Story Power author Kate Farrell has written a new blog post on the Legend of Tomte, read Kate’s blog post here and learn about this Scandinavian folklore here.
Have you heard the magical legend of Tomte? They are also named Nisse in Norway or Denmark and Tonttu in Finland. They are solitary and mischievous domestic spirits who protect farmsteads, their families and animals. Folklore says they originated from the soul of the first farmer and are ancestral figures who command respect.
Their name and figures were imagined by farmers from years gone by, who were often isolated; it helped them live through the cold and dark winter months. A tomte is described as, a little bearded man, just three feet high, with a long beard and scruffy plain clothes. His feet are covered in traditional work boots and he sports a red cap.
Tomte love to work but will not tolerate any interference. They say a dirty house or stables, or treating animals unfairly, will surely upset your tomte and if anyone spills anything, legend says they are told to SHOUT out to warn the tomte not to fall into the puddle. A clean house or farm is a clear sign a tomte spirit resides there.
If you offend your tomte he may play some pranks on you. He might do little things such as turning buckets upside down or will tie the cow’s tails together. So you know when something strange happens you may have offended your little tomte.
In the country he will reside in the pantry or barn and if you move to the towns and cities he stay beneath your floorboards. These little spirits are treasured by all, wherever you live.
Tomte need very little from us humans, but they do demand the trust and respect of their homeowners. If respect is lacking from anyone who lives on the farmstead then they will not remain and the inhabitants of the farm will not thrive.
The tradition and magical spirit of tomte is still alive today in towns and countryside alike. He is a welcome, visible companion when the nights draw darker and preparations for Christmas start. They ask that once a year on Christmas Eve, they have a bowl of their favorite food (julgröt) Christmas porridge, as thanks for their protection throughout the year.
A tomte’s porridge is his due and it must be topped with a generous pad of butter. In the old days, butter was a luxury and only consumed on special occasions. The addition of a knob of butter in the tomte’s porridge shows him your respect and thanks to him for protecting you and yours for the year.
Christmas Porridge recipe
Risengrød – Rice Porridge
1 1/4 cup water
1 cup rice (Grødris)
4 1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar
Directions: Place water and rice in a medium cooking pot, cover with a lid and simmer for 2 minutes. Add milk, salt and vanilla sugar and simmer covered over low heat for 40-45 minutes. Stir often to make sure the milk does not burn, especially the last 30 minutes. You may have to turn the heat all the way down as low as your stove will allow for the last 15 minutes.
Mix sugar and cinnamon together according to your taste. Serve the Risengrød warm, sprinkled with sugar/cinnamon mixture and place a dollop of butter in the center, letting the butter melt.
Glædelig Jul and Merry Christmas!
From My Danish Kitchen
The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren
There is a beautiful poem written by Viktor Rydberg called “The Tomten.” Listen to this video storytelling from the picture book adapted by Astrid Lindgren (of Pippi Longstockings’ fame) illustrated by Harald Wiberg.
Source of the Folklore: https://cloudberryliving.co.uk/blogs/blog/the-legend-of-tomte
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