The Tomte by Victor Rydberg

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Wishing All of You, Our Reading Friends, a Very Splendid Holiday Season!

Astrid Lindgren’s book The Tomten was inspired by this very famous Swedish poem called The Tomte by Victor Rydberg.  Originally in Swedish, I share it with you here in English so you can be inspired by these little gnome elves.



Deep in the grip of the midwinter cold

Stars send a sparkling light.

All are asleep on this lonely farm,

Deep in the winter night.

The pale white moon is wanderer,

And snow lies white on pine and fir.

Snow glows on rooftop shake.

The tomte alone is awake.


Gray, he stands by the low bran door,

Gray by the drifted snow,

Gazing, as many winters he’s gazed,

Up at the moon’s chill glow,

Then at the forest where fir and pine

Circle the farm in a dusky line,

Mulling relentlessly

A riddle that has no key.


Rubs his hand through his beard and hair,

Shakes his head and his cap.

“No, that question is much too deep,

I cannot fathom that.”

Then making his mind up in a hurry,

He shrugs away the annoying wory;

Turns at his own command,

Turns to the task at hand.


Goes to the storehouse and toolshop doors,

Checking the locks of all,

While the cows dream on in the cold moon’s light,

Summer dreams in each stall.

And free of harness and whip and rein,

Even Old Palle dreams again.

The manger he’s drowsing over

Brims with fragrant clover.


The tomte glances at sheep and lambs

Cuddled in quiet rest.

The chickens are next, where the rooster roosts

High above straw filled nests.

Burrowed in straw, hearty and hale,

Karo wakens and wags his tail

As if to say, “Old friend, “Partners we are to the end.”


At last the tomte tiptoes in

To see how the housefolk fare.

He knows full well the strong esteem

They feel for his faithful care.

He tiptoes into the children’s beds,

Silently peers at their tousled heads.

There is no mistaking his pleasure:

These are his greatest treasure.


Long generations has he watched

Father to son to son

Sleeping as babes. But where, he aske,

From where, from where have they come?

Families came, families went,

Blossomed and aged, a lifetime spent,

Then-Where? That riddle again

Unanswered in his brain!


Slowly he turns to the barnyard loft,

His fortress, his home and rest,

High in the mow, in the fragrant hay

Near to the swallow’s nest.

The nest is empty, but in the spring

When birds mid leaves and blossoms sing,

And come with her tiny mate.


Then will she talke of the journey tell.

Twittering to all who hear it,

But nary a hint for the question old

That stirs in the tomte’s spirit.

Now through cracks in the haymow wall

The moon lights tomte and hay and all,

Lights his beard t hrough the chinks,

The tomte ponders and thinks.


Still is the forest and all the land,

Locked in this wintry year.

Only the distant waterfall

Whispers and sighs in his ear.

The tomte listens and, half in dream,

Thnks that he hears Time’s endless stream,

And wonders, where is it bound?

Where is its source to be found?


Deep in the grip of the midwinter cold,

Stars send a sparkling light.

All are asleep on this lonely farm,

Late in this winter night.

The pale white moon is a wanderer,

Snow lies white on pine and fir;

Snow glows on rooftop shake.

The tomte alone is awake.


3 thoughts on “The Tomte by Victor Rydberg

  1. Thank you so much for posting this lovely Victor Rydberg poem and lively “Tomte” pictures ~ my daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

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