Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Folklore Snippets - "To Catch a Nisse"

From: "Scandinavian Folklore" ed: William Craigie 1896

As every one was eager to have a nisse attached to his farm, the following plan was formerly made use of to catch one. The people went out into the wood to fell a tree. At the sound of its fall the nisses all came running as hard as they could to see how folk did with it, so they sat down beside them and talked with them about one thing and another. When the wedges were driven into the tree, it would often happen that a nisse’s little tail would fall into the cleft, and when the edge was driven out, the tail was fast and nisse was a prisoner.

Down in Bögeskov (Beech Wood) lived two poor people who, as they lay awake one night, talked of how fine it would be if a nisse would come and help them. No sooner had they said this than they heard a noise in the loft, as if someone were grinding corn. “Hallo!” said the man,“there we have him already!” “Lord Jesus, man, what’s that you say?” said the woman; but as soon as she named the Lord’s name, they heard nisse go crash out of the loft, taking the gable along with him.

Picture credit: small troll or nisse by John Bauer (d. 1918)


  1. I want one. Or a hob. Either will do.

  2. I do too - but have no trees to fell, and in any case, catching their tails like that sounds rater cruel. I shall try loudly announcing that I would like one. If Nisses or hobs have taken to the internet and any are reading this, there is plenty to do at my house, I will NEVER thank you, I promise, and there will always be bread and milk, and cream and cake at holidays and special occasions.

  3. Oh, so do I, Janet! And yes, Sue, it does seem a bit cruel to trap them by their tails. I think they'd be likely to play tricks on us if we caught them that way.

    I might try singing for one. 'Hobs and nisses, come away...'