A Child’s Life at Sea – Part 1

My brother bangs the side of his cot as a huge wave crashes into the wooden side of the boat and soon after my little round-shaped window is submerged in water. The boat, in which we are sleeping, or are supposed to be sleeping in, topples over and my brother holds on for dear life as he is pushed by the mere force of the ocean towards the edge of his cot. We both laugh out loud and I shout in excitement: It’s like being rocked in a huge cradle! ‘ Yeah, ‘ adds my brother, ‘ or a hammock!’ We both giggle at that, and soon it is my turn to be hurled over sideways by King Neptune. But it is then that I feel it. It sneaks up on me like a mischievous current, but when it starts pushing its way through there is no going back. I cringe. But I have to go, it’s impossible to pretend my way out of it. ‘ Daaaaaaad!! I have to pee!’ I shout. My father soon appears in the tiny wooden door separating our sleeping quarters from the deck. ‘ You really really have to?’ My father sighs. I nod my head apologetically. ‘ Okay, but you can’t go to the bathroom in this weather. To sea is too rough.’ The bathroom is all the way on the other side of the boat. ‘ But I HAVE to go!’ I insist. My father looks thoughtful, but then he smiles and disappears. He is, however, soon back. With a bucket. He places the bucket on the floor next to my cot. ‘ If you can’t go to the toilet, I bring the toilet to you,’ he says and smiles. I giggle as I worm my way out of my sleeping bag and slowly climb down from the cot. ‘ Incoming!!’ Shouts my brother, and I brace myself. Luckily the floor is not much larger than the bucket so it still remains standing up when the wave hits. I can’t stop giggling as I squat over the bucket. When I am done my father collects the bucket. ‘ Are you gonna throw the pee in the sea?’ Teases my brother. My father ignores him. Relived I climb back into my cot, still giggling a bit. ‘ My sister peed in a bucket! My sister peed in a bucket!’ My brother makes his voice into a sing-song rhyme, and I stick my tongue out at him. But I am giggling too much to make an angry face. And soon we are back playing our wave-game again. It is a seven hour crossing. I can hear my mother complaining to my father on the deck : ‘can’t they just go to sleep.’

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Old-Fashioned Christmas Magazines

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Christmas Magazines is a tradition we have had in Norway since the 1800s. Just right about this time of year, end of November/beginning of December, the shops and kiosks are filled with beautiful traditional Christmas Magazines!
Some of these magazines are just Christmas editions of already existing magazines, but many of them are exclusively made for Christmas only!

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The Christmas Magazines can be just comics, or elaborate paperbacks filled with short stories, recipes, pictures and fun activities! You might think these magazines are mostly for kids, but no, they are for everyone, and I even think adults are the main target group!

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My grandmother just has to have these magazines every year in order to get into the Christmas spirit! And my mother has always put Christmas magazines in mine and my brother’s stocking every year (along with an orange and a chocolate!)

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Some of these magazines date back to the 1890s, and they are still in print today!

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I just adore the vintage look of many of the magazines, and a lot of people agree with me, because now they have become collectives!

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I love the more traditional ones with short stories and old-fashioned pictures in them, and I always ask my mother to buy some for me. It is a beautiful tradition which makes me feel all Christmassy and cheerful!

Do you have Christmas magazines where you live?

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Elves

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Art by T. Kittelsen

Did you know that J.R.R Tolkien’s elves are originally from Scandinavia? The name elf comes from the Norse word Alfr meaning Alv (Norwegian) or Elf in English. The belief in elves dates back to the Norse times in Scandinavia, and the elves were a part of the Scandinavian Norse Mythology. They were considered to be nature personified, and they carried the spirit of a tree, a rock, a mountain or a lake within their being.

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Illustration from Lord of the rings

The nature was worshipped by the Norse people and so were the elves as they were considered to be divine beings with an immortal soul. The elves possessed magical powers that could either be used to help people or to hurt them, so the elves were very much respected and honored. There were Elves belonging to the Light, they lived in Alvheim, and dark elves who lived under ground. The dark elves could be dangerous and could cause natural disasters.

