By: Amelia Githens
Scandinavian folklore is filled with tales of Vikings, Dwarves, Elves and assorted Fairie folk, but the most popular tales are those told about Trolls.
Trolls are described as being of any size, great or small, and of having one characteristic in common; they are very ugly, with small, beady eyes and large, bumpy noses. Their ears are mostly large and floppy and dirty enough to grow rutabagas in. They are also not too careful about brushing their snaggly teeth.
The personality of most Trolls is hindered not only by their meanness and stubbornness but also in that they are slow thinking. They are apt to be noisy and quarrelsome and at dinner they untidily throw the bones over their shoulders so that their floors are always a bit cluttered.
In olden times, you could find trolls just about anywhere in Scandinavia, which wasn’t always a good thing. You see, trolls believed that they owned the lakes, fields, forests, and bridges where they lived. As you might guess, this caused a great deal of strife, since the farmers and townsfolk also believed that they owned these places.
Fortunately, not all trolls are disagreeable. Both Tomtes and Nissen lived on farms, and it was the custom to leave a pan of milk or rommegrot, which is sort of like porridge and sort of like pudding, in exchange for good luck or good health for the farm animals.
Northern folklore has many different types of trolls. The Fossegrimen, or Waterfall Troll lived under the waterfalls and played a violin. It was the custom for people to throw a present over the falls for the Troll and he would return the favor by visiting the person in his sleep to give him the gift of musical talent.
Tomte-Gubben, the Dancing Troll, was a pest. Like most Trolls, he never washed and his hair was a wild, tangled disarray. He would wait in the woods and when a young girl would pass by he would leap out and dance her around in circles until she was quite dizzy. He liked to be the center of attention.
Risse-Gubben, the Forest Troll, was very disagreeable. He was the one who made a person slip on a wet log, or a branch break under a child who was climbing a tree. He also caused woodsmen to be careless with axes, and people to be careless with fire.
Nokken, the Lake Troll, lived in lakes and ponds. He didn’t like people to fish in his lake and would annoy them by taking their bait off the hook and by scaring the fish away. He liked to pull people under water and to entice children into deep water and onto thin ice in the winter.
Brun-Nokken only lived in wells. He was said to be a sneaky Troll with very long arms. He liked children to come close to the edge of a well and lean over far so he could grab them. The Draugen, or Sea Troll liked to make seamen take chances.
Huldra, the Lady Troll liked to entice young men. She had a magic cap to make her appear a pretty young girl except for her long tail which she tied up under her skirt so it would not show, however her heart was still that of a Troll. If a young man would fall in love with her and marry her in church her tail would fall off and not return.
Hauge-Bokken, the Hill Troll, lived under hills in caves and liked to go about at night scaring people by following behind them and peeking in windows.
Troll-Kjerring, was a Troll woman who carried her head around under her arm and liked to be around people full of hatred, and visited them in nightmares.
Fjell-Trollet, or Mountain Trolls were some of the biggest; they lived in mountains and caused avalanches and earthquakes by stamping their feet. They also had many heads, each uglier than the next.
Tobi-tre-fot, or Tobi Wooden Leg was the meanest Troll. He would sneak up behind people and kick them with his knobby wooden leg. When they turned around he had disappeared only to kick them again when they were not watching. Tobi traveled from barn to barn, staying only long enough to cause mischief by pulling the harnesses off the wall onto the floor, letting the animals out of the barn, and kicking over the milk pail when no one was looking.
Vesle-tomten caused trouble with the farm animals by whispering in horses’ ears telling them to be disobedient. He would tell the hens not to lay eggs so that they would end up in the stew pot and give all the animals very bad advice.
The Tussel, the Troll of family ills, made people worry about nothing, started fights and arguments, and liked to see people gossip. If children were arguing it was a sure sign that a Tussel was around the house.
The Tusselader were tiny trolls that hid in small dirty places. They would come at night with little hammers and chisels and make a cave in a person’s tooth if he was too lazy to brush his teeth. They also liked to live in snarly hair and to make bread and milk spoil.
Lange-Nesen, or Long Nose had a very long nose and was forever putting it where it did not belong. He had big ears, liked to pry into people’s affairs and hear gossip, and wanted to be included in everything.
Stories of trolls are still told, and they continue to be some of the best loved rascals in all the world. To this day in Scandinavia, you see many statues and pictures of Trolls and Tomtes, so there still must be plenty of them living in the northern countries. And perhaps many early immigrants to the United States brought Trolls and Tomtes with them to the new land, because if you look hard enough, you might find one or two right here at the Scandinavian Festival.