There are many kinds of rå in the Scandinavian folklore; one of the more popular ones is Skogsrået (forest). There are also other nature-based ones, such as the Sjörå (sea or freshwater), Havsrå (ocean or saltwater), Bergsrå (mountain). But not only nature has these kinds of guardians, but there are also some for a few human constructions, for example, Skeppsrå (ship or boat) and Gruvrå (mine). Some consider Gårdstomten as an rå and prefer to call them Gårdsrå (farm) instead.
The word rå comes from the belief that these beings protect certain areas or constructions, and the best translation into English might be warden or keeper. The word itself is closely related to the word råda, which translates to advise or reign. Another word it relates to is the word rår, which translates into controlling something.
This leads to the idea that these beings have certain control over the animals and the environment in their specific area. Therefore, they can both help and cause trouble for all those that enter their domain. Many who have an rå close by, be it on their farm or while working in the forest as a hunter or woodworker, try to stay on the areas rå good side. This can lead to help in their field, while ignoring these beings or do something to make them angry causes trouble.
An interesting thing to consider is that nature is more often presented as female, while manufactured constructions are presented as male. Of course, it’s not always the case, but it is a trend among the stories.