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Art by T. Kittelsen

There was no queen of the elves, but a king, and he was called Alberich. In some of the old sagas from the Norse period it has been mentioned that the elves married humans and had children, and that this race became a magnificent and powerful race. The king Alvarim is mentioned, he was the king of Alvheim, and he had a daughter called Alvhild. There is also mention of a King Alvgeir with a son called Gandalv. According to Norse Mythology the God Frey was the ruler of the elves.

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Art by John Howe

With the arrival of Christianity the Elves were made into something evil, a dark force ruled by the devil, and people were no longer allowed to worship them. They became feared and many spells and amulets were made to keep them away.

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Art by T. Kittelsen

In the 18 hundreds there was a revival of the elves. They made their way into the fairy tales as young, beautiful and magical beings. In the Norwegian Fairy Tales we hear about elves dancing in the fog in early mornings leaving behind a ring, often overgrown with mushrooms.

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Art by August Malmström

We also hear about the danger of entering into these rings or to see the elves dance. The elfin time is different than ours, it moves much slower, and spending an hour in the company of elves can be a lifetime on earth. Therefor people were warned against seeking out elfin rings or the elves.

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Art by T. Kittelsen

Nowadays, the elves are a part of our Scandinavian heritage and folklore. Very few people believe in elves anymore in Norway, but in Iceland the belief in Elves is still strong and the world of elves is very much alive as a part of the spirit world of nature.

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From Lord of the Rings

In Norway the Victorian image of the flower fairy is more popular as a decorative element in houses or a popular theme for books and movies. The Flower Fairies are more related to the Irish belief in the fey people which is quite similar to the Norse Elves, so much so that many consider them to have sprung from the same root.

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Art by Cicely Mary Barker

The Secret Language of Trees

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Trees have always played a very crucial part in Nordic Mythology and Culture. The first sacred tree we hear about is “Yggdrasil” the cosmic world tree in Norse Mythology. Yggdrasil is an enormous Ash Tree, with roots extended into the many worlds and branches reaching into the Heavens. Yggdrasil means “the horse of the terrifying one”, which scholars have interpreted to mean Odin’s Horse. Odin is the greatest of the gods in Asgaard the abode of the gods, he is the grandfather who rules the worlds.

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Norse Mythology also claims that the first humans called Ask (Ash Tree in Norwegian) and Embla (Elm Tree in Norwegian) were fashioned from tree trunks. Odin was the one who breathed life into them.

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In Scandinavia it was, and still is, the custom to plant a tree outside on the farmyard called the “Tuntre”. The Tuntre would stand watch over the farm for generations and was considered to be a great protector of the farm. The tree was much respected and cared for and often even worshipped. Especially in Finland these trees were given great importance. The Tuntre could also give warnings about the future, if the tree looked sick or unhealthy a great disaster would most likely come to the farm.

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The origin of the tuntre comes from the belief that a holy tree would grow where the “haugbonden”, a magic elf residing over the farm was buried. The tree would protect the grave from bad luck and witchcraft.

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Oak

The great Oak tree is considered to be the King of the Trees according to ancient Norse culture. It symbolizes strength and endurance and is considered to be the Norse god Thor’s tree. It is often referred to as the Tree of Thunder. Anyone can seek protection and shelter under the oak and Thor’s sacred power will keep them safe. The Oak is also said to be the keeper of ancient wisdom as it is the tree that lives the longest. You can seek out this tree to obtain this old and mystic wisdom and the tree will bless you forever.

Birch trees in a summer forest

Birch

The Birch tree might be one of the most feminine of trees in the forest. It is said to hold the portal between this life and the afterlife. The Birch holds the light, and it will light your path through even the deepest of the dark. It looks quite angelic lighting up the forest in the night. This tree is able to grow and thrive almost anywhere as long as it has access to water.

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Ash

The Ash tree is an important tree both in Nordic Mythology and in Celtic mythology. It is said to be the abode of fairies and holds the portal to Fairyland. As we have learned the great Yggdrasil is an Ash Tree and the first man was fashioned out of the trunk of an Ash Tree. Odin writes the ancient knowledge in runes on the trunk and branches of the Ash Tree. Ash is a very auspicious tree to keep close to your house because it will bless the house and all the people living close to it, but only if it is treated with respect and care. Ash is a protective tree, especially for sailors and in the ancient North people used charms made of ash to prevent sailors from drowning and give them safe passage over the seas.

