Where the Wild Trolls Are: Thomas Dambo’s Guardians of the Seeds

July 5, 2021 — The sky was that heavy gray color it gets before it tries to drown you, the ground soft and puddled from previous murder attempts, and the air cool despite my calendar app swearing we were in July. It was perfect troll-hunting weather.

I discovered the giant troll statues of Denmark artist Thomas Dambo when I was conducting research for my current cryptid book project. I’d come across the one he built in Breckinridge, Colorado, and hoped with all my blood pump that the installation was celebrating a local troll legend because I was tired of all the goddamn bigfoot stuff I keep finding in every single state. Turns out, nope. Dude just likes to make giant trolls. He’s installed them all over the world. When I found out he recently erected a quintet of them just a few hours from me in Maine, we got our group LOTR cosplay on and went, minus the group LOTR cosplay.

The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens covers 300 acres along a mile of tidal shore in Boothbay. It’s like a zoo for local flora, with everything from flower beds to forests. And now the whole thing’s lorded over by a crew of 20-foot-tall fantasy creatures.

The installation is called Guardians of the Seeds. Each massive recycled-wood troll has a name and represents some part of a tree. They’re spread throughout the place, but you get a map with your admission so that you can find them. It’s not too long a walk to see them all. I’d tell you exactly how long but we got lost pretty badly somehow after quickly finding the first two, tainting the data and our general confidence in navigating the world.

The things are extraordinary. Two stories tall, and with real bulk to them. But just as impressive as the size, is the obvious personality of each and the way Dambo incorporated them naturally into the landscape. One troll is holding onto a tree, another is sitting on a rock. I kept imagining them as giant puppets in a stop-motion movie. Then I stopped imagining that because the thought of gargantuan hands coming out of the sky to manipulate them terrified me.

The trolls are technically permanent additions to the garden, and I say technically because at some point they will eventually rot into troll corpses. Nothing fay can stay.