your navigation or rideshare to the Issaquah Community Center (301 Rainier Blvd. S., Issaquah) and prepare for a quarter mile hike down Rainier Trail. Jacob Two Trees is nestled in a forest in the lowlands of the Issaquah alps.

Pia the Peacekeeper on Bainbridge Island

Pia the Peacekeeper, according to Dambo, “is like a playful troll, because she is playing with the humans, but she’s also a little bit scary, because she’s kind of strong, like a little girl can sometimes by accident break a leg or poke an eye out or light a fire to the hair of her doll.” Pia is made from recycled wood residing in Sakai Park.

Bainbridge Island is about 20 miles from Bellevue, and the trip includes a ferry ride on the Washington State ferry system, which is currently the largest ferry system in the United States. Be sure to plan accordingly if you’re visiting on the weekends, as ferries tend to fill up fast. Crossing to Bainbridge Island lasts about 35 minutes.

Oscar the Bird King on Vashon Island

On Vashon Island, just west of Seattle, lies Oscar the Bird King. If you are already in downtown Seattle, you can take a ferry to the island. He sits in a grove at Point Robinson, an ideal spot for spotting whales and orcas along the Pacific Coast. Year round, playful harbor seals and foraging river otters also call these shores home.

Oscar’s beard is made of Madrona branches and wears a crown of birdhouses.

Bruun Idun in West Seattle

While visiting Frankie, be sure to stop by Lincoln Park in West Seattle to meet Brunn Idun, who is playing the flute and singing out towards the orcas. Located along the water, her hair is made from Madrone branches and she’s mostly decorated with bark and shells.

Frankie Feetsplinters in Ballard, Seattle

Frankie Feetsplinters is Dambo’s sixth and final installation in “Northwest Trolls: The Way of the Bird King.” He’s the only one in his family living in an urban city, at the National Nordic Museum in Seattle, which draws on his Nordic roots.

The National Nordic Museum is a deep dive into the fascinating Nordic cultures, including history and immigration to the Pacific Northwest. Plan some time into your schedule to look around and understand the region’s Nordic roots.

Ole-Bolle in Portland

Ole-Bolle is a little further out from his friends, and just a two-hour trek from Bellevue, located on the Nordic Northwest Campus in Tualatin Valley, Portland. Once you get to the campus, look for signs for the Troll Path from Nordia House.

Ole-Bolle is made from recycled wood and is lifting the roof of a cabin, innocently curious and possibly in-search of a human-sized snack.

Where to Stay While Visiting the Northwest Trolls

Make Bellevue, Washington your home base when exploring the great Northwest Outdoors. Bellevue is home to more than 25 well appointed accommodations, with something for everyone. Stay at the W Bellevue or Westin Bellevue to have the entire Bellevue Collection at your doorstep. Check out The Bellevue Club Hotel for membership access to four levels of luxurious athletic club and a secluded feel. Families will love the Courtyard by Marriott Bellevue and the Hilton Garden Inn Bellevue

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To get around Bellevue's downtown core, check out our free electric shuttle program BellHop!