The Scandinavian Nisse

Midthun
Art by Kjell E. Midthun

Did you know that the way Santa Clause looks like today; his boots, top hat, coat and even his long beard is inspired by the ancient legends of the Scandinavian nisse?
You see, nobody had really seen santa clause, so when they wanted to put his picture on Christmas cards and in books they had to use their imagination and try to imagine what he looked like. To spark their creativity they looked towards Scandinavian folklore for inspiration. And there, hidden among trolls and elves and various underlings, they found the little Scandinavian nisse.

svein solem 4
Art by Svein Solem

The Scandinavian nisse, or tomte, as he is called in Sweden, is quite different than Santa Clause. He is very tiny, and lives either in the forest or on a farm, or sometimes even in the mountains.

svein solem pinterest
Art by Svein Solem

The forest nisse lives under the roots of trees or in hollow trees. You might sometimes spot these forest nisse abodes in nature, you might see a tiny opening leading underground, or a little hidden pathway into the hollow of a tree trunk. The forest nisee gathers berries, nuts and fruits in the autumn to fill his pantry for the harsh winter. The forest nisse’s purpose is to take care of the little animals in the forest and to help them if they are hurt or if they can’t find food in winter. Sometimes the forest nisse can be mistaken for a mouse and be caught by an eagle, an owl or a fox, but when they discover that it is in fact a nisse and not a mouse they have caught they immediately let the nisse go and apologizes sincerely.

skanidsk.com svein solem
Art by Svein Solem

The farm nisse lives on people’s farms. He helps take care of the farm animals. If the farmer is nice and gives the nisse rice porridge topped with lots of butter, sugar and cinnamon on Christmas Eve,
the nisse helps him take care of the farm. But if the farmer doesn’t believe in the nisse and consequently doesn’t give him his rice porridge, the nisse may play a prank on him, like stealing his washing from the cloth line or switch the sugar with salt, or he might even leave the farm if he gets angry enough. Every Norwegian knows that if you want to run a successful farm you’ve got to have a happy nisse helping out!

svein solem 2
Art by Svein Solem

There is a third kind of nisse, the mountain nisse, but very less studies have been done about this particular nisse. It is only recently the stories of this very shy nisse has come out in daylight and been told to children. Some say that the mountain nisse’s top hat is blue instead of red like the farm nisse and forest nisse. This is probably to blend in more with the mountains. The mountain nisse’s life purpose is to make sure that the air is clean and crisp, as well as to make the blue hour, the hour before sunset and sunrise, during the winter season.

K. Midthun
Art by Kjell E. Midthun

The nisse can live as long as 300 years. He marries if he falls in love, something that only happens once in a lifetime for a nisse, and it is not always the nisse girl chooses him!

Nisse Couple - Svein Solem
Art by Svein Solem

In Norway children grow up with stories of the forest nisse, the farm nisse and the mountain nisse. So instead of giving Santa Clause milk and cookies on Christmas Day, children in Norway prepare rice porridge for the nisse and leaves it for him outside the house on Christmas Eve. And of course the porridge has to be topped with lots of butter, sugar and cinnamon.

The legends of the nisse dates back to ancient pre-Christian times, even before the Vikings, and is a treasured part of Norway’s and Scandinavia’s rich cultural heritage and folklore.

To know more about the artists, please see these links:
Svein Solem: http://www.sveinsolem.com/nisser.html
Kjell E. Midthun:https://www.facebook.com/pages/Galleri-Midthun/111736875585437

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28 thoughts on “The Scandinavian Nisse

  1. Fun stuff Trini. If I lived on a farm, I would be sure to leave treats for the nisse. They remind me of small gnomes, so I guess you don’t really hate gnomes, you just prefer fairies! XD

    to merry holidays filled with nisse, santa and many flights of imagination to delight the children in all of us.

    • Yes, I love these two artists so so much! ๐Ÿ™‚ .-) They are both treasured in norway and I wanted to show their work to the world! ๐Ÿ™‚ I am so so happy that you liked this littl article! ๐Ÿ™‚ โค

    • Thank you Lorrie!! ๐Ÿ™‚ This nisse is very dear to me! ๐Ÿ™‚ I grew up with these stories and I spent days avd days looking for the nisse! ๐Ÿ™‚ I really love scandinavian folklore and folk legends, so I wanted to share ๐Ÿ™‚ โค

  2. Thank-you very much Trini, I had no idea that such a wonderful little fella existed anywhere in God’s creation. So here I am at the age of 57 and still learning something new every day. You certainly can’t go wrong with that. God bless, keep on writing, and I’ll read you later.

    • ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ I think we should all try to learn something new every day for as long as we live! .:-) I feel that we are here on earth to learn about the human world, about being a human, and about how to make the human world a little better place ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ Have a splendid day! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Pingback: Journey to the Christmas Star (Reisen til Julestjerna) | Tales from the Fairies

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