It’s not only sports teams that have mascots. Cities and countries do too. Last time I was in Washington DC — many years ago — panda statues inhabited many city streets. These were large creations produced from the same mold. A different artist painted each one, which guaranteed that no two pandas looked alike. At one time, Vancouver B.C. had whales and Seattle featured pigs. My own town decorated with stags. Somewhere I’ve seen cows, but I can’t remember where.
But Norway is the only country I’ve visited that has its own mascot. While it’s true that moose designs appear on nearly every t-shirt and trinket sold to the tourists there, it’s unlikely a tourist will ever run in to a moose on the street, although two fellow travelers did eat a mooseburger at one of our lunch stops. (As an aside, our guide translated the menu for us and insisted the mooseburger was on it, though my husband and I kept hearing her say elk. We wondered how she could not know the difference between a moose and an elk until she later spelled out the Norwegian word for moose: elg.) Anyway, a moose hardly counts as a Norwegian mascot. It’s better left to Alaska to claim that one.
No. The real symbol for Norway is the troll. My on-line dictionary says a troll is “a mythical, cave-dwelling being depicted in folklore as either a giant or a dwarf, typically having a very ugly appearance.” They live in caves and rocks, and for all of us who read the folktale of “Three Billy Goats Gruff” as children, we know they also live under bridges.
Seattle has its own troll of the under-the-bridge type. This is fitting because it’s located not far from a part of town to which many Scandinavians immigrated in the late 1800s.
Although we had no plans to buy a souvenir troll, we won a troll in a contest created by our tour guide to name as many famous Scandinavians as we could. We managed a fourth-place win despite butchering the spelling of several names and forgetting a few important ones we remembered later.
Another reason trolls are more fit candidates for mascothood than moose is that they are everywhere and they don’t move, so you can take pictures. I’ve included only part of my collection here. The troll story has been Disneyfied over time. The troll the three billy goats met threatened to eat them up. The ones pictured here are all smiles…though on second thought their bellies do look full.