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A tomte is just another word for a gnome. Tomtes know many things. They know what the weather will be by how quickly the squirrels are gathering nuts. They know how to find the tastiest mushrooms but most importantly, they know how to talk to animals, especially foxes.
The Tomten and the Fox is a story written by Astrid Lindgren and illustrated by Harald Wiberg. This is one of our absolute favorites this time of year.
As a fox sneaks up on the farm, a little tomte man watches over the family charged with his protection.
Quietly the fox looks for something to eat. His eyes fall upon the hens which would make a tasty meal. Before he can do any damage the tomte stops him and talks him out of stealing hens by offering him a bowl of porridge. Satisfied the fox goes back to his den.
It seems the great talent of this old, old, tomte is to talk a fox out of stealing a hen.
Want to know more about Swedish Folklore and Tomtes? Then you might enjoy my round-up of some truly wonderful Tomte-themed books for kids!
It’s an exceptionally magical time of year. As I was pondering this the thought of my friend the “winter tomte” or “jul tomte” popped into my mind. Is there really such a thing? Ah yes, there really is such a thing as a winter tomte and this time of year especially we have many eager children waiting for the Jul Tomte to come on Christmas Eve bring a sack full of presents, chocolate, and good fun.
The tomte in Sweden and Nisse in Norway and Denmark is a Scandinavian myth. Tomtes are small, bearded men who wear red colored caps and are rarely, if ever seen by humans. Since we are talking about Winter Tomte I have to also share that you’ll only see the menfolk as the women and children are home making merry and getting ready for the great celebrations ahead.
The word tomte actually means “homestead man” and the word Nisse is the nickname for the name Nils which means Nicholas as in St. Nicholas. So a tomte is a little man who resides on the farm and on Christmas, plays the roll of St. Nick and Santa all rolled into one.
Traditionally, tomtes live on farms, back yards, and maybe even under the pantry at your house. They stay out of sight during the day, and come out at night to do chores, and help out around the house, farm , and garden. They help farms, gardens, and homes to prosper and be successful. We never get something for nothing, so in return they ask that the land, garden, forest and animals be treated kindly and respectfully.
One of the greatest signs of good luck is to have a tomte living at your house, in your garden or on your farm. To make sure that they stay with you, always give them a bowl of porridge topped with butter and maybe even some brown sugar on Christmas Eve. They’ll be so happy. (Get the Recipe HERE)
It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t warn you though, that tomtes have very bad tempers and are very strong. If you make them angry or offend them they’ll wreak havoc around the house and farm. Things to expect are all horses and cows tails tied together. All of the cereal boxes turned upside down in the cupboard. Silverware placed in the freezer, glasses turned upside down so you can’t pour milk or water into them. If everything is going backward at your house or it’s just in complete chaos, you may have a disgruntled tomte!
ONE MORE THING…
More tomte books!