mandag 23. januar 2012

Some beings of Scandinavian folklore

This is a list of some of the many creatures one can find in Scandinavian folklore. Norse gods and godesses won't be mentioned here, only the beings of the tales, that live in Nordic nature (forests, mountains, lakes, near villages etc.).
The explanations are brief, but some of the titles are links so you'll be able to read more. The creatures vary from country to country, so some of you might disagree with the descriptions.
(Leave a comment if you wanna add something)

Huldra/Skogsfru (forest woman)
The Huldra (a huldre) is a seductive forest creature, a wood nymph. She is a stunningly beautiful, sometimes naked woman with long hair. She bewitches and lures men into the forest in order to suck the life out of them, lure them into the underworld or have sex with them. One of her methods is to appear suddenly out of the rain and mist, friendly and enticing to the point that no man can resist her charm. She will trick her victim into the swamp where he will drown, or into the underworld where the man will be forced to dance with her people until morning. In the end the man often dies from exhaustion or loses his mind. She has also got a fox or cow's tail that she hides from men, and in some traditions her back is also hollow like an old tree trunk or covered with bark. A male hulder is called a huldu.

Ellepige/Skogsrå (elf girl/forest guardian [the suffix means the spirit guarding a certain location])
The Ellepige is often said to be the same creature as the Huldra, but the descriptions in the tales vary from country to country. Sometimes Ellepige is synonymous to Huldra, but they are often described as kinder and more helpful to humans, and also to be guardians of a certain lake, forest etc.

Havsfru/Havsrå (Mermaid)
The Havsfru is the Huldra's aquatic counterpart. Her hair is green, black, golden or silver white. She longs for male company and tries to attract sailors and fishermen to follow her, but will also sometimes save drowning men or warn seafaring men of storms and other dangers. In most tales they are described as good-natured beings who sit on rocks and comb their beautiful hair. In others, they are vicious and will drag humans to the bottom of the sea if they get hold of one. They can foretell the future, and because of this, there is often an air of melancholy around them.

Trolls vary greatly in size and looks, but are often described as very big, hairy, stupid, and slow to act. They can also look and behave almost exactly like human beings, with no particularly grotesque characteristic about them, apart from the tail.
Trolls live far from human habitation and dwell in mountains, caves or the bottom of lakes. They often live together in small family units, and are considered dangerous to human beings. Most trolls are said to die and turn into stone when exposed to sunlight, and are also sometimes described as man-eaters.
Trolls are often said to be able to change their appearance, and does so in order to trick humans into doing what they want. For example, Trolls may present a beautiful appearance in order to trick a character into following them into their mountain home, then hold the character captive for years.

Whiches vary in Scandinavian folklore (like many other Scandinavian creatures), and there are different types of whiches. The most common are these:
- The most dangerous ones thrive under the power of evil. They appear to be ordinary women during the day, who attend church and keep house, but at night they ride through the air, bewitching people and their livestock. They also frequently change themselves into animals in order to trick humans.
- Trollkjerringer, or trollkonor, is a troll’s wife who possesses magical powers.
- The “classic” witch lives alone in a little cottage in the woods. She dabbles in magic, and brews mysterious potions. If one calls her “Mother” and presents her with tobacco and other gifts, she will do a favor in return. This species of witch can summon all the birds and all the animals in the woods; she can quell the north wind; and she will give one advice in an emergency.
The Fossegrim is a spirit that lives in waterfalls and is neither good nor evil. He is a magnificent musician who plays the fiddle day and night. If an aspiring fiddle player ventures to seek his help, the Fossegrim will gladly help, but for a price of course. He must go to the waterfall and offer the Fossegrim a nice meal, usually a good plump joint of meat. Many stories tell of travelers who have tried to palm the Fossegrim off with an inadequate piece of meat, resulting in the Fossegrim just teaching the student how to tune his fiddle rather than play it. He never leaves his waterfall, but it is generally believed that the Fossegrim is young and handsome. Some stories also exist wherein the Fossegrim agreed to live with a human who had fallen in love with him, but many of these stories ended with the Fossegrim returning to his home, usually a nearby waterfall or brook.

Nøkken/The Nix (Water spirit)
The Nøkken is a fresh water dwelling relative of the Fossegrim (They are often confused with eachother), but unlike his kinsman, the Nøkken is both dangerous and clever. He plays a violin to lure his victims out onto thin ice or in leaky boats and then draws them down to the bottom of the water. However, many stories exist that indicate the Nøkken sometimes is entirely harmless to his audience. The Nøkken is also a known shapeshifter, usually changing into a white horse or a man in order to lure his victims to him, which makes it hard to describe his actual appearance. Perhaps he doesn't have any true shape. The Nøkken is said to grow despondent if he does not have free, regular contact with a water source. Like the Fossegrim, it's said that the Nøkken will teach a musician to play so adeptly "that the trees dance and waterfalls stop at his music.", if correctly approached.

