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A warning, about the deep dark woods…

There are things you might not want to know about Sweden. There are many myths and legends involving beings big and small, shy and elusive and they are all true. A little warning is to be had if you ever dare to venture into the deep dark north in winter time. Listen up, or you or your child may never return…

Deep under the roots of pine trees, in moss clad caves and homesteads or deep in cold water ponds – live mythical beings; creatures with powers. These are elves, witches and shapeshifting water spirits, tomtar and trolls. Forget about the sweet and all kind Santa Claus. No, in the deep ancient rocky forests of Sweden live “beings” and especially important at Christmas times are the Hustomtar and the Trolls.

What do they look like?

A Hustomte is a solitary, mischievous domestic spirit or gnome, responsible for the protection and welfare of a farmstead and its animals. Hustomte literally means ‘homestead man’ and is derived from the word ‘tomt’ which means homestead or building with surroundings. The trolls are our most common being , hence the easiest to come across. 

They come in different shapes and sizes and some are kind looking others are ugly and bothersome. They all have a tail, and that is how you recognise even the most human looking troll. Their tails are decorated with golden chains and colourful ribbons. You are most likely to meet them in a glade deep in the forest. They like mountains and rocky terrain – but dislike church bells.

Watch your stuff

The Swedish trolls are curious and mischievous albeit harmless for us humans. However if they take a liking to something that you carry with you –  they might take it from you. You must never be rude or violent to a troll; then they might make you get lost so you can never return. 

Trolls are afraid of steel and silver so these are your only weapons should you find yourself in s tricky troll situation. You must never leave a child unattended in the forest – trolls like to swap troll children for human children. I know, this happened to my son. (He still has the mark where the doctor cut off his tail).

The grumpy hustomte

Hustomten is a short old man with a long pointy beard. He is dressed in grey workmen clothes and has a red pointy hat. You will meet him on farms and homesteads and even in abandoned houses. If you see him – turn around and walk the other way! He will not be kind to you. He is moody and grumpy and if you do something wrong; say the wrong thing, litter or mistreat the farm animals – he will get cross. 

When a Hustomte gets cross he possesses an incredible strength and have been known to kill man. Hustomten’s task is to look after the farm, its people and the animals living there. If you are not invited – go the other way! A Hustomte can be several hundred years old and works really hard all his life. It’s tradition to reward him with a bowl of warm porridge every now and again and at Christmastime – this should be rice porridge with cinnamon and a big dollop of butter – tomtegröt.

Are they out there or not?

Nowadays most Swedes have forgotten all about the Hustomtar and the Trolls but they are still out there playing tricks on us all when we least expect.

Some say these “beings” are mere superstitions and were invented to scare people into behaving well and steering children away from dangerous places – but I have seen both elves, hustomtar and trolls for myself many times. As long as you remain respectful – most of these creatures will let you return.

If you are not scared off by the dangers by now, Sweden welcomes you!

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