Currently at South Coast Botanic Garden, Palos Verdes, California, USA until January 14th, 2024
TROLLS: SAVE THE HUMANS is a traveling exhibition created by Thomas Dambo in collaboration with Imagine Exhibitions.
The exhibition features six young trolls who have noticed that the “small people” – which is what the trolls call the humans – are disconnected from nature and have started harming the planet! Through activism, the goal of the tribe is to help the humans rediscover nature and inspire them to be good stewards of earth.
The story of Save the Humans is the second chapter of the fairytale Trail of a Thousand Trolls. The first chapter of the fairytale can be found in the book Trail of a 1000 Trolls – The Trolliefolkyfest.
chapter 2 in the trail of a Thousand Trolls
Every two-hundred-and-eleventh year, all the
trolls from all over the world meet at a big gathering
in a secret place. Some call this gathering the great
“Trolliefolkyfest,” but it’s really not that festive.
Two hundred and eleven years might sound like a
lot to little humans, but to a giant troll, it feels like
a single summer. At this gathering, the trolls sit
around a fire and talk about the humans. The trolls
know that the humans are good beings at heart and
mean no harm, but time and time again throughout
history, the humans have emptied rivers, cut down
forests, and hollowed out the mountains. Choices
that have put the humans themselves in danger but
also the trolls, the animals, and the plants that all
live and breathe in the world we share.
It’s exactly two hundred and eleven years
since the last troll gathering, but something is
certainly different at this one. As they sit around
the fire talking, anyone listening could hear that
the giants believe that the humans have stopped
listening to nature, stopped understanding,
stopped caring altogether. The trolls are
furiously yelling at each other, and, to be frank,
it’s not a place you would want to be.
The old troll, Bo, who has walked all the way
across the snowy mountains, rises from his
stone and shouts, “Let’s eat all the humans, and
solve this problem once and for all!”
“Agreed, indeed!” Isak Heartstone yells from
across the fire, and all the trolls join in a loud
roaring “JAAAA!” which is a saying trolls use
when they agree on something.
While the old trolls chant, “IT’S TIME TO
CHOMP!!! CHOMP!!! CHOMP!!!” A group of six
young trolls — Ronja Redeye, Basse Buller, Rosa
Solfinger, Ibbi Pip, Kamma Can and Sofus Lotus
— sit in the shadows furthest away from the fire.
These six trolls are best friends and have traveled
to the gathering together. Just as all the old trolls
start chanting, “Eat the humans, have a feast,
save the world and be in peace!” Ronja turns to
her friends, puts her wooden arms around their
shoulders and whispers to them:
“We must save the humans! We must help them
change and be better, save them from themselves
before the old trolls start cleaning their teeth
with human bones—we cannot let that happen!”
Ronja Redeye is one of the smallest trolls,
but what she lacks in size she makes up for in
her flaming passion. That’s why she’s called
Redeye—after the fire that lights up her eyes
when she sees something unfair. The humans
are a bit slow and don’t understand that if they
throw their trash in the river, it ends up in the
ocean, and if they chomp down a mountain it will
take millions of years for a new one to grow. But,
Ronja doesn’t think this means that humans are
evil, they just don’t know any better. Humans
only live around eighty circles of light, and
because they are so small and young, they simply
can’t grasp the bigger picture. Ronja believes
that just like you shouldn’t blame a hungry dog
for bolting all of its food at once, or a happy
troll for singing so loud it scares the birds, you
shouldn’t blame the humans when they come
and do what humans do—you should help them.
Help them understand how their actions have
consequences, and what they can do to be better.
While Ronja is talking, Basse Buller, Rosa
Solfinger, Ibbi Pip, Kamma Can, and Sofus Lotus
are listening intently. Ronja has a way of saying
things that make you listen so hard that you
forget everything around you…which is good
when a thousand trolls are standing around a
gigantic fire, singing about eating humans and
stomping their feet so loud that every mole on
the continent pokes its head out of the ground to
see what’s happening!
Basse Buller agrees with every word Ronja says,
and as she finishes, shouts excitedly, “Let’s make
a troll gang and go save the humans,” he says.
“It’ll be awesome! I can make us a flag with a cool
mark, so everybody who wants to join knows
who we are.”
“But…hmm…what should the mark look like, and
what should we call our gang?” Ibbi Pip ponders.
She had been standing a bit to the side until now.
“It should have something to do with what we
want to do…I want to show the humans how to
live together with all the other animals without
scaring them away,” she says. “Teach them to be
careful not to crush the ants, just like we trolls
are careful not to step on the humans. And how
to make room for the birds that live among us by
building birdhouses for them.”
“That’s great! A birdhouse!!” says Basse Buller.
Right away, he starts thinking about how he
could paint a cool birdhouse mark on the flag.
Now, Kamma Can, who has been listening to the
conversation while braiding some branches into a
beautiful finger ring, pipes up with her own idea.
She explains how she’s always wondered why the
little humans keep losing the colorful eternity
material all over the forest. Kamma thinks this
is so odd. After all, it’s no secret that the humans
really like the eternity material. They wrap their
food in it, wear it on their bodies, and give it to
their babies, so why would they just leave it in
the forest and not take it home? Besides, the
colorful eternity material isn’t good for nature:
unlike the forest, it will never become a part of
the circle of life. The eternity material will stay
the same for all eternity, so if a little mouse eats
it, it’ll get a bellyache and be sick for at least six
days. Kamma’s idea is to show the humans how
to collect all the eternity material from the forest
and teach them how to make beautiful finger
rings and necklaces from it. Maybe then they’d
stop throwing it everywhere. All six trolls agree
it’s a great idea.
