Just 22 miles from Madison is the quaint little town of Mount Horeb—but small, charming towns aren’t always as innocent as they seem. The town was originally settled by Norwegian immigrants who brought much of their culture and history to Wisconsin, including their myths and folklore. In the 1970s, a Scandinavian gift shop located on the main road began nestling trolls in the front of the shop. Truckers noticed and considered it a quirky touch.
The highway was rerouted, but the trolls remain a staple in keeping the traffic flowing. Soon enough, trolls began to pop up all over town and the “Trollway” was born. Legends and stories spread, and now everyone in Mount Horeb has a different idea of the mischief these creatures get into.
A Touch of History
In Scandinavia, trolls are similar to elves but smaller. They live near the sea in “case-mounds” and have a sprinkling of magical powers, particularly shape-shifting and telling fortunes. Features include crooked, long noses, and they have just four fingers and toes per limb. They can live to be centuries old and have bushy tails that they may try to hide.
Unlike troll legends in the U.S., Norwegians believe trolls can look scary but are actually quite friendly and even naïve. They’re often guarding treasures, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to co-exist. A great place to start? A short day trip to Mount Horeb and see how many trolls you can spot!