Located in New Salem, North Dakota, Salem Sue stands a mighty 38 feet (12 m) high and 50 feet (15 m) long and can be viewed from several miles around. (Roadside Attraction / USA / United States)
Located in Wisconsin’s Dane County, not too far from the State Capital of Madison, Mount Horeb is a small village with around 8000 people. It has become known as the troll capital of the world, and the entire town has embraced this designation which draws many tourists to the area to check out the troll sculptures, peruse the gift shops and eat at the troll-themed restaurants. You can also check out the Grumpy Troll Brew Pub if you wish to sample the local brews.
The village of Mount Horeb was settled by people of German, Irish, Scottish, Swiss, Norwegian, and English descent. But by the late 1800s, the vast majority of the village was populated by Norwegians. Trolls, of course, originated in early Scandinavian folklore, which says that they are similar in size to elves or dwarves and tend to live in mounds or near the sea. According to folklore, trolls have magical powers; long, crooked noses; bushy tails; and more. They live to be 100 years old or more.
The people of Mount Horeb adopted the Scandinavian beliefs and named their community the troll capital of the world. About a century later, this designation was turned into a smart commercial decision when a Scandinavian gift shop named Open House Imports starting placing trolls imported from Norway on their lawn to draw in visitors. In the mid-80s, when the Wisconsin Department of Transportation created a bypass around Mount Horeb, truckers started referring to it as the Mount Horeb Trollway.
The trolls come in various shapes and sizes and there are other examples of sculptures of other mythical creatures such as dragons – but the trolls are the main draw.
Beyond the trolls, Mount Horeb is an interesting place to stop and look around. There are some quaint buildings and stores to check out. There is also the Driftless Historium, which covers the history and culture of the region, the Duluth Trading Company outlet store and if you are feeling more energetic why not rent a bike (or bring your own) and cycle the scenic 40-mile Military Ridge State Trail that connects Madison and Dodgeville.