This little guy with a big white beard is called a Tomte in Sweden, a Nisse in Norway and Denmark or Tonttu in Finland – sometimes known as the “Swedish Santa”.
When we were in Oslo visiting with Maddie, we learnt that Tomte (even though Maddie lives in Norway, her family is Swedish) is not like the big, fat bearded guy who lives in the North Pole, but that this mythological creature of Scandinavian folklore is a “House Gnome”. They are responsible for a farmer’s home and children. He protects them from misfortune, particularly at night when the hoomans sleep. In 1881, the Swedish magazine Ny Illustrerad Tidning published Viktor Rydberg‘s poem Tomten for the first time. In the poem, he depicted the tomte who is alone and awake in the cold mid-winter night, pondering the mysteries of life and death. Jenny Nystrom then drew this popular character, depicting it as a white-bearded, red-capped friendly figure and has been associated with Christmas ever since.The small tomten secretly lives in the farm, and sometimes would even help with chores or farm work. They are also known to be mischievous and play tricks on their hoomans. While Santa likes his cookies and milk, tomten likes porridge. And if he does not receive his porridge, tomten would stop helping and leave the house or, even worse, cause mischief! We noted that in Viktor Rydeberg’s poem Tomten, there is mention of a dog called Caro on the farm:
The dog kennel roof is white with snow, and inside is Caro.
Every night he waits for the moment when the Tomten will come.
The Tomten is his friend, and he talks to Caro in tomten language.
A silent little language a dog can understand.
“Caro, my friend, is it cold tonight?
Are you cold in your kennel?
I’ll fetch more straw and then you can sleep.”
Nice. We featured.
May’s comment: I have often seen these little bearded men especially in the Scandinavian stores and have even bought them as Christmas decorations and thought they were just their version of Santa, but only this time when in Oslo did I find out that they are not just a Nordic version of Father Christmas but that they are their own mythical creatures.
Till then – it’s Christmas Eve!