Below you will find the collected vetter from our monthly Vette of the Month feature. Pay heed, for the information contained herein may very well save both your life and soul when traversing these oft dangerous woods.
Month of April: TROLL
In the dark forests or misty mountains, trolls can be found in many variations. Some are as huge as mountains with up to twelve heads and two tails, others are smaller and can be found living under bridges. Mostly ugly and monstrous with an immense hunger that none can match, trolls will kidnap, kill and destroy without hesitation. Most of them fear sunlight, as direct exposure will kill certain trolls by turning them into stone. Generally stupid and greedy, trolls are dangerous but easily fooled.
Found in all the Nordic countries, trolls have served as the the antagonists in many classic fairy tales. Trolls have made a huge impact on art, theater, music and movies as well. Worth mentioning are the play Peer Gynt by Henrik Ibsen with the famous "In the Hall of the Mountain King" piece composed by Edvard Grieg, the drawings by Theodor Kittelsen, and more recently the Norwegian-language monster movie Troll Hunter from 2010.
Easily the most well known creature from Scandinavian folklore with roots back to Norse mythology, trolls have scared and thrilled people for centuries, giving the lush forest and tall mountains of the north a frightening appeal in dark nights and cloudy mornings.
Artwork by Sivi.
Month of May: LYKTGUBBE
Near moors, bogs and marshlands, it is not uncommon for travelers to encounter ghostly, shimmering lights. When moving closer they may appear as glowing detached heads, or as men carrying lanterns. But when people approach, perhaps being curious and wanting to get a better look at the creature, the light will move further away, luring the traveler from the safety of the path and into the often dangerous wetlands.
A lyktgubbe (translated: lantern man, plural: lyktgubbar) is believed to be the soul of an unbaptized man or woman, trying to lure others into the water in the hopes that they may somehow get baptized, thus allowing their souls to rest. Some also believe that they could mark the location of hidden treasures, adding to the allure of following the lights. While their intent may not be malign, following a lyktgubbe has more than once resulted in death by drowning.
Stories are told all over the world of these glowing lights and ghostly visages, usually encountered in various wetlands and often leading travelers astray. Stories of their origins and intent do, however, vary greatly. Other popular names for them are jack-o'-lantern, fairy light, and will-o'-'the-wisp. Some may remember the latter from the Pixar movie Brave, where they lure the film's protagonist into the forest.
Artwork by Rowkey.
Month of June: MYLING
Have you ever wandered alone in the woods at night and heard faint sobs or wails? Then you might have had a close encounter with a myling (also known as ihtiriekko in Finland or utburd in Norway). Mylings are the ghosts of children who have not been baptized, thus denied access to the afterlife and unable to find rest. Often the children were either murdered, or had been left to die in the woods by their parents—perhaps because the child was born out of wedlock or the parents did not have the resources to care for the child.
Mylings may appear as phantasmal, bleak, malnourished and mournful creatures. While they might have died as young infants, they will usually appear as slightly older children. Though not necessarily evil, mylings are considered highly dangerous, and they may in fact be the most menacing ghosts found in Scandinavian folklore. Like children they do not know their own powers, and they will selfishly follow their goal of finding rest, paying no heed to the health and safety of others.
Mylings are known to attack lone wanderers, latching onto their backs and not letting go until they have been brought to a cemetery, hoping to find peace on hallowed ground. As the wanderer gets closer to a cemetery, the myling will grow heavier and heavier. The myling might grow so heavy that the wanderer is unable to keep on going, collapsing in place. If this happens, the myling will become enraged and kill the traveler.
However, some say that in order for a myling to truly find peace, the body of the child (or what's left of it) must be buried. Other records indicate that a mylings can sometimes be heard mournfully crying out "Give me a name!" If you then respond by offering them your own name, they will thank you and leave you be, presumably able to pass on.
The best advice is to not wander the woods alone at night, because if you see a myling, chances are it is already too late to run.
Month of July: NØKKEN
Large, still ponds and lakes found in the desolate areas of the forest are Nøkken's domain. Nøkken is an expert shapeshifter of many forms. Perhaps best known for taking on the shape of a majestic, white, shimmering horse, popularly known as the Bäckahäst; he is also known to appear as a handsome young man. He can even take on the shape of certain inanimate objects capable of floating, such as a deceitfully sturdy rowboat, or as an old log waiting to make you stumble.
