A representative of Swedish folklore, the Tomte is a well known character in Scandinavia. The Swedish word Tomte roughly corresponds to gnome or elf.
The Tomte is small, about the size of a seven-year-old boy, has a long grey snowy beard and an old wrinkled face. He wears grey clothes and a pointed red hat, and lives on haylofts and barns, looking after the farm and the animals.
Tomtes are shy and often move invisible but it is of utmost importance to treat the Tomte well. If so, he will help the farmer to bake, carry chopped wood, clean out the stable, and spread manure on the fields. A Tomte has no sense of humor, so he must never be made fun of, as he may move to the neighboring farm, taking the farmer’s luck with him.
At Christmas time, Juledag in Sweden, people reward him with a big plate of porridge with butter. During the darkest days in winter, the fire was kept burning by cutting down a large tree, the yule log, and placing the end of it into the hearth while the rest stuck out into the room.
This yule log was intended as much as to remind people of the sunny days to come as to give light to the farm’s Tomte, for it is in the darkest nights of winter that Tomtes become more active, making sure everything in the farm is ready for the next spring.
However, as industrious as Tomtes are, they have a naughty side. If at Christmas, the Tomte is not appeased with food offered to him or if he is not pleased with the yule log burning in the house, great mischief will be done. In this sense Tomtes are closest to Brownies than to other industrious gnomes from Great Britain of Ireland.
-Gillin, J. J. (1953). Lore From A Swedish Grandfather. New York Folklore, 9(1), 268.
-Zander, L., & Zander, U. (2009). 9. Cultural mythology and global leadership in Sweden. Cultural Mythology and Global Leadership, 166.