Norse mythology

Norse mythology is the belief of the Vikings and the Nordic countries up to the 20th century, including the Scandinavian folklore.

The early tales focus on the Æsir and Asgård, the old gods. The more modern stories, also called Scandinavian folklore, have a more local focus.

Norse mythology

Norse mythology is the focus of gods and heroes. The gods that lived in Asgård often visiting the humans in Midgård, often Kings or heroes that did great things.

The leader among the Æsir, Oden (Odin), is featured in many tales in different shapes. He has a trusted horse, Sleipner, as well as two ravens, Hugin & Munin. He has only one eye since he sacrificed one to Mimer in exchange for knowledge. He is also the father of many other gods, among them the famous Tor (Thor).

Tor is the god wielding the thunderous hammer Mjölnir and are said to be the cause behind thunder and lightning.

Loke (Loki) is the god behind most bad things in tales, from the death of Balder to being the parent to both Fenrir and Hel. He is also the mother of Sleipner, so not everything he does is bad.

These gods, and many more, live in the realm called Asgård, one of nine worlds connected through the Yggdrasil. It is also connected to the home of humans, Midgård, the giants home in Jotunheim or Utgård, and the underworld where Hel rules.

In Asgård, multiple famous locations are placed, among them Valhall, where Oden keeps the fallen warriors, Enhärjarna, to fight against the giants.

Scandinavian folklore

Scandinavian folklore is the folklore of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands. In other words, the folklore of Scandinavia together with Iceland and the Faroe Islands.

The tales mostly originated from the farmers and their worldview and environment, and the tales were guidelines for them to follow. It covered things such as folk medicine and deep-rooted traditions and the reason they keep doing them. It explains everyday things such as why there is a dense mass of shoots in a single point on plants and trees or why some people get what we today know is oral herpes or sleep paralysis. It explains why some are better at hunting or why some animals produce more or better quality products.

There are many different beings in the Scandinavian folklore, called Väsen, and some can turn invisible or change their shape. If they are mischievous, they are called Oknytt (similar to goblin).

They all live in different places where humans live or frequently travels. At the farm, a Vätte or a Gårdstomte might be found, the forest is where Skogsrået ruled, and the mountains were the home for Trollen. Either Näcken, a Bäckahäst, or Sjörået visited streams and lakes, while Lyktgubbarna guarded the boundaries of the estates.

Some of these could sometimes be helpful, but if they felt dissatisfied, they could cause harm. If you were Trollkunnig, you could create enchanted items such as Bjäror or Mjölkharar to steal the neighbour’s milk or even curse others to become some of these Väsen. 

Some beings were pure animals, such as Gloson, Kyrkogrim, or Lindorm.

The 20th century

When people started moving into the cities in the early 1900s, the tales and traditions stopped being as relevant as they used to be. When fewer people lived on the farms, there was no need to make sure Gårdstomten was given his porridge. People no longer had horses, nor a farm the Väsen could take care of. 

Some beings were still relevant, especially using them to ensure children would be careful. For example, be wary of Näcken when close to the water was easier to explain than why water itself might be dangerous.

Many of these beings have transformed over time, and if they were to be told today, Tora Wall speculates that where the beings once were the bad guys in the stories, it might be the opposite today. Instead of being fearful of running into a Skogsrå in the forest because she is out to get you, you might see her as the protector of the forest. These beings protect the environment, and we as humans are now the bad guys in the tales.