Tuesday 3 April 2012

Folklore Snippets - The Nidagrísur

From: "Scandinavian Folklore" ed. William Craigie, 1896

The Nidagrísur is little, thick and rounded, like a little child in swaddling clothes or a big ball of yarn, and of a dark reddish-brown colour. It is said to appear where new-born illegitimate children have been killed and buried without receiving a name. It lies and rolls about before men’s feet to lead them astray from the road, and if it gets between anyone’s legs, he will not see another year. In the field of the village of Skáli on Österö stands a stone, called Loddasa-stone, and here a nidagrísur often lay before the feet of those who went that way in the dark, until once a man who was passing and was annoyed by it, grew angry and said “Loddasi there,” upon which it buried itself in the earth beside the stone, and was never seen again, for now it had got a name.

No Nidagrisurs available online, so here's a picture by John Bauer of a changeling child reared by trolls, 1913


  1. I'll post my own comment on this: I think the saddest thing about this story is that the ghost of the little creature is laid to rest even though the man's words are said in anger. It's as though the rejected child craves any attention, any attention at all,from the human race.

  2. It is very , very sad - but also somehow lovely that there was a poor little spirit and that it found rest.

  3. Ooh - love this. I know several British versions, and though sad, the ghost is not dismissed in anger. In one (Welsh, I think) a fisherman fishes at a spot avoided by others, because it's haunted by a weeping child. He calls out to it, 'If you're a boy, I name you John, if you're a girl, I name you Joan.' There's instant silence, then a little voice cries out, 'I've got a name, I've got a name!' - and is never heard again.

    In a Scots story, a drunken man dares - because he's drunk - to take the path through the woods where the ghostly child wanders and sobs. When he hears it, being drunk, he calls out cheerfully, 'What's the matter, Short Hoggers?' (Short Hoggers means something like 'short pants' or 'short trousers'.)

    Again the ghostly child runs away calling out, "I've gotten a name, I've gotten a name!" - and is never heard again.

  4. Thanks Sue - these are lovely, and decidly more cheerful!

  5. I do love these snippets of folklore... there's something so deep rooted and powerful about these tales, maybe because there are deep buried truths wound within them from times and lives lived in far more hardship than ours today...