In Norse mythology, the Nisse are mischievous domestic sprites responsible for the protection and welfare of the farmstead and its buildings.

Similar to the Tomte of Sweden and the Brownies of Great Britain, the Nisse is a small boy or a small man dressed in gray clothes and a red cap; the crown of his head remains always moist, and his hands lack thumbs. Lingering about the farmsteads, he makes himself most useful so long as he is well treated; but if he takes umbrage at his hosts, he is capable of causing a great deal of trouble.

If a Nisse is pleased with his surroundings, he will help the stable boy feed the horses, will assist the milkmaid in the care of the cows, and will even steal from the neighbors both hay and food to supply the farm on which he lives. However, if he grows dissatisfied, he will bewitch the cattle, spoil the food, and bring misfortunes of other kinds upon the house.

It may happen that two Nisse from two different farms encounter each other in foraging for hay, and then they will perhaps start a spirited fight armed with wisps of the hay.

The name of this little imp comes from it's relation with the winter holidays. Nisse is a diminutive pet name for Nils (Nicolaus), and in Norway, where these little beings are better known and more abundant, Nicolaus, Niclas, Nickel, and Klaus are used to denote a being who appears in disguise on St. Nicholas’ Day (December 6) to distribute rewards or punishments to children. In these regions, is the Nisse, and not Santa Claus, who brings presents to children.

On Christmas Eve prudent folk are accustomed to set out a dish of Christmas pudding for the Nisse.


-Agger, G. (2013). Danish TV Christmas calendars: Folklore, myth and cultural history. Journal of Scandinavian Cinema, 3(3), 267-280

-Munch, P. A. (1926). Norse Mythology. ASF.

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