History of the Trolls
The Mount Horeb area was first settled by people of English, German, Irish, Norwegian, Scottish and Swiss descent, yet in the late 1800’s more than 75% of the community was Norwegian.
Trolls originated from early Scandinavian folklore. They are usually smaller beings, similar in size to dwarves or elves. Trolls tend to dwell in mounds or near the sea-in our case-“mounds” (nearby Blue Mounds)-and are known to have developed semi-magical powers such as prophecy and shape-shifting.
According to ancient Norwegian legend, trolls have long, crooked noses; only four fingers and toes; and a long, bushy tail. Trolls live to be hundreds of years old.
Most trolls are shaggy and look a bit frightening, but are mostly good-natured and naive. It is advised to maintain a good relationship with trolls as they are often known to be guarding treasures of gold or gemstones-in our case, they guard the friendly people and wonderful attractions of our community!
Our trolls are known to relax outside watering flowers, tending chickens, playing music or just plain ol’ hamming it up for your viewing pleasure!
In approximately 1976, the owners of a Scandinavian gift shop called Open House Imports started placing trolls they had imported from Norway out on their lawn to entice visitors into their shop.
The trolls caught not only the visitor’s attention, but that of passing truckers. In the late 1970’s, truckers would denote their location to trucker buddies on CB radio by saying ” I just passed your mother-in-law on 18/151″-referring to the trolls they had just passed.
Currently, Open House Imports and many other businesses and shops are located on Business Hwy 18/151, which used to be the main highway between Madison and Dubuque.
In the mid 1980’s, the WI Department of Transportation decided to create an 18/151 bypass around Mount Horeb. Village businesses were very concerned about the negative economic impact the bypass might cause. Memories of the troll spotting truckers sparked an idea, and the Trollway theme emerged.
The early theme of “Take the Trollway Through Mount Horeb” involved mostly signage and other marketing campaigns and many people wondered ” if this is the Trollway, where are all the trolls?”
Luckily, Mount Horeb is blessed with resident woodcarver, Michael Feeney, AKA, the Troll Carver of Mount Horeb. Originally he was asked to create a folk art project, but when village officials saw his work, the Trollway and the trolls had a life and a home!
The Chicken Thief, one of Mike’s first trolls, was erected on Main St next to Olson’s Christmas House, and The Accordian Player can be found near Mount Horeb Telephone Company, a few doors away.
The latter once captured the attention of a busload of Norwegian tourists who also happened to be accordian players. According to Mike, the bus unloaded, the passengers disembarked with their accordians- and much to the delight of onlookers- proceeded to serenade the troll for at least 20 minutes!
Mike has created more than 15 life-sized ,whimsical trolls along our historic Main St. Check out his work at www.woodenchicken.com.
Mount Horeb also has our very own live troll, Jorgen, who can be found at many events throughout the year!