Wandering the internet for something else entirely, I came across these charming images by Danish artist Anders Olsson of the traditional Scandinavian gnome-like beings known as a “nisse” or “tomte.”
I learned about the Julenisse, a kind of Christmas elf, when I lived in Norway years ago. And about how other nisser – distinguished by their bright red hats – had been considered to be part of everyday life, helping people in their daily tasks. But I didn’t learn about the barn nisse, who helped care of the farm animals. So I enjoyed following these images through cyberspace to read a bit more about the gnomes who help farmers take care of their animals.
“They are both solitary, mischievous domestic sprites responsible for the protection and welfare of the farmstead and its buildings. Tomte literally means ‘homestead man’ and is derived from the word tomt which means homestead or building lot. Nisse is derived from the name Nils which is the Scandinavian form of Nicholas.
“A tomte is described as an older, little man about the size of a young child. He wears old often ragged clothes, usually gray or navy, and sports a bright red cap on his head. He resides in the pantry or barn and watches over the household and farm. He is responsible for the care of the farm animals, especially the horses.”
Legend of the Nisse and Tomte
Of course, I’m going to like any creature with an affinity for horses. So in this season of celebration and looking forward, I wish you the best and hope the nisser take good care of you and your critters!