Draug (originally means "ghost")
There are both sea-draugs and land-draugs.
- The sea-draug (ghost of the sea) is a skeleton or a corpse of a drowned mariner, sailing in a halfboat. If fishermen or sailors see him, they know that they’re certain to drown, unless they race the Draug and wins. Some times he’ll go ashore and try the thwarts in newly built boats. People sitting on a thwart where the draug has been seated are bound to drown. Before the ship goes down, the halfboat will turn up and sail along with the ship and lead it into dangerous waters.
- The land-draugs are aweful undead creatures that live in the graves of humans, and possess their dead bodies. As the graves of important men often contained a good amout of wealth, the Draug jealously guards his treasures. The Draug possesses superhuman strength, is a shapeshifter, can increase their size at will, and carries the unmistakable stench of decay. Among the creatures that a draug may turn into are a great flayed bull, a grey horse with a broken back and no ears or tail, and a cat that would sit upon a sleeping persons chest and grow steadily heavier until the victim suffocated. Draugs are also noted for having numerous magical abilities, and can rise from the grave as wisps of smoke and "swim" through solid rock, which would be useful as a means of exiting their graves. The Draugs slay the humans that come near their graves through various methods, including crushing them with their enlarged forms, devouring their flesh, killing them by driving them mad, and drinking their blood. Animals feeding near the grave of a Draug may also be driven mad by the creature's influence, and die from it.

Commonly known as lindworms in Scandinavian folklore; monstrous serpents with or without hind legs. Dragons with four legs are also mentioned in stories. The coasts of Norway was said to be haunted by the terrifying Kraken, and sea serpents with glowing eyes and long manes.

Elves are mostly described as female (but also sometimes male), otherworldly beautiful and seductive residents of forests, meadows and mires. They are skilled in magic and illusions. Sometimes they are described as small fairies, sometimes as full-sized women and sometimes as half transparent spirits - or a mix thereof. They are closely linked to the mist, and some elves are even made out of it.
In some stories the elves have merged with the dangerous and seductive Huldra. They are sometimes given features from Huldra, and can seduce and bewitch careless men and suck the life out of them, or make them go down in the mire and drown.

The myrling
The myrling is the ghost of a child left to die in the wilderness. In some stories they appear as tangible, and will chase lone wanderers at night and jump on their backs, demanding to be carried to a graveyard so they can be buried properly. The myrling is said to grow heavier as they near the graveyard, to the point where any person carrying one (or more) could sink into the soil. If one should prove unable to make it into the cemetery, the myling kills its victim in rage.

The mare
The mare is a wraith that is said to cause nightmares and sleep paralysis. The mare is often similar to the mythical creatures succubus and incubus, and sometimes it shows itself as a goblin.

Lyktemann/lyktgubba (lantern man/will o' the wisp)
The lyktemann is the spirit of a man who had drowned in a lake or marsh. According to some stories, they could lead a lost wanderer to a death similar to their own; according to others, they could lead him home.

Vätte (wight)
Vättar is often used loosely as a term for nearly all of the small beings in the old beliefs.
Vättar are mainly nature spirits that live underground, sometimes right next to human settlements, and are commonly a menace to their ground-dwelling neighbors. They are often guardians of specific grounds, such as wild places or farms. They resemble dwarves, and are elusive creatures not unlike elves, capable of mischief as well as of help. If you build your home too close to or on top of their home, they will make your life very miserable or even dangerous - they do what ever it takes to drive you away, even arrange accidents that will harm or even kill you. There are many types of wights in Scandinavian folklore.

The tomte or nisse is a solitary vätte, living on the farmstead. He is usually benevolent and helpful, however, he has a bad temprament, and can cause a lot of damage if he is angry, such as killing livestock.
The tomte was often imagined as a small, elderly man, (size varies from a few inches to about half the height of an adult man) often with a full beard; dressed in the everyday clothing of a farmer. However, there are also folktales where he is believed to be a shapeshifter able to take a shape far larger than an adult man, and other tales where the tomte is believed to have a single, cyclopean eye. Since tomtes are thought to be skilled in illusions and sometimes able to make themselves invisible, one was unlikely to get more than brief glimpses of him no matter what he looked like. Norwegian folklore states that he has four fingers, and sometimes pointed ears. His eyes glow in the dark. In some stories the bite from a tomte is also poisonous.

Dwarves live underground or in the mountains, have dark hair and gray or pale skin, and is not very fond of the sun. They're master smiths with good knowledge in various kinds of magic and a rather greedy folk. Descriptions of dwarves in Scandinavian tales vary.

Talking animals
Talking animals, shapeshifters and humanlike figures with animal features, are also common in Scandinavian folklore.

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