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Trolls, Elfs, Näcken, Tomten, Vittran, and Huldran (the s.c.nordic FAQ)
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Trolls, Elfs, Näcken, Tomten, Vittran, and Huldran

 

2.4.7 Trolls and other beings

Except for the Gods, who haven't belonged to the Nordic reallity for centuries, there are some other important beings:

[ brownie | vättar | dwarfs | gnomes | rulers | follower | elfs | norns | troll | giants | ghosts ]

brownie
Sw: tomte
Fi: tonttu
Sw: gårdbo
Da: nisse


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tomte
a typical,
but outdated,
postcard-
Tomte
Tomten is a shy, solitary and longlived human-like being, very bound to the ground of his. Tomten regards the humans as temporary lodgers in his domain. Tomtar are not known to reside in urban settings, but a few less reliable reports say that Tomtar might dwell in the Woods as well.

Tomten is known to form families, but very little is known about the female tomte, Tomtemor. Tomte-children do not approach humans.

Although he is more keen on the animals than on the humans, his guardiance can, if he is friendly disposed, be very valuable for the humans too. In case of fire or other dangers he can take help by the humans by alarming or wakening up the master of the house.

To show the tomte appropriate respect is very important. Otherwise he would get averse and cause misfortune; and the humans could be forced to move on. Misdeeds from children or negligent employees the tomte might punish directly. The Nordic version of Sancta Claus is dressed as a Tomte of human size.

For drawings of tomtar and trolls, you could for instance examine the drawings by Hasse Bredenberg at <http://www.lysator.liu.se/runeberg/bredberg/>.



[ brownie | vättar | dwarfs | gnomes | rulers | follower | elfs | norns | troll | giants | ghosts ]

vättar

Vättar are smallish guardians, maybe distantly related to the tomte. They are important rulers protecting Nature from dangerous human interference. To forget providing offerings to the Maahinen was no good idea at all.

 

landvättar Fi: maahinen

Families living under stones, in the ground, guarding a wood, an island or certain places. They dislike foreigners but are in principle friendly. The maahinen's of Finland are known to disguise themselves as stones.

Sw: gårdsvättar

Families living under dwelling-houses or maybe beneath the stable. Vättar like cleanliness, order and warmth. They are said to move from a house if abandoned by the people and thereby made cold, but they might also get angered if rainwater or sink-water leak in to their dwelling.

When provoked they might cause illness, particularly among the children.



[ brownie | vättar | dwarfs | gnomes | rulers | follower | elfs | norns | troll | giants | ghosts ]

gnomes
Fi: menninkäinen

Gnomes are smallish men who mostly dwells on the European continent and only rarely visit our northern latitudes. The gnome travels alone through the earth as fishes swim through water. He guards the treasures hidden in the earth and mountains. Gnomes seem to belong to the rulers defending the Nature against humans.



[ brownie | vättar | dwarfs | gnomes | rulers | follower | elfs | norns | troll | giants | ghosts ]

Other rulers
It's unclear whether Huldra, Vittra and Näcken are to group together or not, but they seem all somehow to support the Nature and its animals against the dangerous humans.
 

No: huldra
Sw: skogsrå
Fi: metsänhaltija

Huldror and skogsrån (wood nymphs) are solitary female beings of extreme beauty, but without a spine (being "empty" in the back). Skogsrå do mostly approach hunters, probably to defend the animals or the wood from the sufferings caused by human hands.

The hunter falls in love and forgets his duties toward wife and family. He can also get allured astray or into a fog and die in the wood he thought he knew so well.

vittra

Vittror are female invisible beings, probably solitary. Maybe smallish. Dwelling in Norrland, in the high woods and on the fjeld. Often with dwellings under earth, but also in abandoned human chalets. Vittror are experts in milking, getting fatter and more abundant milk both from own (invisible) cattle and from the humans' cows and goats.

Vittror can be heard sometimes when they milk or when they call for their cattle. And the bell of their leading cow might be heard too. The vittror do however not normally seek human company.

It is unclear whether they rule over the fjeld and its woods like the skogsrå rules over the grand woods. But it is probable.

Sw: Näcken
Fi: Näkki
Sw: Strömkarlen
Sw: Bäckakarlen

Näcken is a very attractive man-like fiddle player or singer. Appearing at rivers and in waterfalls. He is fond of women, who sometimes are found drowned at places where he appears. Näcken is said to dislike clothes.



[ brownie | vättar | dwarfs | gnomes | rulers | follower | elfs | norns | troll | giants | ghosts ]

follower
fylgja

In old times powerful men were often accompanied by an invisible animal, fitting to their personality, as for instance a bear or a bull. The fylgja followed the person throughout life, and they died together. Occasionally the fylgja might be seen by others, but by the owner only at the end of his life.

 

family-fylgja

Some families also had a family-fylgja: a female being who followed the head of the family, and when he died turned to the heir. She could assist in battles, and in general cause problems for enemies.

