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Archive for the ‘Folklore’ Category

Back in 2010 I made a series of posts from the start of December through to the 24th called “A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse”. It was based on some background work I did for a series of Christmas cards I did donkey’s years ago. Since a lot of regular visitors have turned up on Retrorambling since then, here’s a quick reprise on the series – Ted

We have a strange lingual phenomena in Norway and that is that the fat sod you English speaking people call Santa we call a “nisse” and that would have posted no problem if it wasn’t for the fact that we already had a”nisse” long before St Nicolas started giving presents to poor children somewhere in Germany. It is all a linguistic mishap really, it is because the Swedes called Santa "Nisse" which is a nickname for Niklas and we here in Norway adopted it. The real nisse don’t like this at all. So in order to put things into prospective, I’m going to use December on this blog to let you all take part in my only scientific study “A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse”.

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The Norwegian "Nisse" is a relative of the Brownie, the Pixie and the Leprechaun. He lives in rural districts and in the woods. In Norway we call Santa Clause "nisse" as well, but that fat, jolly, "Ho Ho" chanting lunatic that Coca Cola and other companies that think they have a claim on Christmas love so much must never ever be mistaken for the original. The original "Nisse" has been around for as long as there has been people here in Norway, and he is here all year round.

In the old days people believed that the "nisse" took care of their houses and animals and kept them out of harms way. In rural districts people used to put out porridge for the "nisse", a tradition that is still upheld round Christmas at many farms around the country. The "nisse" could be quite a prankster, so keeping him happy was important. It is a well known fact that if he didn’t get his porridge, he could hide things or rearrange whole rooms or even worse.

In our day and age, the "nisse" has become very shy, as all the products of the silly thing we call progress scares him. Very few people has seen a "nisse" these last hundred years, so as I am one of the few fortunate, I will share my knowledge with you. In "A Study of the Norwegian Nisse" you will meet two, they both live in the woods close to my cottage in Enebakk, some five metric miles from Oslo city. They have never been willing to divulge their names so in lack of better names, I’ve called them Prototype No 1 and Prototype No 2, No 1 and No 2 for short.

All my knowledge stems from these two individuals, so this study may not give a general picture of the "nisse" as such at all. They are after all great pranksters. Pulling your leg is among their favourite past times, so if the picture I’m painting here seems to vary from your opinion of what a "nisse" is and should be, what can I say.

A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 2
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 3
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 4
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 5
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 6
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 7
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 8
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 9
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 10
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 11
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 12
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 13
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 14
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 15
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 16
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 17
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 18
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 19
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 20
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 21
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 22
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 23
A Study Of The Norwegian Nisse–Part 24

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If you are lucky enough to live in an era where there are frogs you seem to have a cure for almost every illness there is right outside your front door if these old and tested remedies are anything to go by – Ted 😉072_frog_cures

To get rid of freckles, go to a brook, catch a frog and rub it on the freckles.
(U.S.)

To cure warts rub a live frog over them, then impale it on a thorn to die.
(Britain)

To stop bleeding, bind the cut with linen cloths that had been dipped in
"ye green fome where frogges have their spawne
3 days before the new-moon."
(17th century, Europe)

To cure whooping cough, place a small frog in a box
tied around the afflicted person’s neck.
As the frog decays the cough will disappear.
(rural England)

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-To cure a toothache, spit into a frog’s mouth,
ask it to carry the ache away, then release it.

To cure thrush, hold a live frog’s head in your mouth.
As it breathes it will draw the disease into itself.
(Cheshire, England)

The dried body of a frog worn in a silk bag around the neck
will prevent epilepsy and other fits.

Young frogs swallowed live were a remedy
for general weakness, cancer and consumption.
(Yorkshire, England)

To cure rheumatism, roast a live frog and apply it to the sore area.
(Utah, U.S.)

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From “Frogs” by Gerald Donaldson published by Windward in 1980

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They say that sea vessels continue to hear SOS signals from the Titanic to this day. Radio signals come periodically, once every few years. Also, some “survivors” are reported to have been found decades after the Titanic tragedy.

Thus, as legend has it, a middle-aged woman dressed in an early 20th-century fashion style was taken on board a vessel passing by the Titanic sinking site. The name she used to identify herself was later found in the passenger lists.

Other miraculous ghost stories related to the Titanic mention a ten-month-old baby allegedly found alive in a lifebelt, carrying the inscription Titanic, and an elderly gentleman dressed in a White Star Line captain’s uniform. The man is said to have introduced himself to his rescuers as Captain Smith – the name of the Titanic’s chief commanding officer.


