Giant Trolls are Coming to Life at The Morton Arboretum; Troll Hunt Exhibition Opens June 22

Two men work on a giant wooden structure with the head of a troll
Construction on the larger-than-life creatures of Troll Hunt is underway.
May 14, 2018

Something is different about the woods, meadows, and vast natural spaces of The Morton Arboretum’s grounds this spring. Unusual creatures, each made of reclaimed wood and measuring 15- to 20-feet-tall, are emerging from among the trees of the 1,700-acre Arboretum. 

Danish artist Thomas Dambo and crews of woodworkers and volunteers are busy constructing the mammoth and mythical creatures of Troll Hunt, a new exhibition debuting at the Arboretum on June 22. On weekdays through June 21, visitors to the Arboretum may catch a glimpse of the artist and his team crafting  these larger-than-life beings from recycled materials in various locations throughout the grounds of the Arboretum. Visitors are encouraged to stop by the Arboretum’s Visitor Center for the daily schedule.

The first large-scale U.S. exhibition by Dambo, Troll Hunt will take visitors on a journey to find the larger-than-life guardians of the forest living in the Arboretum’s woods. Those who stand in the shadow of these immense wooden trolls may wonder where they came from and why are they here. Visitors will learn the answers to those questions and more as they seek out the trolls, who are in turn trying to make sense of the human world that surrounds them, hunting us with nets and other contraptions to protect the forest from human impact.

In creating the creatures of Troll Hunt, Dambo puts to use hundreds of pieces of reclaimed wood–battered boards, fallen trees and branches, and the remains of pallets and packing crates. Some trolls will be situated in plain sight, while others will be hidden off paths among the trees.

Troll Hunt Highlights

Built to be both mischievous and thought-provoking, the trolls of Troll Hunt invite visitors to interact with them, while elements of the exhibition encourage visitors to consider their personal responsibility as stewards of our environment. For example:

  • One troll kneels near a “trap,” a simple wooden crate propped open with a stick. One end of a string is tied to the stick while the other end is clasped in its hand as the creature waits to catch a human for study.   
  • One troll sits next to a tree, holding a long rod that crosses a low-hanging tree branch. At the end of the rod dangles a net that visitors can climb into to be “captured.”


Additionally, a troll “hideout” tucked away in a wooded glen will give troll seekers a glimpse into the way these creatures live. 

“People around the world have admired Thomas Dambo’s large-scale recycled wood creations in his native Denmark and on social media, and we are thrilled to host his first-ever large-scale artist-in-residence exhibition in the United States,” said Sue Wagner, vice president of education and information at The Morton Arboretum. “His trolls and the story behind them–that they are protectors of our forests–will amaze and intrigue visitors of all ages, while drawing attention to how humans can better care for trees and the environment in which we live.”

Troll Hunt-themed Programs

An Evening with the Artist: Thomas Dambo
Thursday, June 14, 7-8:30 p.m.
Hear from Thomas Dambo, the artist behind Troll Hunt, describe his fascinating career creating whimsical and thought-provoking pieces using reclaimed materials Discover the inspirations behind the Troll Hunt exhibition and the messages the artist conveys through his sculptures.

Adult Coloring Night: Troll Hunt edition
Thursday, July 12, 7-9 p.m.
Enjoy an evening of coloring exclusive Troll Hunt-themed pages that celebrate the larger-than-life guardians of the Arboretum’s forest. The evening will include a cash bar and snacks. 

The trolls are expected to remain at the Arboretum beyond 2018.