People with a powerful family-fylgja had much luck, and were therefore often elected as leaders for a village, a ship or a province.



[ brownie | vättar | dwarfs | gnomes | rulers | follower | elfs | norns | troll | giants | ghosts ]

elfs

Elfs are little known beings who originally were closely related to the goods. Signs suggest that they in later times have interbred with the hidden people of the vittror.

 

alver

Alver are human-like beings of both sexes. They often get very old and wise but they never look really old. They live their life with minimal contacts with humans, why we know very little about alver of today.

Sometimes they change infants with humans, with the sad consequence that the human family gets a very gifted child which however has less of solidarity with its relatives than one could expect.

In old times people used to sacrifice to the alver. Nowadays this custom is forgotten, but we guess that such rites could improve the harvest, the fertility of the cattle or the health of the family.

Sw: älvor
Fi: keiju
fairies

Fairies are beautiful female beings, usually invisible but sometimes with visible veils. They are fond of pleasures and beauty, and also very enjoyable to meet. Sometimes they dance, sometimes they sing or giggle. Often shy for humans. They can be seen or heard at some distance, but use to disappear, or become invisible, when humans approach. They dislike to be disturbed, but might fall in love with beautiful men, and can then be very persistent.

Fairies are rather young - or at least do they behave like light-hearted teenage girls. Open meadows, shallow tarns and sheltered water mirrors can sometimes attract great parties of fairies.



[ brownie | vättar | dwarfs | gnomes | rulers | follower | elfs | norns | troll | giants | ghosts ]

norns

Norns are female beings who at birth determine the fate of the newborn. The best known has the name Verðandi.

 

valkyrior
valkyrias

Valkyrias are probably a kind of norns who is responsible for the collection of the warriors whos time it is to die. One is known under the name Skuld (of the same root as in "shall").

dis

A dis is a nowadays almost forgotten female being, related to norns and valkyrias, with the power to protect against ones enemies. In old times death in late winter was explained by insufficient sacrifice to the dises. These sacrifices took place at midwinter time or at fall.



[ brownie | vättar | dwarfs | gnomes | rulers | follower | elfs | norns | troll | giants | ghosts ]

dwarfs
Sw: dvärgar
Fi: kääpiö

Dwarfs are social human-like male beings of asexual generation, living in mountains and mines. They are very fond of metals and beautiful stones, and can get hostile when disturbed or robbed. It's dubious if they are seen in recent years.



[ brownie | vättar | dwarfs | gnomes | rulers | follower | elfs | norns | troll | giants | ghosts ]

troll
Fi: peikko
No: troll
Sw: troll
Da: troll

Trolls are human-like beings living in families or clans in for instance woods, mountains and hillocks. Some trolls live in pre-Christian graves after great kings and chieftains. They are very interested in jewelry in general and gold, silver and beautiful stones in particular.

Trolls usually get very old, but not even as young they are particularly beautiful. Trolls are fertile, but they fancy young beautiful women and infants seemingly hoping for offspring less ugly than they are themselves. Human women, and rarely young handsome men, have now and then been captured. Except for sexual services the humans have had hard labor as the foreigners they are, and their life at the trolls is said to be full of sufferings. Trolls don't seem to understand that humans are not as strong and endurant as they are themselves.

When trolls rob infants from their mother they usually leave an own infant, a changeling, in exchange. the changeling has however a hard time to follow human morals, and is not rarely quite stupid.

For views of trolls you could for instance examine the drawings at <http://www.lysator.liu.se/nordic/ill/titta/troll.html>.



[ brownie | vättar | dwarfs | gnomes | rulers | follower | elfs | norns | troll | giants | ghosts ]

giants
risar
Sw: jättar
Fi: jättiläinen

Giants dwell in caves, mountains and deep woods. Often in harsh landscape were humans can not survive for longer times. Giants are said to be insensitive for ice and snow.

Some people (Mots 1984) believe the giants and the trolls to have been the Gods of the pre-Germanic population.



[ brownie | vättar | dwarfs | gnomes | rulers | follower | elfs | norns | troll | giants | ghosts ]

ghosts
Sw: gengångare
Fi: haamu
Sw: vålnad
Fi: aave
(Fi: kummitus)
Sw: spöke
ghosts

Deceased persons who live on after death have usually committed an evil deed in their lifetime. They cause illness, insanity and death.

In medieval times the law punished production of ghosts (i.e. people who disturbed the dead).

 

mara

The mara is a female being who likes riding horses in their stable (and humans in their bed): causing unrest, anguish, fear, bad dreams and feeling of suffocating. The mara is maybe the ghost of an unfortunate woman who died as a unsatisfied virgin.





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The line of flags is modified after a picture at det Åländska skoldatanätet.
This page was last updated March the 29th in the year of 2001.

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