scandinavian folklore

Bysen

It’s been a long time since I’ve written a paranormal-related post, so I decided to go for it! Finding new supernatural beasties to research is fun. Previous paranormal posts can be found here.

This week’s creature is Bysen. He is a gnome-like creature who roams the forests on the island of Gotland, Sweden. He enjoys getting people lost, meddling with woodsmen by delaying their transports and tipping their timber over. Basically, he’s a mischevious trickster, but he also acts the ward of the forest and of nature. One of his tasks is to cut down Gotland’s forest, but he manages only one tree per century.

His appearance is often described as a little, grey man who sometimes wears a red, woven cap and carries an ax. Sometimes he even looks like a stump.

Bysar (plural of Bysen) are thought to be deceased men who cheated others of their land by moving property line markers. They receive no peace in death and walk the Earth forever. It’s said that they move the markers along the faulty borders, but if a human were to move the wrongly placed sticks to the right spots, the Bysen would be able to find peace.

Let me know which paranormal creatures you’d like to read about next!

Until next week,

Sarah

T is for Troll

Trolls are originally from Norse mythology. They later moved into general Scandinavian folklore. Hideous, deformed, dimwitted, very old and strong, trolls are giants compared to normal men. Trolls have always been the unkind kin to the jötnar.

They live alone or in very small packs, usually in the countryside or a mountainous area. Trolls are lonesome and rarely friendly. Also, they tend to be highly suspicious of anything new in their surroundings. The age and wisdom trolls have give them an uncanny edge to magic, allowing them to control the primal forces of nature and the elements. While powerful, their magic is unsophisticated and sometimes even clumsy.

Trolls hide away from the deadly sunlight that can turn them to stone, spending time in caves during the daytime to rest. Many odd mountains and rock formations are said to have been trolls either caught in the daylight or hit by the lightning, turning them to stone right where they had stood.

The trolls were societies way of explaining formations of rock, mineral deposits and even disappearances of people and livestock. Their appearance and size as well as brutish behavior tended to be used as a deterrent to children inside before the woodlands got too dark. It was also a way to ridicule bullies with younger children, and to coax them away from their bad behavior. Scandinavian tales speak of multiple breeds of trolls. There were forest trolls, swamp trolls, ice and fire trolls as well as mountain trolls, who were giants even to other types.

Interesting Tidbits:

  • Very strong magic can be used to wake up a troll that has become stone. However, it usually involves a sacrifice or two.
  • Trolls are rarely cannibals, but they eat humans very eagerly, viewing them as a lesser than species.
  • When trolls migrated, they take on characteristics of their new home, for instance a forest troll can become swamp troll-like if it moves to a swampy forest after a while.

So, what are your thoughts on Trolls? Have you read, watched, or played something with one in it?

N is for Nix/O is for Ogre

Hey everyone! Sorry for not posting N on Saturday. I had a busy weekend. To make up for it, today I’m going to have two posts in one, N and O.

Theodor Kittelsen’s Nøkken (Norwegian form of Nix) from 1904.

Nix, or Näkki in Finnish mythology, is a water spirit in Scandinavia responsible for luring in and drowning young children and pregnant women with the occasional man every once in a while. The nix is usually a man who plays enchanting violin music in streams, waterfalls, or in the middle of the lake. He will initially have fun and play with the victims before suddenly pulling them down to the water’s depths.

There are female nix, but those are rare. Usually, they have a fishtail and lure men into the water to drown. Sometimes, the nix shapeshifts into the form of a river horse. The latter of which will take the rider to the freezing depths of the lake as soon as it is mounted.

With multitude of streams and rivers, ranging from the fjords in Norway to the swampy lakes of eastern Finland, the nix has plenty of hunting ground. It’s said to be most active during festivities such as Midsummer’s Night and Christmas Eve, and also on Thursdays.

Interesting Tidbit: It resembles the Banshee in the characteristic that it sometimes screams in a particular area of a lake or river where someone later drowns.

Giovanni Lanfranco’s Norandino and Lucina Discovered
by the Ogre
(1624)

Ogres are from European folklore and described as having bulging big heads, strong muscles and unending appetite for human flesh. Nearly all mythologies have ogres as being huge, hairy, and having a large stomach. They are malevolent and dimwitted. It’s said they can shapeshift, and they typically live underground.

There is also a female ogress. She is connected with water and less vicious than male ogres.

Ogres are generally viewed as a fear of cannibalism and the degeneration of humans. They show what humans are without their humanity.

Interesting Tidbit: The word ogre is French in origin. Also, it’s thought that these creatures are based on the two mythical giants Gog and Magog, which are found in the Bible (in the Book of Genesis, Ezekiel, and 1 Chronicles) and the Quran.

Have you read or watched something with a Nix or Ogre in it? If so, what was it? Also, is there a mythological creature you’re itching to read about? Let me know!

K is for Kraken

The sea with its vast size has always created stories and lore of its own, ranging from whirlpools the size of small islands to magical creatures and even stories about the ends of the earth. However, few things strike seafarers with as much fear as the Kraken.

It is a massive squid capable of sinking warships and dragging them to the bottom of the sea, meanwhile creating a whirlpool that sucks down other nearby ships for miles around.

Kraken is viewed as an intelligent force of nature and the embodiment of the raging sea. It is one of the oldest and most often referred sea monsters throughout history. Its origins are tied to the Norway and Iceland, but similar stories of Kraken exists throughout seafaring cultures.

Sure, Kraken sounds like it could merely be a legend of old, but not so, there have been multiple sightings of giant squid across the globe, particularly throughout northern hemisphere and trade routes once used by Vikings. An even larger subspecies of squid, the colossal squid, has been found in the wild and reaches 33ft and possibly longer.

These recent findings suggest that there is something more to this mythological creature than meets the eye, or tentacle. Harr… harr… *grins*

Interesting Tidbits:

  • It has been the inspiration for a variety of books and movies. Here’s a link to some of those. 
  • It is usually described as being the size of a floating island and has a flotilla of smaller fish accompanying it, which makes it attractive to fishermen despite the danger. A common saying when one has great catches is, “You must have fished on Kraken.”
  • Seaworld Orlando has a roller coaster ride called Kraken. Although, their version is of a huge “dragon eel.” Regardless, it’s very fun!
So, how about you? Have you read a book, seen a movie, or been on a roller coaster ride based off the Kraken?