I’d like you to take a minute to consider the possibility of there being a Troll Capitol of the World. I’d like you to ask yourself where such a place might be, and why it might bear such a moniker.
While you’re considering that, I’d like you to also imagine the road out of Madison as it winds towards Dubuque. It’s a small highway cutting its way through the farmlands of Wisconsin. About 25 miles out there’s a point where highway 18 splits off from 151, becoming it’s own quiet main street. Before rejoining 151 a mere three miles later, it cuts a straight path through Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin: The Troll Capitol of the World.
It was late afternoon on a Sunday when I arrived at Mt. Horeb, and the Chamber of Commerce was expectedly closed. I took a picture of the female troll outside the Welcome Center. Two doors down I saw what looked to be a couple of shops with wood carvings out front. I took a few pictures of those trolls, too. I walked past the Peddler Troll to get to Open House Imports, the most Scandinavian store I’ve ever seen. There were clogs and viking paraphernalia and tiny figures of women with wreaths of candles on their heads. I saw a shirt that proclaimed “Leif Was First” and four shelves full of specialty beers and ciders. And of course there were the trolls – hundreds and hundreds of stuffed and ceramic and wooden and plastic trolls.
I picked up a postcard and stood in silence as the woman behind the counter rang me up. She had already handed me my change and told me to have a nice day when I finally managed to form the most polite version of the question I could.
“So, what’s with the trolls?”
She told me that traditionally trolls protect the farmland, and she gave some coded phrases to indicate that the area might have been settled by Norwegian emigrants. She gave me a magazine called “Southwest Wisconsin Uplands” and showed me the page with the “Trollway” map. The thoroughly not-to-scale map indicated ten official trolls, though I’d already seen several that we not officially marked. I thanked her and set out on my journey of troll discovery.
Sometimes I wonder what it’s like to live in one of these towns – one of these towns that has “a thing.” Mt. Horeb has trolls like Roswell has aliens. You see it everywhere. I found a tooth fairy troll in front of the dentist’s office, and a sign in the pub for the 11th Annual Thirty Troll Brew Fest. Does it ever become tiring? As a citizen, do you ever wish you could walk down the street without seeing a smiling but eerie face staring back at you? Do you ever wish you weren’t the Troll Capitol of the World?
Such questions go without answers in Mt. Horeb at 5PM on a Sunday. Everything was closed and few people were around. But if you ever find yourself on the way to Dubuque during regular business hours, do me a favor and stop by Mt. Horeb. Ask them if they like their trolls. Who knows, maybe they do. Or if they just keep them around for the sake of the kids, and the crops.