On the hunt for trolls in Denmark

Photo by June Read

In April 2022, we travelled to Denmark with the intent of learning more about my Danish heritage (my maiden name was Johansen) My father came from Haderslev, about one hour from the German border, and after graduating from Agriculture College, emigrated to Canada in 1928 buying a farm outside of Wayne Alberta.

In the 90’s one of my cousins, Bente, came to Calgary during Stampede with their two children Mette and Rasmu. We kept in touch, and the idea of visiting had surfaced a few times, but it was not until April 2022 at we were able to go to Denmark. Before landing in Denmark, we sent a box of photos, certificates, cards, and even old telegrams, asking my cousins to translate and decipher who and what stories made up the family tree.

We arrived at Copenhagen airport and drove to Kolding for our initial visit. We were invited for lunch that was a Viking feast. We spent five hours sampling herring in sour cream, ladling the pan-fried meatballs (Frikadellar), spiced red cabbage and the cream cakes and treats were generously consumed alongside ample Danish beer and aquavit It was an occasion and I revelled in getting to know these lovely folks. The next four days they told stories and showed me where my father and his siblings lived along with the schools and churches they attended.

Kolding is a sea port. A comfortable village with winding cobbled streets. Royal Koldinghus Castle, with its origins in the 13th century, occupies a hilltop overlooking a small lake in the centre of town. The recent renovation combined the original structure with clean modern lines that opened up the space and showed visitors how the rooms functioned hundreds of years ago. You are transported into the past and feel so comfortable. Kolding is known as a centre for design and architecture, so their thoughtful renovation is not a surprise.

Part of the tour gave visitors the opportunity to try on costumes fit for royalty Koldinghus. I wondered if I could embellish our family tree by getting photos taken of my cousins in costume and then commission someone to paint them.

The following day we went to Christiansfeld, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where we were immersed in spring’s pink blossoming trees and walked through the town centre to see bright yellow cycles decorating the shops and streets in preparation for the upcoming Tour de France. After our walk through the town’s cathedral, we stopped for lunch and even our sandwich was a work of art.

One of my trip highlights was meeting a troll, Ene Ojesten, created by Danish artist Thomas Dambo. We stopped for lunch at a park called Borkop — enjoyed a wonderful meal and then took a short walk to meet Ene Ojesten. Translated into English, her name means “One-Eye Stone,” a reference to her contemplation as she sits quietly examining the concrete circle — the eye — with her stick.

When a space becomes available Dambo, works with local volunteers to design and create the troll’s story and character. All the items used in the creation of his trolls are reclaimed from discarded wood, metal, and concrete. Check out the website: https://thomasdambo.com/ to learn more about his work.

Dambo’s trolls are all over the world. They are all meant to make us aware of how we impact our environment. Being in the presence of this art, was for me, very profound.

June Read is the chairperson for the Third ACTion film Festival. Third ACTion aims to offer an entertaining and educational experience that redefines the narrative around aging through film and film-related events. For more information, head to thirdactionfilmfest.ca