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10 Creatures in Scandinavian Folklore

The Scandinavian Folklore consists of a huge variety of creatures, good or evil, which have frightened people for centuries. They were often meant to scare children, but even today they are essential and important to the modern northern society. In the 1890s, something changed in the way common Scandinavians saw themselves and their culture. They looked back in time to rediscover their old myths and legends; folklore which had been forgotten because of the coming of Christianity. It was a time when people feared nature, because we were becoming more industrialized. The forests, the mountains, and the sea – it all seemed strange, dark and magic, and because of that, we are now left with evil spirits and monsters who used to represent our own way of seeing nature.

10

Huldra

Huldra

Huldra (or called Tallemaja in Swedish) is a troll-like woman living in the woods. She is fair and beautiful, but wild and has a long cow-tail which she hides behind her back upon meeting a human. It is said that Adam and Eve had many children, and that one day, when Eve was giving her children a bath, God came to visit. Eve had not finished bathing all of her children, and so hid those who were still dirty. God asked: “Are there not more children?” and when Eve said no, God said: “Then let all that is hidden, remain hidden,” and the hidden children became De Underjordiske (the ones living underground), lost souls who live under the surface of the earth, calling for someone to be with them, usually human passersby. Huldra was one of them, but she somehow remained above the ground. She is a flirtatious, young girl who is neither good nor evil.

9

Nisser

Nisser1

These beings are actually still very important in the modern society. In the Scandinavian Christmas tradition, there is no Santa in the shape of a fat, bearded guy who lives at the North Pole. Instead, we each have our own Nisse, living in the barn (that is to say, if you are a farmer, or living in the countryside), who is like a guardian for the household. These creatures are typical pranksters, but can easily be befriended, and around Christmas they have the same function as Santa in Western traditions.


8

Dwarves/Elves

Page17 Blog Entry37 3

Made famous by J. R. R. Tolkien, the dwarves and the elves originate from Norse Mythology. The dwarves lived in their own part of Midgard; a place no human could find. They were small people, often pictured as little men with long beards, who were master smiths, and made the swords, shields and armor for the gods themselves. The elves lived in a deep forest nearby the castle of Frøy, the god of fertility, called Alvheim. They were fair and beautiful, and commonly seen as peaceful creatures.

7

Mare

Nightmare 148011794

Mare is a female Vette, who gives people bad dreams at night by sitting on them in their sleep. She is a common belief in Germanic folklore, and appears in many different shapes. The Scandinavian words for Nightmare, are: Norwegian – Mareritt, Danish – Mareridt, Swedish – Mardröm, which directly translated means Mare-ride, and Mare-dream.

6

Fossegrimmen

W=450,H=325

Fossegrimmen, or just Grim (Foss is Norwegian for Waterfall) is a water-creature. He is a young, handsome man who sits naked under waterfalls, playing the fiddle. He plays the music of nature itself; the sound of the water, the wind in the trees, it all comes from his music. He is said to teach humans how to play if they secretly brought him a stolen piece of meat. Torgeir Augundsson (1801-1872), better known as Myllarguten, was a famous fiddle-player from Telemark, Norway who was so good it was rumored he had sold his soul in exchange of Fossegrimmen’s skills.

5

Troll

Giants And Freia

The troll comes from Norse Mythology, inspired by the cruel giants who were the main enemies of the gods, known as jotner/jotuner/jötunn, who lived in the mountains of Utgard. They have a human like appearance, but they are incredibly ugly and huge, and every story about them tells of how stupid they are. In the old tales, there were trolls of all kinds, some living in the high mountains, in castles carved out of the stone, in deep forests, and some even by the shore. Upon the arrival of Christianity around the 1300s, the stories changed. The trolls were able to smell the blood of a Christian man, and basically they stood for anything of the old times, which the new religion condemned. Oh, and if they every came in contact with sunlight, they turned to stone.


4

Pesta

Pesta

The Black Death was a tragedy for all of the Scandinavian countries, Denmark lost one third of its population, while Norway lost half. The plaque was so devastating, the people soon made it into a character of its own. Pesta comes as the figure of death and illness, in the shape of a hideous, old woman dressed in black, carrying a broom and a rake. She traveled from farm to farm, spreading the plague. If she carried with her the rake, some of the inhabitants would survive, but if she was carrying the broom, everyone in the family would soon die. It is still common to mention Pesta in the context of disease and illness.