“It’s going to be so much fun!” Rosa Solfinger
exclaims. “I just can’t wait to see what you will
make! But what should I do? How can I help save
“Well, what’s your name?” says Basse in a teasing
“No, your full name.”
“Yes, and what does that mean?”
“It means Sun finger. It’s a name my mother gave
me because she thinks I’m as good for the flowers
as sunshine and water!”
“Yes, exactly! You should do something with
flowers!” Basse concludes.
Rosa has always loved flowers, and she loves
to care for them, so instantly, she gets an idea.
She will take the tops off the smelly metal boxes
and plant flowers in them. She knows the little
humans love to sit inside the metal boxes while
running back and forth on the long black lines.
And as all smart trolls know, the metal boxes
are blind, which is why they sometimes run into
animals trying to cross the black lines. But, if
Rosa were to plant flowers in the metal boxes, the
animals could see them coming more easily. Also,
the flowers would help take some of the smell
away. Rosa’s not really sure why the metal boxes
smell so bad, but she’s heard that they get really
gassy bellies when they drink the magic black
juice—but also that they are destined to drink it,
or else they’ll fall asleep.
Now Sofus looks up. He likes to keep to himself,
far away from the black lines and the smelly
metal boxes. Sofus stays where he can hear the
worms digging and the birds tweeting and the
leaves swaying in the wind. Sofus mostly likes to
listen. But, after hearing all his friends talking,
he also gets an idea. “If we’re going to save the
humans, we should teach them to listen because
only a human who listens will hear when Nature
talks.” H e p auses, and w hen h e s peaks a gain, i t
is in a whisper. “Only a human who listens will
hear when Nature talks,” he says again, which is
something you do when it’s really important. And
when you are quoting a famous sentence from the
oldest and wisest troll of them all, Ivan Evigvår
from the little country of Denmark, it’s really,
really important… but we’ll have to save that
story for another day.
“But what is Nature trying to say?” Ronja
whispers back to Sofus.
Sofus shrugs his enormous shoulders. “No idea.
You have to listen for yourself.”
“That makes sense,” says Ronja. “I’m so happy
we’re doing this!”
“Me too!” says Ibbi and gives Ronja a big hug.
They sit looking into the last flames of the fire
when Basse Buller, who very few would call a
thinker, suddenly thinks a thought and shouts
out, “Let’s just call our gang Save the Humans.
I think everyone agrees with that! I’ll make the
flag tomorrow, and then, let’s save the humans!”
Basse Buller tends to be all over the place,
spreading his message in mud paint on
every available surface. He is a wild child at
heart, but when he starts painting he finds
his calm in an instant. He loves to express
himself through symbols and shapes
inspired by the nature he lives in and he
makes his marks with stones, leaves, sticks
or anything that he can find enough of.
An explorer and rebel, he understands
“no” as “maybe” and sees that boundaries
are there to be pushed – with signs, words
and often a beat to make the message even
clearer. You are not in doubt, when this troll
is around. He is funny, loud, and gets his
muddy paint everywhere in an effort to lead
the humans onto the right path.
Rosa Sunfinger is a soft introverted troll
who cares for plants and other green
creatures with her life-giving fingers. Her
face is as gentle as her personality and she
always wears a soft sunny smile on her
cheeks. Rosa may seem a bit introverted, but
she is not afraid of speaking up, if needed.
However, she chooses her words carefully
and she finds that the best way of expressing
herself is through plants.
Rosa brings back life where humans have
abandoned it. She spreads her wisdom
by showing how plants can make even the
most useless items come back to life, with
the help of her sunny fingertips. Through
her actions, she wants to bring back joy
to what seems forsaken and watching the
flowers grow always makes her smile.
Ibbi Pip is a handy, optimistic troll and
a friend of all animals. She tries to communicate
with the humans through colorful
birdhouses because she holds a strong
belief that there is still hope for them. Ibbi
has seen how humans build these to bring
the birds closer to them and thinks that
maybe this could awaken the humans’ compassion
for their natural surroundings. So,
Ibbi puts up little birdhouses everywhere
in the hope that the humans will think more
about whom they share the world with.
Kamma Can is a creator. Where humans
see trash she sees potential. Over the
last years of human existence, the
amount of colorful eternity material
has increased rapidly.
Kamma finds this new material rather
beautiful and she simply doesn’t
understand why the humans just
throw it away and leave it in the
weirdest places. Kamma wants to
teach the humans not to throw things
away so fast. Being a creative spirit
she can think of a million ways to make
nice things with all those beautiful
colors. To see for yourself, just take
a look at the amazing necklaces she
created for herself and for her best
friend Ronja Redeye.
Ronja Redeye speaks from her heart, and
is really good with words. Although she
is the smallest of the group that wants
to save the humans, she has a mighty
voice and is a natural leader. Carrying the
gift of communication with her, she even
knows how to speak words that humans
understand and she has translated the troll
alphabet into the human ABC!
When she thinks of a word to say, Ronja
immediately senses echoes of rhymes and
her mouth picks them like flowers from a
field and shapes them into a poem, a song, a
tale or a cheerful roaring through the forest.
Although her words are always honest and
straightforward, she speaks them with
compassion, because she knows that words
have the power to make you smile, but they
can also create great sadness. And, if there
is one thing that can make Ronja’s eyes turn
red it is the use of hurtful words getting in
the way of friendship.
Sofus is an introverted type who pays
great attention to the little things. He uses
his ears to hear every little crackle, thud
Time only exists as a source of light during
the day, which changes the shadows of his
He was the first one to notice that
something was wrong with the world, and
that nature was changing its rhythm and
ways for the worse. But he doesn’t make a
fuss. He just listens, feels and is mindful of
nature and all its beings.