There is a popular story, “Three Billy Goats Gruff”, in which three little goats are trying to get across a bridge, but a troll who lives underneath it threatens to eat them up. They trick him to cross, and all ends well (for the goats, at least). Now that you’re all grown up, you know that trolls don’t really live under bridges. But there’s one bridge in Oregon where trolls actually do live…and it’s really pretty charming!
The reason (or the reasons) why trolls began to appear under a bridge in Portland is still an open question. A forced migration, or a simple search for a better life? Or maybe the local human population is just trying its hardest to keep Portland a quite weird?
As story goes, trolls were once fearsome creatures, solitary and hostile to men, who frequented the darkest depths of castles and caves, stealing human maidens and feasting on stray children.
However, it seems that in the 1960s, something went terribly wrong: the gnarled troll-folk of Norse and Scandinavian folklore were shrunk and plasticized into colorful little creatures with big hair and loveable smiles. Not exactly what Henrik Ibsen had in mind when he wrote “To live is to war with trolls in heart and soul.”
And it’s these colorful little trolls that you’ll find under an old trestle railway bridge on the outskirts of Portland, driving along McNamee Road (known as “McGnarly Road” by local cyclists for its challenging hills) and passing beneath the bridge, surrounded by shady woodland. Here, along a series of weathered wooden planks, you’ll see the trolls.
Historically, in 1907, United Railways began work on a line west from Portland. Where the tracks climbed the face of the Tualatin Mountains, trestles were built to span forested canyons, and also the McNamee trestle was built in that era, when the road was just a corduroy road, with logs laid side-by-side to provide traction for trucks. Today that old logging road is paved and lined with homes.
Over the years, locals have been affixing trolls to the wood, alongside a few trolls painted directly onto the planks. The colony of colorful little trolls has an unstable population, as nefarious humans occasionally steal some member of this curious colony. Thankfully, kindhearted humans living in the area replace them with fresh trolls, keeping the strange collection alive.
There is plenty of room to put troll dolls on other structures, but a panel seems to be the only gathering spot. Perhaps they like basketball and like to hit the boards. Their team? Portland Troll Blazers! (…)
Maybe if you look too long and miss the curve just ahead, the trolls will dance and cheer on you….
Images from web. Google research.