Arts & Entertainment Community Environment

Day Tripper: Troll takes up residence on nearby Bainbridge Island

Posted on August 30th, 2023 By: Mary Williams

Day Tripper – Live like a tourist while staying close to home

Gas prices are sky high, and a night in a hotel is approaching astronomically expensive.  So, for the foreseeable future, I imagine many of you are going to find yourselves taking day trips rather than the road trip vacations we’ve grown to love. 

This beautiful region in which we live is ripe with opportunities to explore new places, see new things, and learn a little something at the same time. I promise to keep the longest journeys to a one-way distance of under 200 miles. Whether you want to make it an overnight trip, a weekend, or just a very long day trip, we should be able to pull it off.   

We will also check out some places that tourists flock to see in our beautiful community but most of us either take for granted or have never heard of.  If a staycation is on your horizon, I’m here to help you make the most of it.

I hope you’ll grant me the honor of your virtual company as we travel these roads together.  Happy trails!

All 19 feet of Ole-Bolle peering in through the roof of a cabin. Photo by Mary Williams

Here come the trolls

Meet Ole-Bolle. Ole recently took up residence in natural wetlands on the campus of the non-profit Nordic Northwest in Portland. At 19’ tall, he is one big dude. He is the first of a series of six giant trolls who will soon appear at various sites around the PNW, including Portland and five locations in the Puget Sound region.

Just a week after Ole-Bolle was unveiled, Bainbridge Island welcomed Pia the Peacekeeper, the second troll in the series. Pia was unveiled at 8:19 a.m. on 8/19/2023.  She resides in one corner of Sakai Park, just a mile or so from the Bainbridge Ferry Dock.

All six trolls will be completed by mid-September. They will be in place for a minimum of 3 years and may last much longer.

Constructed entirely from recycled materials, their goal is to tell the story of protecting nature and honoring our land. The hope is that they will help us humans focus on understanding the impact of trash on life, in our watersheds and on animal habitats.

Visitors examine Pia the Peacekeeper, an 18-foot-tall troll made of recycled wood, at Sakai Park on Bainbridge Island. Photo by Larry Steagall

Northwest Trolls: Way of the Bird King

Ole, Pia, and their brothers and sisters tell the story, Northwest Troll: Way of the Bird King, with a companion story that focuses on restoration and preservation of riparian habitats. The endeavor is a public art project conceived of and funded by Scan Design Foundation with additional funding from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation. The Washington state trolls will be located on traditional Coast Salish land and include an artist exchange program with the Muckleshoot and Snoqualmie tribes.

The trolls are the creation of the world’s leading recycle artist, Tomas Dambo, with construction assistance from a corps of volunteers using recycled materials, primarily old wood pallets. Pia’s hair is made of clippings from an apple orchard in Poulsbo.

Dambo, from Denmark, graduated from the Kolding Design School with a master’s degree in interactive design. He has become best known internationally for his trolls, which now number more than 120 worldwide. Ole, Pia and their buddies are the first to be installed in the Pacific Northwest and are part of a 10-troll storytelling series in the U.S. The series started in New Jersey, then traveled to Vermont, Michigan, Colorado, and now to Oregon and Washington.

“The trolls celebrate the human experience of art by amplifying the connections of cultural heritage between the Coast Salish tribal communities and Danish and Scandinavian traditions,” said Lauren Keene from the Scan Design Foundation. “Each troll will have some sort of underlying environmental story intertwined with an interactive element.”

Visitors examine Pia the Peacekeeper, an 18-foot-tall troll made of recycled wood, at Sakai Park on Bainbridge Island. Photo by Larry Steagall

Cultural exchange

Earlier this year, the Muckleshoot Tribe selected tribal artist John Halliday (aka Coyote) to travel to Roskilde, Denmark, just outside Copenhagen, on a reciprocal visit.  While there, Dambo asked him to share Northwest Coast Native American formline art in the image of an orca. Coyote did so by painting a mural on the side of one of Dambo’s buildings, a huge barn. Dambo also committed to incorporating orcas into one of the Seattle area troll’s story.

Dambo says his mission is to help save the world from drowning in trash. He is trying to create a positive association with trash and wants the world to realize that trash is not disgusting.

At a recent workshop, Dambo said: “We need to create a lot of post-positive associations with our trash, so that we will learn to love it.  We have all grown up in a world that teaches us that trash is dirty, disgusting, and dangerous. We kind of need to flip that around and change our mindset. I think you can do that by building big giant trolls.”

Over the course of the summer, four more giant Nordic trolls will appear across Western Washington. The other trolls will be constructed on Vashon Islands, and in Issaquah, Ballard, and West Seattle.

Pia the Peacekeeper, located in Sakai Park on Bainbridge Island. Photo by Larry Steagall

Troll hunters

The plan is to not release their exact location but to encourage “troll hunters” to use social media to locate them in the wild, simultaneously exploring the natural habitation around them. So far, Pia and Ole were fairly easy to access and not far from a road. Take it from me, however, particularly if you have any mobility issues, wear good stable walking shoes, and watch out for thorny underbrush or you’ll be sorry.

Each troll has something to say.  Ole-Bolle is lifting the roof of a red cabin like a cookie jar to peek inside.  He says:

There’s something in the air, that something makes my belly rumble.

Something smells so strong it hits me almost makes me stumble.

Could it be the little people cooking something smelly?

In the big red cookie jar, so I can put them in my belly.”

And from Pia the Peacekeeper, who sits on the ground with her hands held out, playing with small human puppets. If you step between them, you’ll soon realize that you are her puppet!

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.

Pia the Peacekeeper

What: An 18-foot-tall troll, created using recycled wood by Copenhagen-based artist Thomas Dambo

Where: Sakai Park, 1560 Madison Ave., Bainbridge Island. From Gig Harbor, follow Highway 16 west to northbound Highway 3, then take the exit for Highway 305 south toward Bainbridge. Turn right on High School Road. Sakai Park offers no parking, but it can be reached via a trail near the northwest corner of Highway 305 and High School Road.

Distance: 48.9 miles from Gig Harbor, per Google Maps.

Time: A 1 hour, 1 minute drive, per Google Maps