There can be no doubt that serious  publications like Weekly World News (see image above), News Of The World, The Sun and People have been great contributor when it comes to keeping these legends alive and I for one are full of admiration – Ted 😉

Image found on “Google Books” – Text found on “Rianovosti

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Article from Modern Mechanix July 1934 found on blog.modernmechanix.com
By identifying the sea serpent of Loch Ness, Scotland, as a familiar species of whale, naturalists have just shown how easily the human eye may be fooled into thinking it sees an unfamiliar monster. Worldwide interest was drawn to Loch Ness, within recent months, by repeated eyewitness reports of a long-necked, aquatic apparition of huge size, resembling no known marine animal. Finally Dr. Robert K. Wilson, noted British surgeon, managed to get a snapshot of the fabulous creature, and the mystery vanished. The picture showed the curved fin of a killer whale projecting in typical fashion from the water strongly suggesting an elongated neck and head. According to Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews, noted explorer and zoologist, and others who agreed on this identification, the whale evidently had strayed up an inlet from the sea into the lake. This was the second sea monster mystery to be cleared up recently. Examination showed a strange marine creature, washed up dead on French shores near Cherbourg (P.S.M., May, ’34, p. 38), to be a basking shark of a common species, made almost unrecognizable by the waves.

The honourable Dr. Roy Chapman Andrews must have felt like he had a rather large amount of egg on his face when Dr. Robert K. Wilson finally admitted that his photography was a fake – Ted

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Article from Modern Mechanix April 1934 found on blog.modernmechanix.com
Scotland is aroused over reports made by several reliable persons that they have seen a sea monster in the vicinity of Loch Ness.

Arthur Grant, veterinary student, was riding home early one morning on his motorcycle when he viewed the creature, which he described as being about 15 or 20 feet in length. He jumped from his motorcycle to look at the animal, but he said it snorted wildly and splashed into the loch.

Scientists, discrediting the prehistoric sea monster theory, are inclined to believe the frequently seen animal is either a deep-sea eel or stray shark.

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Visiting one another is a great part of "nisse" life. A "nisse" knows any other "nisse" living in his district intimately. He never moves from the district where he is born and he knows where  any other "nisse" in that district lives. He know their names, their age, when they have their birthdays, what they like and dislike and what an appropriated gift when visiting might be. And this goes more than anything for relatives.
They are very social beings and would appreciate any guest at any time. They never invite one another, they just turn up and are welcome when they do. And they do celebrate Christmas of course, if not for the same reason as we do. And then the families gather and here you see my two friends on their way to such midwinter gathering.

Well this was the last from my little friends this year as I will do as them, gather my Christmas presents and take off to be with my family for the next few days. Maybe I’ll let you get a few more glimpses of their lives and doings next Christmas or maybe I’ll find something else to post in December then.

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The woods and the mountains are the natural habitat for a "nisse" and one of his greatest joys is hiking. Like any other sane being living in Norway he loves the smell, the view and the quietness of nature.

A new brewed cup of coffee, a few rashes of bacon on a warm toast or a bowl of hot soup by a lake or a stream, that’s life for you, whether you are "nisse" or a human being.

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The game of "Fell the King" really shows how strong these guys are. The Knights and the King is almost as big as they are and the throwing sticks are the same length as a "nisse". And with a game field 4 x 6 meters, it is a game a human and a "nisse " can play together.

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A Game of "Fell the King" could be made much simpler than this, and it is a very nice outdoor game. I have made my own version of it that can be played both as "Fell the King" and as "Kubb". "Kubb" is a viking game that has become very popular in Scandinavia in recent years. There are even world championships arranged these days.

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My two friends love all kind of games, and they make all of them themselves according to ancient "nisse" tradition. Many of their games stems from mediaeval times, a time when there was a lot more socialising between their world and ours. We humans lived more in tune with nature then, my friends tell me.

Few things are made with so much attention to details and so high a demand on craftsmanship as a "nisse" game. I told my friends about the kind of Croquet games one might buy on petrol station and other places to day, and when I came to the gates the laughed so hard they rolled on the ground. Who would bother to play such an ugly game, they uttered, screaming with laughter. You humans really are stupid.

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Looking at this typical game field one might think a guy 35 cm. high would spend years finishing a game of "Two Towers", but you must remember their strength. Both my two small friends could easily knock the ball clean across the field and half a mile into the woods on the other side. And they posses an accuracy when sending a ball through a gate that most people would envy them.

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A boat like "Dundra" is easily manoeuvred by these strong guys. And how ever much beer they drink on a trip on a lake or river they steer clear of any obstacles unnoticed by us. And if a fish is to large to haul into the boat, they throw it onshore and clean it there. One fish is usually enough, they are not that big, you know. A half pond trout or bass holds several meals to these two.

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This is "Dundra" My two friend’s boat. Not the most gracious of vessels, maybe, but they love it. The boat has all they need, room for a barrel of beer, lamp for night fishing, holders for the beer tankards and a decent binoculars.