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Hazel

The Hazel Tree is Thor’s tree. It is said to protect people against lightening. In ancient Norse Culture it was said that if you stood under a Hazel Tree in a thunderstorm Thor would protect you and you could not be struck by lightening. Hazel tree is also known in Celtic mythology to be the Fairy Tree. It is loved by all fairies, and if you go out looking for fairies you should start with the Hazel Tree. Hazel Tree was also used by the Celtic druids to make themselves invisible. The Hazel is the tree of Fairy Knowledge.

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Spruce

The Spruce, or the Norway Spruce, is the traditional Christmas Tree in Norway. It is the most common tree in most parts of Norway, but especially in the south. It is an evergreen tree symbolizing endurance, courage, long life and positivity.

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Alder

Alder is a tree associated with fire. People rarely wanted to build houses near an Alder tree as they were afraid the house would easily catch fire. Witches were said to make flutes out of Alder to come in contact with the North Wind. Alder is a sturdy tree and symbolizes vitality, good health and strength in difficult circumstances.

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Elm is the tree which the first woman Embla was fashioned out of. Elm is a female tree associated with female qualities. Elm is used in many herbal medicines and is therefor considered to be a great healing tree. Elm is also very nutritious and can be used in cooking to give extra strength. Elm is a very auspicious tree to live close to as it provides protection, nutrition, medicine and healing.

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Rowan

Rowan is another tree associated with the Norse god Thor. It is said to have protected Thor against a great flood. Rowan is perhaps the most magical of the trees, believed to be the tree of witchcraft and fairy magic and frequently used in magic potions. It is also said that if you burn rowan twigs in your house then the smoke it creates will chase away ghosts and evil spirits. Rowan can also be used in divination, as it will help you to look into the future and have clairvoyant dreams.

Animals of the North

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Animals have always played an important part in our lives, especially in ancient cultures when people lived more close to, and in harmony with, nature and the natural world. In these old cultures, like the Sami Culture, the Native American culture, the Aboriginal culture and the Celtic Culture animals symbolized powers that we as a humans could posses if we listened and learned from the animals. In the Norse Culture of Scandinavia animals were seen as messengers from the spirit world trying to guide us through life. So let us take a closer look at these animals of the north and try to understand what message it is that they are trying to convey.

Bear

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Bear was seen as the forefather of man. The Norse Gods Thor and Odin often took the shape of a bear to visit the human world. The bear stands for strength, healing, inner wisdom and balance between the seen and the unseen world. The female bear was the symbol for the feminine aspect and principle and the male bear was the masculine principle. Similar to the Chinese Yin and Yang.

Polar Bear

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The polar bear, or Ice bear as we say in Norway, is the animal that will unblock suppressed emotions so that they can flow freely. The polar bear helps us to overcome difficult challenges and to be flexible.

Moose or Elk

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The moose, or the elk, is known in Norway to be the King of the Forest. He carries within his spirit the deep knowledge and mysteries of the forest. The elk will help us to find this inner wisdom and inspire us to be more confident and appear with grace.

Roe Deer

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The Roe deer is the animal that carries within the power of the Goat willow or the selje as we say in Norway. Selje means victory. The ancient mystique Rune associated with Selje is Saille:

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The Roe Deer remind us of our spiritual growth. It tells us that we have a soul that longs to grow and expand beyond our body.

Lynx

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The Lynx is the guardian of deep secrets and hidden knowledge. This animals symbolizes the power to see beyond what is right here in front of us. It reminds us to explore the depth within ourselves and see what is hidden in our hearts.

Hare

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The Hare is a moon animal. It carries intuitive messages, and tells us to listen to our intuition.

The hare is associated with the Common Gorse and the mystique rune is Onn:

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Red Deer

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The Red Deer carried a lot of meaning to the Norse people. In Norse Mythology we hear about Dunøyr, Duratro, Dvalin and Dain, three Red Deer who graze in Yggdrasil, the tree of Life. The Red Deer is associated with the healing touch and the resurrection of the spirit. It is the messenger between our world and the otherworld.

Horse

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Horse is associated with the Oak tree and the mystique rune for horse is Duir:

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The horse had a deep significance to the old Norse people. We find strong horses in Norse Mythology, like Odin’s horse Sleipner:

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Skinnfakse and Rimfakse were the two horses who pulled the wagon of Day and the wagon of Night across the sky. Svadilfari was the stallion who built Asgaard.