3

Nökken

Noekken 01C

Nökken/Nyk/Nykkjen is a mysterious water creature, residing in fresh-water, lakes and deep ponds. He is, in Norwegian tradition, described as a dark monster with his eyes just above the surface, watching as people walk by. In Swedish tradition, he is a beautiful, young man, tricking women into jumping into the water, and then drowning them. He is a shapeshifter, and can change into a white horse, letting young children ride on his back and then jumping with them back into his pond. He is also said to be a talented musician, playing the violin so that the villagers can hear him at night. There were ways to protect oneself from him; you could throw a piece of metal into the water, like a needle or an iron cross, and so save yourself. If he had already attacked, you could overpower him by saying his name. “Nyk! Nyk! Naal i vatn. Jomfru Maria kastet styaal i vatn! Du sæk, æk flyt!” was a riddle for protection, meaning: “Nyk! Nyk! Needle in the water. The Virgin Mary threw steel in the water! You are sinking, I float!”


2

Draugen

Sjotroll

Draugen, from Norse “draugr” meaning ghost. Yet another water creature, and this one is something you really wouldn’t want to meet when you’re out in your boat. Draugen is the ghost of a man who died at sea. He is huge and monster-like, and covered in seaweed, rowing in half a boat. He erupts a terrible scream when he appears, and legend has it he can be seen during stormy nights at sea, drowning sailors and fishermen, and sinking their boats and ships. There is a story of a man who once ran from Draugen and into a churchyard, where he shouted for the spirits of the dead to protect him. The day after, all the graves were open, and the churchyard was covered in seaweed. In these days, Draugen is commonly associated with anything dark and mystical about the sea.

1

Kraken

220Px-Colossal Octopus By Pierre Denys De Montfort

Kraken is probably a creature most people will recognize. It’s been used in several movies, like Pirates of the Caribbean and Clash of the Titans, but originally, the Kraken belongs in the cold Norwegian Sea, where it was first said to be seen in the early 1700s. The first detailed description was made by the Danish writer and biologist, Erik Pontoppidan, in 1752. In old times, the Kraken was said to be in the shape of a huge crab, the size of an island, and many sailors and fishermen found themselves stranded on an island that had not been there minutes before. Later descriptions tell of a monster in the shape of an enormous octopus, which dragged ships down to the bottom of the sea.



  • howes

    first…

    • diablo135

      Loser

    • Him

      Troll

  • Found this quite interesting! Have always liked mythology and this article taught me some new things. Thanks!

  • howes

    That being said a refreshingly interesting list, after the list spewing insult at my most beloved video games yesterday, this was most welcome. More like this please.

  • So is the old Robert Johnson “Crossroads” legend based on entry 6 of this List? Sounds like he did the same thing as Torgeir Augundsson.

    • The Devil Went Down To Georgia

      I love that old legend!

    • Z

      I agree,

  • Murphy’s Dog

    Great list. Particularly fascinated by the Pesta story. The scientific name for the bubonic plague bacteria is Yersinia pestis. Obviously whoever came up with this was familar with the Norse legend.

    • reptarnz

      Or it’s a reference to pestilence.

    • erslev

      Pest is the word for plauge in Danish, Swedish and Norwegian

  • Oh Ravish Me Mighty Thor!

    I love old folk lore tales and mythology and I really love Scandinavia, I would absolutely love to visit some countries up there.

    • Randi

      You can come and visit me in Sweden! ;)

  • GobbleGobble

    I’m not sure if they should be on the list or not since they belong more in mythology than folklore, but I think Fenrir and Jormundgandr are worth mentioning.

    • RaR85

      Oh i agree. How could someone forget Fenrir the great white wolf who ate Odin’s eye, or even the snake/serpent that lives around the world tree, Yggdrasil (Jour.)

      There were also dragons in Norse/Scand. myths as well as four male deers, called harts or four stags who eat the leaves from the tree.