A "nisse" does as I have mentioned, find us humans rather ridiculous in shape and form, and they like to spy on us when ever they can. You must remember that they are not bound by the same set of ethics as we are, so spying on us is quite all right in their world. After all, in their eyes we are stupid shortlived creatures, who waste most of the time we’re here.

They find us particularly funny to look at in the nude, so if you should be skinny dipping one nice summer day and think you hear some low sniggering somewhere close by, you know who it is.

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E
very one had a chair sledge when I was a kid, but then the authorities had the brilliant idea of salting the roads instead of sanding in the winter. Gone was the icy surface and roads and pavements were covered in a thick, soupy, salty sludge that ruined your foot wear and trouser legs. And gone were the chair sledges.

No.2 is fortunate to live on the country side and in an place where sanding and salting is considered a foolish waste of time and effort. So he has build himself a chair sledge of which he is immensely proud. So proud in fact that it was summer the first time he showed it to me.

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One of the disadvantages of being 35 cm. high, is that you have to make most of what you need yourself. No sports stores even in Norway sells gear for these blokes.

On the other hand that gives you the opportunity to make everything to your own specification and taste. Looking at No1’s skies here you’d know no sports store would have them anyway.

He is as proud of these as he is of anything else he has made and they really are beautiful. The sticks is a story in them selves. In Norway we used to place thin bamboo sticks along the edge of the road for the snow ploughing machines to navigate by.

Ideal material for making ski sticks for guys their height, wouldn’t you think. Well so do they. The road sticks were about 100 cm high and that would easily make four nice ski sticks for a "nisse". It is a good thing there aren’t that many of them around, it would have been hard for the ploughing cars to keep on the road if there had.

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A "nisse" is strong, fast and substantial. He does not need any form of transportation at all. Apart from that he does not really need to move very far from his home.

A "nisse" is not very adventures when it comes to travelling. Few of them has been more than say 30 miles from the place they were born.

But they are ingenious and industrious and they love to make things with their hands, large and small. And they have a great love for comfort, and any means of transportation is comfortable.

You might wonder why you never see any of the different things shown on these sheets, but you must remember that at "nisse" has the power to make objects invisible, you would not see them unless they want you to. And in most cases they don’t.

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One of a "nisse’s" greatest prides is his stockings and stocking bands. They are all different and if it is something that can really make them mad, it is if someone should claim to have nicer stockings and bands than they do them self.

Stockings and stocking bands are to a "nisse" what politics and religion is to us. It is a topic better left alone. Discussing it is simply not the done thing.

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No.2 prefers shirt and waistcoat to No 1’s sweater. The green shirt is made out of wool and the waistcoat is soft natural coloured leather with red trimmings.

His trousers are similar to No. 1’s apart from the colouring and so is his belt, stockings and bands. And of course he wears a red cap, the "nisse" trade mark. In Norway a cap like that is called a "nisse" cap even when worn by humans.

No.1 carries a folding knife in his pocket as a knife in the belt tends to ruin the shape of his waistcoat. And No. 2 is as vain as any other "nisse", so appearance is important to him.

No.2’s beloved red bent wood box follows him every where, so it is in a way almost part of his clothing.

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No. 1’s sweater is made out of soft rather thick woven wool and the finish at the seams is in the softest leather. It is rather loose fitting as a "nisse’s" first priority in clothing always will be comfort.

His trousers reaches down to just below the knees where it is fastened around the stockings with a woven band. The trousers are made of strong, soft leather with a nice red finish at the seams. The trousers are held up by a leather belt with a brass buckle. And he always wears a knife in his belt.

As any other "nisse" he wears a red cap knitted out of wool, no "nisse" would be seen without one.

No 1’s stockings are thick and soft, and made out of wool of course. A "nisse" would not be found dead in a ditch wearing anything synthetic. One of the things that makes them find us humans so silly, is our increasing use of unnatural materials.

No 1’s knapsack is made in the same material and in the same finish as his trousers, and he always brings it along, no matter where he goes.

The "nisse" shoes will be shown on a separate sheet.

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A "nisse" is usually on friendly terms with his kind. And if an argument or a quarrel should arise, they never hit one another. With their strength they would probably have knocked the poor fellow into the next county. Anyway, an disagreement among them usually blows over in no time, and they settle it with large quantities with strong dark beer. It is remarkable how much beer these small guys can drink, and still stand upright.

Although they brag shamelessly about their craftsmanship, they do that without saying one bad word about another "nisse’s" work. On the contrary, they can brag just as much of another "nisse’s" handiwork. It’s the cleverness and artistry of their kind that matter, not which "nisse" that has crafted the product.

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