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The horse is the animal of strength, vitality, nobility and intelligence. It is a Sun Animal and symbolizes endurance and faithfulness.

Wolf

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The Wolf is an animal of protection. The wolf is a Moon Animal associated with renewed energy and wisdom through connecting with our inner child. In Norse mythology we hear about Odin’s wolves Freke and Gere who bring him news from Earth.

Raven

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The Raven is Odin’s animal. Odin has two ravens called Hugin and Munin. Hugin is thought and Munin is memory. These ravens help Odin to rule the realms and give him wisdom.

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Eagle

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The Eagle is associated with the Birch Tree and its rune is Beith.

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In Norse mythology we find Vidofnir, an eagle sitting in Yggdrasil, the world tree. The Eagle is Odin’s animal and associated with him. The Eagle is a Sun Animal symbolizing Light conquering darkness, justice, victory, spiritual power and magic. The Eagle helps us to see hidden spiritual truths.

Hawk

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Verfolne is the name of the hawk that sits between the eyes of the eagle Vidofnir in Yggdrasil the world tree. Hawk is a sun animal and is the messenger between worlds.

Owl

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The owl is associated with Hawthorn and the mystique rune is Huathe.

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The owl is the guide to the underworld, it helps us to see in the spiritual and actual dark, and it shows us how to look inside the darkness in ourselves and find a way out of it.

The Mountain Goat

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The Norse God Thor has two male goats Tanngrisner and Tanngnjost pulling his wagon across the sky. We also hear about the goat Heidrun grazing on the roof of Valhall.

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The male goat symbolizes the creational force of nature and the seeking of truth. The female goat symbolizes the fertility of the earth.

All the images have been sourced at Google.no

The Trolls of the North

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Art by the amazing John Bauer

Most of you might have heard of these mythical creatures called Trolls. Some of you might even know that they come from the North, but very few of you will know that their country of origin is in fact Norway!
Most people think of trolls as evil, mischievous, dumb-witted, greedy and dangerous. And some trolls really are, but very far from all of them. You see, there are many species of trolls. The ones you have heard about are probably the mountain trolls, or “Bergtrollene” as we call them in Norway. The Mountain trolls are huge trolls living far away in the tall deserted mountain ranges, and very rarely do they come down from the mountains to interfere in the lives of humans.
The mountain trolls can be aggressive and they are very temperamental, if you ever encounter one you should do like Bilbo Baggins did in The Hobbit, you should play for time, because the mountain trolls burst in sunlight.

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Art by the magical John Bauer

But there are some trolls, the forest trolls, or “Skogstrollene” as we say in Norway, who are not particularly dangerous. They do keep to themselves and do not like visits from humans, but they will not attack you if you should meet one of them. They are not exactly shy, they are just not so fond of humans, because in their opinion humans just bring ruin and decay with their machines, hotels and shopping malls. And you can’t blame they really, we have destroyed most of their habitat. In Norway though, the human population is still very small and the forests are vast and deep so there are still big clans of forest trolls dwelling in the deep evergreen forests.

The Forest trolls live peaceful lives. They like to live together in big family dwellings, and most of their time is spent fishing, playing, building things and looking at the stars.

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Art by the wonderful Rolf Lidberg

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There is a also a third type of troll called the marsh trolls or “Tussetrollene” in Norwegian. These trolls are tiny, not longer than your middle finger. They live on marshland in what we call in Norwegian as “Tusser”. Nobody knows much about these trolls, but we know that they are still there, and that they can live close to humans as there has been several sightings of these trolls. I have myself seen one once when I was seven years old. These trolls are very shy and even quite jumpy! They like cones and pine needles and little streams. That is what we know about the marsh trolls.

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Art by the amazing John Bauer

In Norway we love our trolls very much! We make troll figurines to keep in our houses, we write books about trolls, we decorate our cities with statues of them, and we even have an amusement park dedicated to trolls!

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You can see that there are trolls everywhere in Norway!

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Even in the city!

If you ever should come to Norway, make sure you look for the trolls! It is very likely that you will meet them!

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Images from Hunderfossen.no

These are photos from the Fairy Tale Amusement Park called Hunderfossen.

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To know more about the park please visit: http://www.hunderfossen.no

The Scandinavian Nisse

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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