His shapeshifting has but one goal: to lure the unknowing—particularly women and children—into his waters. Once within his reach, he will pull you down with him and never let go. Some believe that his goal is simply to drown and eat his victims. Others believe you will be forced to join him in his private underwater kingdom where you'll be held captive until the end of time.
While prone to take on attractive and beautiful shapes, Nøkken's true appearance reflects his dark nature. A pile of decomposing sea-grass, twigs, leaves, and mud warped into a humanoid shape. His presence is a turgid one, clouded by fog, pierced by eyes possessing the fiery essence of gold.
The venerable water lily, also called nøkkerose, is known to inhabit his waters, and like a bee to the flower, so will the Nøkken attract the unwary. If you are foolish enough to be taken in by his beguiling exterior, you will be pulled into his waters, kicking and flailing, with only his twisted smile to accompany your journey into the abyss.
Month of August: LINDORM
Have you ever walked near a linden tree during winter and thought you heard the faint sound of breathing? Have you ever walked past a wintery oak tree which for some reason has kept its leaves? Then you have unwittingly come close to a hibernating lindorm. They hibernate in the trees, and their touch transfers power and health to their host. A few lindorms grow so large that they are forced to hibernate curled around mountain tops instead.
Closely related to the dragons, the mysterious lindorms are great, wingless serpents with a pair of front legs. No one knows for how long they have been around, but they were a common sight on Viking runestones as far back as 1000 AD. It is said that everything beneath a lindorm grows bigger as the lindorm does, such as wealth or honour, making the lindorm an appealing motif.
There are two types of lindorm and the first is kind and benevolent. If you are lucky enough to meet one of these, you will notice that their skins have magical properties that can be transferred by touch. Some say that these benevolent lindorms are charming princes, cursed to live in the shape of a terrifying beast until freed by the love and sacrifice of a fair maiden able to see past their frightening facade and see that ugliness – just like beauty – is only skin deep.
Perhaps it is worth taking the chance?
Not so quick! The second type is dangerous and evil. Several meters long, they are said to move by biting their own tail and rolling through the woods like a huge wheel. If spotted, one would be very lucky to survive the encounter. Some of these evil lindorms also have a long mane. Just as some people say that good lindorms are cursed princes, some say that these evil lindorms are giants in disguise.
On second thought, perhaps it is best not to take any chances.
Month of September: HELHEST
Everything that has a beginning also has an end. The Vette known as the Helhest is drawn to those that face this grim, but unavoidable, end to their mortality.
Once it was a white horse of trotting grace, now it walks with a sagging belly, a bony stump for a leg, and cloudy marbles for eyes. These creatures of decay consider graveyards their homes and are known to hobble along sacred ground, in search of peace it cannot find.
Legend say that a church steeple will not stand, unless a white horse, in the prime of its youth, is buried beneath its foundations. It was not unheard of for the horse to be buried alive with one of its legs cut off, which was believed would ensure that it would enter a state of limbo, with the horse's restless spirit serving as both a guardian and guide for lost souls.
While Helhests stem from this (admittedly horrific) ritual of good luck, like vultures, they have been given a reputation as harbingers of death. Many fear these creatures, believing that merely seeing a Helhest will bring death and decay upon themselves and their loved ones. But what if their intention is misconstrued? What if they simply wish to offer condolences? Or if they seek comfort among others destined to face an unfair and untimely demise?
Month of October: FOSSEGRIMEN
In the deep forests where wild brooks sing over stones, one can sometimes hear another song join in. A song so perfectly sad and wild that one can swear it was born from the water itself. Out there between waterfall and shore lives fossegrimen, a being who spends his time perfecting his skills with his musical instrument of choice: the violin. He will sit there in the water, surrounded by its songs, and join in with his own, hauntingly beautiful music.
Despite being highly reserved beings who enjoy their solitude, they are not malevolent when they do come in contact with others. Their music attracts people of all ages, and they do not seem to mind having an audience. While they do not like to be interrupted or disturbed while they are playing, one might be able to approach a fossegrim respectfully. If one has a gift of his liking to offer him, he might even agree to teach one some of his skills.
A few stories tell of fossegrims who have fallen in love with a person from their audience, or who have agreed to move in with a woman who has fallen in love with them. While they have probably meant well, fossegrimen gets very depressed and apathetic if he is not in frequent contact with the free waters of his home. His longing to return will grow more and more every day, until it's too much to bear. Eventually he will wander back off into the woods, back into his singing brook, his lost love just another sad tune for him to play on his violin.
