'Trold, der vejrer kristenblod' ('Troll, which Sniffs Out Christian Blood') - Atlas Obscura

'Trold, der vejrer kristenblod' ('Troll, which Sniffs Out Christian Blood')

Positioned outside a church, this sinister folkloric figure incited protests in both 1902 and 2002. 

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In 1896, sculptor Niels Hansen Jacobsen created the bronze statue Trold, der vejrer kristenblod (‘Troll, which Sniffs Out Christian Blood’). Installed in 1902 in front of the Church of Jesus in Copenhagen’s Valby district, the effigy portrays a malevolent troll with outstretched claws, seemingly reaching toward the church’s sizable crucifix. Symbolizing darkness, hatred, and death, the sculpture reflects somber facets of the human condition.

The statue’s name originates from Norse mythology, in which a brave and cunning protagonist evades a foolish troll. As the half-blind but scent-savvy troll approaches the hero, it famously declares: “I smell the blood of a Christian man!”

Commissioned by Carl Jacobsen of Carlsberg Brewery at the beginning of the 20th century, who also financed the nearby church, the unsettling figure was intended to serve as a reminder of the world’s evil and encourage people towards Christianity. However, parishioners found its placement outside the sacred building blasphemous and demanded its removal. In the 1920s, during land subdivision in the area, the bronze troll was eventually relocated to the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek art museum’s garden, where it remains today.

In 2002, a replica of the folkloric figure was reinstated at its original location in front of the church in response to local requests and to commemorate the Ny Carlsberg Foundation’s centennial. While some believers protested, their objections garnered little attention. This second installation, now positioned behind a low hedge serving as a barrier between the figure and the house of worship, encountered less opposition than a century earlier.

In Scandinavian folklore, trolls frequently clash with churches, hurling boulders at churches on their lands. These tales underscore the tension between traditional pagan beliefs and the encroachment of Christianity in the region.

Know Before You Go

The statue, accessible 24/7, stands outside the Church of Jesus, a 10-minute walk from Valby S-train station in western Copenhagen.

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