Troll Hunt at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle

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 Morton Arboretum on June 22!

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 are situated in plain sight, while others are hidden off paths among the trees.

Currently, there are five trolls under construction and there will ultimately be seven. When you drive into the Arboretum, you will most likely catch a glimpse of this guy near the parking lot.

As you walk around Meadow Lake (the lake right near the Visitor’s Center and Children’s Garden), this troll is laying down in the grass between some large bushes!

We decided to hike to the next troll. It is a peaceful walk down mulched paths, past streams, and through forests. We even discovered some nice resting benches and a beautiful painting of magnolia flowers along the way.

I need to warn you that it is a really long walk. My fourth grader enjoyed it, but my second grader started getting tired. If you decide to go that route, take bug spray because you will probably encounter some mosquitos in the wooded areas.

However, the walk is worth it because we found the start of an enormous troll sitting in the grass and holding a huge branch. These sculptures are amazing.

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We then headed back towards the Visitor’s Center, hopped in the car, and drove to the rest of the trolls on the west side of the property. The loop takes you past the troll below first. Check out the scale! This one is created to look like it is leaning against a tree.

Lastly, we got to see the Troll crew in action! We met Julian, a member of the crew who is originally from New York. He said he met the crew when he moved to Denmark. Although most of the crew is originally from Denmark, other nearby countries are represented as well. A man from Latvia and another from the Faroe Islands was working on one of the trolls today. They are truly talented!

On weekdays through June 21, you may get to meet the artist and his team crafting these larger-than-life beings from recycled materials in various locations throughout the grounds of the Arboretum. You are welcomed to stop by the Arboretum’s Visitor Center for the daily schedule.

Ways to See the Trolls

I highly recommend that you pick up a map at the Visitor Center. It has orange dots where each of the seven troll sculptures can be found. It’s an adventure, even with the map.

All of the paths we encountered were mulched, so this route would be difficult with a stroller. It’s more of a hike than a walk, so if you are up for getting a lot of exercise, go for it!

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You can bring your own bikes or rent them there to ride along the paved roads. We have rented bikes and a Burley at The Morton Arboretum and the ride is really nice.

If you are solely on a mission to see the trolls, you can drive and stop along the way. For the most part, there aren’t designated parking areas, but we saw several cars parked along the edge of the roads.

The Acorn Express is an hour long tram ride that includes a narrated tour. It is noted that tram tours sell out, so it’s advised that you purchase tickets in advanced or right when you arrive. The Acorn Express can accommodate up to two manual wheelchairs per tour.

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 is going to be kneeling near a “trap,” a simple wooden crate propped open with a stick. One end of a string will be tied to the stick while the other end will be clasped in its hand as the creature waits to catch a human for study.
  • One troll will be sitting next to a tree, holding a long rod that crosses a low-hanging tree branch. At the end of the rod a net will be dangling so 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.

Family-Friendly Weekend Events: February 26–28 and Beyond

Troll Hunt-themed Programs

An Evening with the Artist: Thomas Dambo
Thursday, June 14, 2018 | 7:00 – 8:30 pm
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, 2018 | 7:00 – 9:00 pm
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.

About Thomas Dambo

Thomas Dambo collects and reuses wood that would otherwise be wasted for his whimsical, epic-scale sculptures, which he has erected from Denmark to Australia. He got his start turning scrap wood into birdhouses–some 3,500 so far in cities from Beirut to Berlin–and now his art can be found around the globe. Each of his pieces convey the importance of sustainability, a mission shared by The Morton Arboretum as it works toward a greener, healthier, and more beautiful world through the planting, care of and conservation of trees. Dambo may be best known for the Six Forgotten Giants, enormous characters created from discarded wood pallets scattered throughout his home city of Copenhagen.

This article is sponsored by The Morton Arboretum, but all opinions are my own. We can’t wait to see the completed sculptures in June!

About the Author

Annie Tandy
Annie loves making great memories with her kids and started Kidlist in 2011 so she can help others do the same! Besides finding fun and exciting things to do, Annie and her kids enjoy caring for their chickens and hanging out with them in the backyard. Click here to read about Annie's chickens and see pictures! She also finds joy in gardening, home improvement projects, knitting, soap making, and painting along with being active in her community, church, and as a board member of the Western Springs Business Association. Click here to follow Annie on Instagram.

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