Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Lore of the Nisse

I knitted some korknisse for tree decorations (and put a bell on them because, from what I learned, you don't want these little guys sneaking up on you)  and decided I wanted to know a little more about the story behind them. Here is some of what I found:

The Nisse is from Scandinavian lore (Norway and Denmark) and known as a tomte in Sweden. They were believed to take care of the farmer's land and home and children, especially while they slept. They are often portrayed as a small, elderly man with a full beard dressed in ordinary farmer's clothes. Despite their appearance and size, they are exceedingly strong and are quick to anger, easily offended by rudeness or disrespect for the land. The farmer was expected to offer gifts to the nisse especially around the winter holidays, their favorite treat being porridge with butter underneath.

During the pagan times, the nisse or tomte was believed to be the soul of the original inhabitant of the farm. They were not a popular figure after Christianization and were demonized by the church. Anyone crediting their farms success on the nisse were sometimes tried for witchcraft during the Inquisition era.

Hans Christen Andersen inaccurately portrayed nisse's as goblins or brownies. The modern nisse has been accredited for bringing the Christmas presents and with commercialization has been made to look more like Santa Claus. However he lives in the forests of Scandinavia and does not come down a chimney or have flying reindeer. He also can be portrayed as what we now call garden gnomes.

Whatever your belief is, these make a nice decoration for your holiday tree or display. The pattern can be found here. I hope everyone is learning new skills and interesting facts as we approach this holiday season~!

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