Why I Choose to Believe In Trolls

 The following post was written by 2015 Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Shannon Bomben during her expedition to Iceland. The Grosvenor Teacher Fellow Program is a professional development opportunity made possible by a partnership between Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic Education.

Before venturing to Iceland on the National Geographic Explorer, I had heard stories of elves, trolls, and hidden people. I wasn’t convinced.

And yet, on the sixth day of our Icelandic expedition, I found myself walking through a field of trolls. I saw them amongst their families, playing in fields, resting alone, fighting with friends, hiding behind mountains. Hundreds of them, with large bodies supporting small heads, loomed precariously in one spot . . . waiting to be awakened.

This fissure at Dimmuborgir is actually the meeting of the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Photograph by Carissa Martus.
This image of Dimmuborgir shows how large the lava formations are. Can you spot the two tiny people walking into a cave? Photograph by Shannon Bomben.

Dimmuborgir Lava Formations
For those of you familiar with Iceland, it isn’t difficult to figure out my troll sighting took place in “The Dark Castles” at Dimmuborgir. This area was formed when lava flowed over a wetland about 2,300 years ago.

Dimmuborgir’s terrific and terrifying lava pillars make it impossible for your brain NOT to fill the literal fissures with folktales and myths. I suddenly understood why Icelandic legends like the “Yule Lads” exist. How could they not? The geology lends itself to creativity.

Two trolls spotted mid-conversation. Photograph by Shannon Bomben.
Two trolls caught kissing. Photograph by Shannon Bomben.

Teaching to Believe in Trolls
Professionally, Iceland’s trolls helped me realize that geology and creativity CAN be interconnected . . . and, more importantly, ARE interconnected. We often think of each subject or area of interest as separate, but why do they have to be?

This year, I will hunt for trolls at home.

It’s easy to find trolls in Iceland—they’re trapped in lava formations galore.

Trolls in Canada may just be hiding in other natural wonders. Maybe trolls are visible in the trunks of our birch trees? Maybe they’re trapped in the cliffs of the Rockies, or behind the falls in Niagara? Maybe some are hiding in the playground or in our own backyards!

This year, I hope to challenge my students to create a piece of art that helps us explain an aspect of the natural world. It could be a piece of fiction, visual art, or even music.

Here’s an example story from a student in my 5th grade class: Niagara Falls Wonder.

We as human beings are connected to the Earth physically, and we are beginning to take ownership of that. But let’s take ownership of our connection creatively as well, and allow our students to be inspired by the world around them. Who knows, maybe in exercising this creativity and fostering a love for the environment, our students will one day provide creative solutions for some of the more physical environmental issues we’ve gifted this world.

So do I really believe in trolls? Absolutely! How can you not?

To learn more about Shannon’s expedition, click here.

4 thoughts on “Why I Choose to Believe In Trolls

  1. Great post! As a fellow GTF in Iceland ( a few years ago) I agree and have used the same stories to motivate my students to see connections between the land and cultural stories. Thanks for sharing your creative student work.

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