      All of this is fascinating :) I love it.

  • ni99a

    My people sure have come a long way since our ancestors. Sure, we were stupid back then but now, our kind have produced great scientist and thinkers.

    We were ugly back then too but that was due to malnutrition. With proper diet, our kind can look very good. It explains why white females are cheating on their husband more and more. (Tip: We look good and we do good on the bed)

    • o0st0ned0o

      Huh?

    • Pauly

      Who cares.

      Not funny anyway.

  • david

    “God asked: “Are there not more children?” and when Eve said no, God said: “Then let all that is hidden, remain hidden,” and the hidden children became De Underjordiske (the ones living underground), lost souls who live under the surface of the earth, calling for someone to be with them, usually human passersby.”

    Wow! God sure is a prick, isn’t he…

    • I’cia

      The story Huldra kind of made me laugh, why would the all God have to ask such a question? (sarcasm)

      • I’cia

        *all knowing

  • Me

    A lot of trolls are found in the internet. :|

    • Lotsofsacks.

      But where’s the draugen when you need him?

  • Oddjob

    Interesting list, but must point out 2 things.

    1. At #9 “In the Scandinavian Christmas tradition, there is no Santa in the shape of a fat, bearded guy who lives at the North Pole.” I don’t know if it’s a weird phrasing or if it’s different in Norway and Denmark but in Sweden there’s definately a fat bearded Santa in the majority of households.

    2. #10 Is more commonly known in Sweden as “Skogsrået” or “Skogsfrun”.

    • erslev

      Santa or Julemanden (x-messman in Denmark and Norway or “tompten” in Sweden lives on Greenland not the north pole! Jul (yul original) is the nordic word for Christmass it comes from the Norsebelive and never got out

      It’s a Danish thing take a guess what contry is Greenland having selfgovenment under?

      Julemanden’s little helpers is nisser

    • Scott

      The original Santa in Scandinavia was not a fat, bearded, jolly guy in a red suit. American and political cartoonist, Thomas Nast, was the first to depict him like that.

  • Vanowensbody

    Great list

  • hillwilliam

    I may be mistakwn here but wasnt the kraken origanly a greek myth. or at least the name. its been many years but wasnt it cherabus and kraken that ulyssys had to sail past in the illied.

    • Lotsofsacks.

      I think it was skylla and charybdis, one created a great maelstrom that could swallow the entire ship, and the other was a beast with a bunch of heads that would pick the sailors of a bunch at a time.

  • I’cia

    I really enjoyed this list. The story of Nokken is rather creepy as well as Mare.

  • Reggae

    Skyrim.

    That is all.

  • badabing633

    Scylla and her sister Charybdis. Odysseus was forced to choose which monster to confront while passing through the strait; he opted to pass by Scylla and lose only a few sailors, rather than risk the loss of his entire ship in the whirlpool.

    You have got it all wrong!

    The tell is; Perseus defeated the Kraken with the head of Medusa. He then threw the head of Medusa into the ocean and from this came Pegasus. The head of Medusa washed up on shore and was retrieved by Perseus.

    With all this done, Perseus had yet a couple more issues to take care of. He returned to Seriphos only to find that Polydectes was attempting to force himself upon his mother, Danae. For the last time, Perseus used the head of Medusa and turned Polydectes to stone. After this, Perseus gave up the sandals and satchel to Hermes and the head of Medusa to Athena. Athena then fused the head of Medusa to the Aegis. His final act was to fulfill the prophesy…he returned to Argos and killed Acrisius.

    )

    • Perseus used the head of Medusa to kill a ‘cetus’, which is only referred to as a ‘kraken’ in todays society after the word was borrowed from old Norse mythology.

    • hillwilliam

      Like i said its been many years. Thank you for the correction. but i knew the myth was much older.

  • Pippa

    Skrøgeën trolls!

  • erslev

    Nökken is today a condom name so “Nökken is described as a dark monster with his eyes just above the surface, watching as people walk by” make total sense

  • Benjamin

    Because he likes to catch people out for lying or-what-have-you, so that he can prank them royally :)

  • i liked this.

  • Why does the fairy first offer the golden hoe?

