Forest Creatures In Scandinavian Folklore
An Elf Dancing In the Forest
Heading back to the old school
Creatures In the Forest In Western Finland
Where I live, on the West coast of Finland, people have been telling stories about different creatures in the forest for centuries. Some creatures are small, some are bigger and they all have their missions and a meaning to the people, the humans. These creatures are different figures from the folklore in western Finland and a part of the scandinavian folklore. People should be aware of these creatures, because you never know who you'll meet in the forest. Only some decades ago this was a fact.
When I was twelve years old, me and my class mates went to an old school, where we were going to spend two days and one night filled with adventures. The old school building is situated next to a small lake and close to a river. It's a beautiful place surrounded by the Finnish forest. This is not far from where I lived then and live today.
On this little trip, we did most of the activities outdoors, like solving problems in groups and canoing on the river. It was very fun and rememberable. Now, more than 20 years later, I can still recall this trip. The most exciting thing was the night before we went to bed. We were all sitting outside at a campfire, and a man, who lived on the other side of the lake, was there to tell us about all creatures living in the forest that surrounded us. It was getting dark and a little chilly. His stories would make it even more chilly. Our imaginations where running wild, and not many of us had enough sleep that night. We were just 12 year old children, and of course scared to death by the stories about all different cratures around us.
Some artist living here in western Finland, have now made forest creatures and placed them in the forest near the old school to show them to people, like an outdoor exhibition in the forest. They want to make sure people today don't forget about these creatures that once were so important to people around here. They are placed along a beautiful walking trail. Finns love walking trails. When you walk half a mile on this trail, you can see all these creatures. Just the other day, I took my family with me to this same place again. We walked a mile to see the following creatures I'm going to tell you about. Their names are in Swedish and I've tried to find some of their names in English. Some creatures only have their Swedish names. Sometimes these creatures also have different names here in Scandinavia depending on from which area they are. Please folllow me on my enchanted adventure with forest creatures from the Scandinavian folklore.
"Skogsrået"/The Siren of the Woods
First, when we started our walk, we met a big fox and next to him ”Skogsrået” stood. You could also call her Siren of the woods or forest woman. In Swedish her name is also "Huldra". Whatever you'd prefer to call her, she's a very beautiful and beautifully dressed woman if you see her from the front, facing towards you. If you see her from behind she's either hollow or her back is a rotten tree trunk.The siren of the woods shows herself to men and lures them into the woods. She can then rob them of their intellect. The story says that sometimes she used to show herself to lumbermen, and they were obsessed by her beauty, and they then started following her through the woods. When they finally would catch her, she would turned her back on them and disappear. Then the lumbermen would realize they were lost, and these stories often had a bad ending.
The siren of the woods can be nice to people, who don't want to do her any harm. You can offer her a piece of your packed lunch, which will give you good hunting. Her mission is to watch over the animals of the forest.
The Siren of the Woods
”Raamt” is a ghostly and unpleasant creature. He's an evil being, who shows himself to people and almost scares them to death. Many children, who grew up here around often heard the warning ”Watch out for Raamt!”. He could show up in a grain house, in the forest or in another place where children shouldn't be. Many times there have been stories told about something big, dark and unpleasant following you, like a perception. In the old Norse language there's the word ”rammr”, which means ”a hand with extending fingers”. I'm not sure you can find Raamt in any other area of Scandinavia. He seems to exist only here on the west coast of Finland.
Vättar and Vittror
”Vättar and Vittror”
Vättar and vittror are small creatures living alongside with the humans. They are also called the invisibles. Vättar and vittror look like and are dressed like humans, and they are mortal just like people. They live a life in peace and they don't make noices nor do they quarrel. They live under the ground, under tree roots and under house bases, and even in the mountains. In the world of vättar and vittror, everything is upside down. Left is right and right is left. It says that vättar and vittror can show themselves to humans in the form of ants, and they can even live in anthills. If you pour hot water on them, they will become furious. They will get even more furious if someone urinates on them. To avoid these things, people have special rooms for defecating, so called outhouses.
The Underground Beings
"De Underjordiska"/The Underground Beings
These beings or creatures live underground, and they are almost similar to vättar and vittror. The underground beings look like humans. Humans see their world reversed. These beings can be evil and lure humans into the underground, where the humans will get lost. Sometimes the underground beings come up to steal things from humans.
Älvor are elves or sprites, who according to the Finnish folk tradition, can be and look very different from each other. They can be white or black, good or evil, male or female, beautiful or ugly. They can also have traits of garden goblins in them, because some elves have earlier married garden goblins and they have gotten children together. The elves like to entertain themselves and they often dance until morning light. During winter, elves hibernate and they wake up when the first snow starts melting. They won't leave their burrows until the risk of night frost is over and the wood anemones have bloomed.
According to the Swedish folk tradition, elves are described as beautiful white dressed female creatures, and most beautiful is the elf queen with her crown. An elf shuns the daylight and if she doesn't reaturn home before the sun rises, she turns into a ”daystander”. That means she will remain standing invisible somewhere, for example on a road.
Siren and His Wife Mielikki
"Rådare" or a siren is someone, who have control over different objects. He can also watch over the border between two farms. He is like a spririt watching over things. Also garden goblins can count a sirens.
The siren is often described as a gruff, tall man that rarely shows himself to people. Accoording to stories, one siren contacted his farmer and told him to make seven knives and place them somewhere, where the farmer could get paid for the knives. The knives were meant to be used in fights between the sirens of the woods and the sirens of the farms. According to traditions, these sirens can fight so hard that the forest lakes start boiling. Sirens do not hurt people, but in case they get insulted, they can cause truoble.
Mielikki, the Wife of the Siren
According to the Finnish tradition, Meilikki is a female married to the siren. She takes care of the chores in the forest, cleans and decorates. She's also a good healer. Hunters should be on good terms vid Mielikki, which will give them good hunting.
On The Walking Trail
"Näcken"/The Water Spirit/The Neck
The Neck is a mythical creature that you can find by rivers, rapids, water sources and bridges. Its mission is to protect these places. He's a male sitting and playing the violing, but he can also be seen in many other different shapes. He can look like a young, beautiful man luring people into water, where he drowns them. Adults have for a long time told children about The Neck to keep them away from water.
Sjörået/The Siren of the Sea/The Mermaid
The Mermaid is a female creature in Nordic folklore. She watched over the lake or the river that belonged to her territory. Just like the siren of the woods, the mermaid is a seductive creature. She often shows herself to lonely men in her vicinity. You can see her sitting on a stone, combing her long hair. To avoid getting spellbound by her, you should throw a fishing knife in front of her, and she'll disappear.
The mermaid has cattle grazing on the shore. These can look like perches and pikes, and if you catsch a fish it can be the mermaid's cow. Then you'd better let go of the fish again - for your own safety.
More Creatures ...
Many More Creatures
There are many more creatures in Scandinavian folklore, but these are the most common creatures in western Finland. Below there's a link to another of my hubs and a video, where you'll see Ronia meet wild imps. They sure are scary!
I hope you liked meeting these creatures as much as I did. Remember to watch out for Raamt!
Creatures In Astrid Lindgren's Children's Books
- Children's Books by Astrid Lindgren
The Swedish Authos Astrid Lindgren has written many great children's books. In the fantasy book "Ronia the Robber's Daughter" you'll meet creatures like "vildvittror" or wild imps.
Ronia And Her Friend Birk Meeting "Vildvittror"/Wild Imps
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