A Brief History of Seattle's Fremont Troll

Fremont Troll
Fremont Troll | © jellygator / Flickr
Photo of Samantha Ladwig
1 May 2018

The Fremont Troll is one of Seattle’s most beloved public sculptures, not to mention one of the its most Instagram-able. People climb on top of its rugged shoulders, lean against its Volkswagen Beetle, and even stick their head up the creature’s nose, all for a perfect photo with the Seattle landmark. But the troll wasn’t constructed solely for selfies.

It all began in 1989, when the city of Seattle asked the Fremont Arts Council, a community-run organization dedicated to the arts, to put together an arts competition. This was all done with the intention of renovating the area underneath the Aurora Bridge, which had not only become an outdoor garbage dump, but also a home for drug dealers. The new sculpture, whatever it would be, would help reshape the community into something more positive, something that would inspire locals and attract tourism.

Fremont Troll | © jimmy thomas / Flickr

As Seattleites know, what the neighborhood got was an oversized troll emerging from the ground. Norwegian folklore, specifically the tale of “Billy Groat’s Gruff” and the troll underneath the bridge, served as inspiration for local artists Steve Badanes, Ross Whitehead, Donna Walter, and Will Martin. Colossal in size and with an eye made out of a shiny piece of metal, the Fremont Troll, “is made from rebar steel, wire and 2 tons of messy ferroconcrete,” said the website. In his left hand is the Volkswagen Beetle, donning California license plates, which is crushed by his weight as he lifts himself up out of the ground. Apparently, before it was eventually vandalized, the Beetle also housed Elvis memorabilia.

Troll Ave | © GeoTrinity / WikiCommons

Since its erection and despite the reclusive nature of trolls, the Fremont Troll has found its way into the world of pop culture. From the Chicago rock band Majungas‘ song “The Fremont Troll” to the Fremont Troll’s very own Chia Pet edition, whether its happy about it or not, the famous sculpture is forever immortalized.

For those planning a visit or revisit, the Fremont Troll crawls underneath the Aurora Bridge, at the crossroads of 36th St. and, fittingly, Troll Ave. Its outdoor position allows anyone to access the creature anytime, day or night. However, the fact that Scandinavian trolls have a tendency to be both unfriendly and generally dangerous, so it might be best to stick to the daylight hours.

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