Month of November: DRAUG
The sea is dangerous and unforgiving, and many have fallen victim to its wet embrace. Drauger are remnants of those who have died at sea without a proper funeral, who have come back to haunt the living out of hate and jealousy.
The draug is most often seen during storms, sailing on whatever remains of its ship (which may be nothing but a single plank), spreading fear among other seamen unfortunate enough to cross its path. Seeing one while at sea is considered a bad omen, and it means someone on the ship will die, or even that the entire vessel will capsize. While the storm will often be sufficient, draugen is not above actively sabotaging boats or pulling sailors who've been washed overboard further down to ensure that they will drown.
The draug is a hideous creature, with the water and time having had their ways with his remains. His body may be bloated and covered in seaweed, kelp, and algae, with fish or other ocean creatures having taken up residence in his belly. If sufficient time has passed, he will start more closely resembling a skeleton, until it eventually dies a second death. The draug does not talk, but only hisses and screams. It is said that the chilling shriek of the draug can be heard over both thunder and the crashing of waves. Thankfully the draug is also a solitary creature, and is never seen with other drauger. One could only imagine the harm they could inflict upon boats and seamen if they worked together.
Month of December: NISSE
The butter churn suddenly working again; the horses' manes mysteriously well-groomed; shoes strangely cleaner than they were when you took them off. These things probably mean you have a helpful nisse (plural: nisser) on your farm. Nisser are gnomes who are known for being stubborn, solitary, and people-shy, preferring the company of animals rather than people or their own kind. They take up residence in barns and farm houses, and help out around the farm - though they're rarely seen.
Their helpfulness should not be credited as generosity, however. Nisser may live for several hundred years and as such they may be more attached to the farm itself rather than whatever people happen to inhabit it. Humans come and go, after all, but the farm will remain for generations to come if tended to.
In fact, the nisse might feel he has just as strong a claim on the farm as any of the farmers – perhaps even a stronger claim if he has lived there longer than they have. It only makes sense that he should make sure everything runs well since it is, after all, his farm.
Consequently the nisse might get mad if the farmer doesn’t run the farm properly, mistreats the animals, makes changes the nisse doesn’t approve of, or otherwise fails to treat the nisse with respect. As revenge the nisse may start hurting the farm rather than helping it prosper by scaring the animals, destroying appliances, and playing mean pranks. Of course, the nisse may play pranks regardless as many nisser are quite the prankster. It's a good way to pass the time on the farm if there are no other urgent chores to attend to.
The nisse will expect to be repaid for his services to the farm. This is usually done by leaving food out in the farm house. Nisser love porridge, and it's tradition that a big bowl of porridge be put out for the nisse every Christmas Eve with a big dash of butter in the middle. If the farm’s people have done good and pleased the nisse through the year he will deliver presents to the children of the farm during the night.
Having a nisse on your farm (and a farm can only ever have one nisse) can be both a blessing and a curse. But as long as you're diligent, good to the animals, and leave out food on a regular basis (especially a bowl of porridge on Christmas Eve) you'll find that he can be a valuable companion - and perhaps even a friend.
Month of January: MARE
Within the tales of old there is a type of demon known as mara. In common tongue it is known as a mare, and the name originates from Old Norse. Contrary to malevolent spirits that focus on mortals, the mara sustains itself by feeding on trees, animals, and people alike. As such, its cultural presence can not only be found in concepts such as a 'nightmare' but also in names, and places.
As a creature, the mare is a nocturnal and cautious hunter with an ability to change its shape. It uses the ability to avoid detection, and few are those that would react to a butterfly sitting in a tree, a maiden riding a horse, or a lover snuggled up next to a sleeping mate. A tree parasitized by a mare grows wicked, the branches tangled, the bark gnarled, and the leaves a faded gray. A ridden horse becomes exhausted, the hide sweaty and the lifespan cut short.
Attacks on mortals do not occur in the open, instead a mare prefers to stalk, and wait until its victim falls asleep. Once that happens the mare will take on a fitting shape, and approach with a subtle grace. With the touch of a gentle lover, the mare will ease itself on top of its victim's chest or back, and reach into the mortal's mind. Caught in its grip, the victim will face a nightmare of darkest night and writhing terror. Weighed down by paralyzing torment, the mare will begin to feed until satiated, and then leave with the same grace it used to approach.
A withered life-less husk, a damning mental scar, or a bad case of bed-head, the caress of a mare always leaves a mark.