Nestled in the southern part of Wisconsin, the beautiful village of Mount Horeb embraces its Norwegian heritage in a rather unique way. It is the self-proclaimed “Troll Capital of the World.” Just a short drive from the state’s capital, Madison, visitors will be delighted by this quirky Wisconsin treasure.
Immigrants from all over Europe flooded to Wisconsin in the 1800s, but it was the Norwegians who left their mark on Mount Horeb. In 1871, Andrew Levordson became the first person from Norway to immigrate to this small village, and by the end of the century, the community was about 75% Norwegian.
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Mount Horeb residents have embraced this Norwegian heritage and celebrate with several cultural festivals throughout the year. Visitors will be treated to a number of specialty shops and authentic Victorian-era buildings in this destination oozing with small-town charm. The village’s most famous one-of-a-kind attraction though is its “Trollway,” which features life-size trolls lining the main street and placed throughout the village. There is even a map available for download for those who are enthusiastic about finding them all.
The troll legend originates from the early folklore of Scandinavia, and it was brought to the USA by settlers who immigrated from that part of Europe. They may appear a little frightening at first, but they are said to be good-natured and protectors of gemstones. Mount Horeb’s trolls live a rather leisurely life of watering flowers, playing music, and taking photos with tourists.
The first trolls arrived in Mount Horeb in 1976 when the owners of Open House, a local Scandinavian gift shop, imported them from Norway and placed them on the store’s lawn. They instantly became popular with locals, tourists, and truckers who would spot them from the highway that connected Madison and Dubuque, Iowa.
When Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation decided to reroute the highway in the 1980s, bypassing Mount Horeb, local business owners became concerned about the impact on the local economy, and the idea for the “Trollway” came to life. Luckily, the village has a resident woodcarver who was able to create more than 15 whimsical, life-size trolls to help draw in the tourists. Today, many of the trolls help point out some of the best places to shop or stop for a bite to eat. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of Mount Horeb’s live troll, Jorgen, at one of the village’s events throughout the year.
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