Artist shares story of original Bay Bridge troll

OAKLAND, Calif.

Bill Roan was a blacksmith at an Oakland ornamental iron shop when the Loma Prieta earthquake tore apart the upper deck of the Bay Bridge.

Ironworkers repairing the bridge knew Roan and his work and asked for a mythical figure to place on the bridge as a protector.

"I told him I thought it was the stupidest idea I ever heard," Roan said. "No one would let me put a sculpture on the bridge and it was probably against the law."

He made it anyway over the course of three days. He researched earthquake mythology for inspiration but came up empty, so he turned to the children's tale "The Three Billygoats Gruff."

Ironworkers welded the troll to the side of the repaired cantilever.

"There was no permitting, no public funds, no environmental impact report, no scoping meetings," Roan said. "It was a completely rogue act."

A new troll, created by another artist, will be installed on the new bridge. Roan would like his original to join the new one there, but for now its fate is uncertain.

The original troll will be on display at the Oakland Museum of California through February.

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