Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Tomte and His Temper

Although we don't often hear about him in the United States, the tomte is one of the most popular figures in Scandinavian folklore. The tomte (also known as the nisse) is the familiar of a farmstead, thought perhaps to be the soul of the farm's first inhabitant. He looks like a short man, dresses in simple rustic clothes and a red cap, and works harder than anyone else, taking care of the animals and watching over the property and the children all night long.

This little fellow's temper is as legendary as the tomte himself. He doesn't mind rewards, but he can be very particular about what he receives. One tomte who was recognized for his labors with a new set of clothes quit soon after, as his work was mussing up his nice new shirt! Sometimes the farm's horse (supposedly the tomte's favorite animal) can be found with tangles of "tomte braids" in its mane and tail. These aren't brushed out, for fear of upsetting the spirit.

With the rise of popular Christmas traditions, the tomte was often seen among the household holiday decorations. We've got a few visiting us this month at Castle in the Air. They seem to help best with the dusting!

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