5 Giant, Eco-Conscious Trolls Are Hiding at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

And each has its own unique identity and story.

A giant, bearded troll hiding in the woods of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay Harbor
By Jennifer Van Allen
Photographs courtesy of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Each spring, the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens offers a dazzling lollapalooza for the senses, more than 300 acres strewn with tulips, native plants, hillsides covered with rhododendrons, perfumy bushels of lavender, and dahlias the size of dinner plates in every color of the rainbow. This year, Boothbay’s garden of earthly delights hosts a species of an entirely new variety: five colossal trolls hewn of recycled wood, created by the Danish sculptor Thomas Dambo.

Another one of Danish artist Thomas Dambo’s giant trolls in the woods of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay Harbor

The installation is part of an ongoing project the artist calls “The Great Story of the Little People and the Giant Trolls,” which includes more than 70 of the gentle-looking giants that Dambo has built all over the world, from Chicago to Chile. Each troll has a unique identity and story. Dambo builds them, in part, to attract people to beautiful natural spaces and inspire a sense of environmental stewardship.

“My art is not only about my sculptures, but it’s a lot about finding them, and what else you find along the way,” Dambo says. “I want to encourage people to go out and dive into nature and really appreciate it and remember how beautiful nature is.”

Sculpture isn’t new to the Boothbay garden, where more than 20 permanent sculptures already stand sentry, including Nancy Schön’s cast-bronze Sal’s Bear, based on the character from Blueberries for Sal, as well as the abstract Alexander’s Threshold, by Andreas von Huene. Visitors can follow a map to find Dambo’s sculptures, installed all across the campus. The expansive gardens, full of forests and winding paths and 17 different ornamental gardens, provide an ideal setting for his work, Dambo says.

The sculptures fits squarely into the gardens’ mission to inspire meaningful connections with nature, says president and chief executive officer Gretchen Ostherr. The installation comes at a time when Mainers’ appreciation of the gardens’ offerings is running high. Last year, during the pandemic, Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens saw a higher proportion of visitors from Maine.

A giant troll practicing mindfulness in the woods of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay Harbor

“Now more than ever, people value how restorative nature can be, and how good it is for the soul,” Ostherr says. “At a time when there was so much fear and uncertainty, people are so ready for something magical.” 

See a map of Dambo’s worldwide project at trollmap.com.


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Down East Magazine, May 2021