  • “The draugr was “the animated corpse that comes forth from its grave mound, or shows restlessness on the road to burial” (Ellis-Davidson, Road to Hel, p. 80). Also known as aptrgangr (lit. “after-goer,” or “one who walks after death”) the draugr is the roaming undead most frequently encountered in the Icelandic sagas. Whichever name is used, the undead of Scandinavia was a physical body, the actual corpse of the deceased, and though the term “ghost” may be used to describe it, modern connotations of a phantom or incorporeal spirit do not apply to these supernatural creatures.” ~ VAL

    Doesn’t seem to have a thing to do with water. . .

  • I married a Mare…..Norwegian bitch

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    Hear is something important, this should be first!

    The results on Google go past page 30!!!!!! Its really true!!!!!!!!!!!

    PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD!!!!!!!!!!!!

    https://www.google.ca/#q=ASIANS+CAN+ACTUALLY+READ

    • Pauly

      Old meme is old.

  • dani

    It was scylla and charybdis. A sea monster (serpentine), and giant whirlpool

  • callmejames

    Norse mythology is best mythology

  • Pippa

    Nørmåñ wött dæ fûäkky jø dönïn ?

  • Now I know the basis of this word:

    pes·ti·lent

    ? ?[pes-tl-uhnt] Show IPA

    adjective

    1.

    producing or tending to produce infectious or contagious, often epidemic, disease; pestilential.

    2.

    destructive to life; deadly; poisonous.

    3.

    injurious to peace, morals, etc.; pernicious.

    4.

    troublesome, annoying, or mischievous.

  • Iâran

    Nope, that was Schylla and Charybdis. The kraken is 100% Nordic (except if you’re watching “Clash of the Titans”, which throws in elements from all kinds of mythologies).

  • A interesting list, however I found a few things that bugged me. I want to point out that all of these mythologies vary from country to country and also from region to region within the Scandinavian countries.

    #10 – Called huldra in southern Sweden and tallemaja in northern Sweden. (Skogsrå/Skogsfrun is not the same as a huldra, the skogsrå has a hole in her back and lures men into the forests to kill them).

    #9 – Nissar and the julbock (which isn’t mentioned in the list) are old traditions, I just wanted to make that clear. We do have santa nowadays.

    #6 – Fossegrimmen is mainly Norwegian. Näcken/Fossegrimmen are the the same in Swedish culture. A naked beautiful man playing the fiddle by a river lures women into the water and drowns them.

    #3 – Called Näcken in Swedish.

    #2 – Draugen are mainly Icelandic and Norwegian.

    I hope this post didn’t seem mean or anything, it’s just that I’ve specifically studied norse mythology at university, and as it’s so close to my heart (and part of my heritage) I don’t want people to get it wrong.

    Sorry for any misspelling, I’m dyslectic.

    • skin2win

      I for one thank you

    • Swede

      Lots more could be said about these beings, but I guess it would be too much for a list like this. However, since you are interested, #2, draugen, is very similar to what is called “strandvaskare” in Swedish. It’s usually the animated, rotted and bloated corpse of a drowned man who grips you when you walk by him where he is lying on the beach and swears he will not let you go until you carry him to the nearest graveyard so he can rest in hallowed soil.

      • Randi

        Strandvaskare are creepy!

    • Randi

      I think you write very well for being dyslectic!

  • Pippa

    @Micki: u dylectic? No wonder i didn’t recognise any of the names u mentioned.

  • skin2win

    that was cool!. I didn’t know any of that stuff.

  • cameo1107

    I’m not arguing for or against religion, but why is it surprising that an ‘authority figure’ would ask a question they already know the answer to? Parents do it all the time, to see if the kids will tell the truth.

  • Blammo

    Great list. Very refreshing after the recent dive in quality. Well done!

  • Scott

    Draugen looks like an evil muppet.

  • Zeus

    RELEASE THE KRAKEN!!!!

  • Lasse

    I am Danish and i haven’t heard about 8 out of 10 of these creatures on the list.

    • Nymph

      Can I marry you? I’d love to marry a Dane :D.

    • Jan

      I´m Danish too i heard of all of them lol. But i had a teacher as a kid that loved to tell folklore stories, and i found it very interesting, been some years so a couple of them i only remember by the description don´t excaly remember a few of the names

    • Pippa

      Dø yöù håvë æný Nørmæns în Dænsk?

  • BlueMoon

    Why is Mare wearing a nurse’s cap? lol

    • Randi

      I don´t know, she has nothing to do with nurses, haha! XD
      I guess the artist of the painting (?)
      thought it would be creepy to picture her as a nurse.
      I thought it was more funny than creepy, though.

  • Jay

    This is a pretty silly and pointless list.

  • dgw

    first loser

  • Ovidio

    It would be nice to see some image credits. Interesting article

  • Ronald

    So you decided to follow it up with a silly and pointless comment?

  • Reblogged this on 1×43's Blog and commented:
    Mad interesting reminds me of when I was a kid obsessed with mythology

  • The Nisser has a striking resemblance to a creepy little lawn gnome. If I saw that thing walking in my front yard, I would shoot it.

  • The plaque was so devastating that he had to go to seven dentists!

  • zac

    sixty fourth!

  • Veronica

    If anyone is interested in this sort of stuff, ( i am) you should rent the finnish movie Troll Hunter. It’s pretty good! Or another one is Rare Exports : A Christmas Tale, another finish movie. A book that I loved as a kid and still do is Gnomes by Rien Poortvliet. Great List!

  • Ad

    Nice list, im in the process of reading the lord of the rings series, started with the hobbit, lots of trolls, dwarves, wizard, and that type of stuff. The books are better then the movies.

  • fnjute

    Troll hunter is Norwegian.

    • Veronica

      You are right, regardless it’s a good movie!

  • james

    my classmate’s half-sister makes $81 an hour on the internet. She has been fired from work for 10 months but last month her income was $15819 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more on this web site blue31dotcom

  • Muhu

    I liked the list but I would’ve preferred if you used the term Nordic rather than Scandinavian. Scandinavia is considered to be Sweden, Norway and Denmark by the Nordic countries. These creatures are also an important part of the folklore in the Swedish speaking part of Finland, Iceland and the Faeroe Islands.

    It would also have been better if you’d be consistent with the languages. Either use one language or all of them. It looks a bit odd If you use the name of a creature in one language and then you don’t on another.

    Nice list though, cheers.

  • MythicalMadness

    In #4 your first mention of plague is actually spelled plaQue. You may want to correct that oversight!

  • Nerd

    I loved Troll Hunter! It’s an awesome movie, and the trolls? They looked so cool, kinda like a Jim Henson puppet come to life. Rare Exports was good too but a little disappointing, the shorts that led to the film are much better. I saw a trailer for a movie about #10 called Thale but I don’t know when it’s being released.

  • Cynic

    Funny!!!

  • Rar85

    I guess to see if Eve would lie or tell him the truth. Instead, she did lie and he cursed those children for really doing nothing wrong.

    Kinda crappy really…

  • FMH

    Funny how people come to conclusions like “Upon the arrival of Christianity around the 1300s, the stories changed.” – The only written accounts of those stories are christian, so we have no stories before Christianity arrived. People tend to make those up and say that this surely was how it was originally meant.

    Mind you also that the Nökken isn’t only a Scandinavian myth. It’s found as far south as Bavaria or Austria, where it’s called Nöck or Nikkel.

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  • Alex

    Here in Sweden we call him Näcken, and not Nökken, I’ve never heard about that name, but maybe its used in other parts of Scandinavia.

    And also, we do have the Santa-tradition here, at least in Sweden, but we usually include Nissarna (Nisser) into the tale as being Santa’s helpers. But they are not excluding Santa as it sounds in this list.

    • Randi

      Thank you for writing that,
      that means I don´t have to.
      (I´m swedish too)

  • Randi

    My grandmother´s older sister, who is in the 90´s,
    actually believs in almost all of these creatures.
    I don´t if it´s funny or just sad;
    I guess it´s mostly sad, but still…
    She has always believed in those things.

    About #3: When Näcken is in the form of a horse;
    he´s called “Bäckahästen”.
    Or at least in here in southern Sweden…