In Scandinavian folklore, there are little magical people who help take care of animals on the farm called Tomtens (or tomtes, or nisse or tomtenisse).
According to Wikipedia: Tomtens are typically associated with the winter solstice and the Christmas season. It is no taller than three feet, and has a long white beard and colorful clothes. It is known as a gift bearer and considered the Swedish version of Father Christmas.
Swedish! Gnome-like! Winter Solstice! Of course, we love these little guys. And we are fortunate enough to have a couple that show up at our house each December. They move about at night and we find them in different locations each morning. They turn into little dolls before anyone can see them (this isn’t mentioned in any of the literature (see below), but seems to be the case in our house).
Throughout the month we read about Tomtens, Swedish gnomes, and Christmas elves, and learn what we can. We assume they took care of our chickens during the -17F spell.
On Christmas Eve we leave a bowl of porridge for the Tomtens next to Santa’s cookies and the reindeer’s carrot. Then the Tomtens disappear until next December.
Scientific Literature re: Tomtens
I shared our favorite Winter Solstice books. Here are a few of the other reads that fill our winter book crate.
The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren
This was our first Tomten book, and perhaps my favorite. This outstanding book by Astrid Lingren, the author of Pippi Longstocking–and winner of the Hans Christian Andersen Award–has been called a “picture book of rare distinction” by the Chicago Tribune.
Buy The Tomten on Amazon.
The Tomtes’ Christmas Porridge by Sven Nordqvist
This is a good reminder to get your porridge out! Every Christmas Eve, the Master puts out rice pudding for the tomtes to say thank you for their help around the house throughout the year. But recently the Master has forgotten, and Mama tomte knows he’ll forget again this year. The elves hatch a plot to steal a bowl of Christmas pudding, without being seen, so that Papa tomte doesn’t get angry.
Buy The Tomtes’ Christmas Porridge on Amazon.
Little Tomte’s Christmas Wish by Inkeri Karvonen
Another cute book that captures the Hygge of winter. Little Tomte lives happily in his cozy house beside a beautiful tree. When winter arrives, he’s worried that Christmas won’t come — until he makes a special Christmas wish. He embarks on a candle-making plan which will help make his wish come true. A heartwarming festive tale drawn with gentle humor by acclaimed Finnish illustrator Hannu Taina.
Buy Little Tomte’s Christmas Wish on Amazon.
The Tomten and the Fox by Astrid Lindgren
Another book by Astrid Lindgren of Pippi Longstocking fame. I wish I new this creative and magical woman! A beautifully illustrated tale adapted from an old Swedish poem. The Tomten, who looks after the farm at night, meets a hungry fox and agrees to share his supper with him if the fox promises to leave the hens alone. A very gentle, friendly story. It is refreshing that he understands that the fox is hungry and needs to eat – rather than the ‘nasty fox’ approach.
Buy The Tomten and the Fox on Amazon.
Only Tomten Is Awake by Viktor Rydberg
Based on the poem written by Swedish philosopher, author, and poet, Viktor Rydberg in 1881, Only Tomten is Awake is read all over Sweden. The Tomten is a bit of a philosopher and wonders where generations come from and to where do they go…while taking care of their homes and animals.
Buy Only Tomten Is Awake on Amazon.
Or have someone read it to you.
I love tomtens so much that I got these cute wooden and felt ornaments for our tree. I love hanging them up each year and imaging the tomtes taking care of our homestead (such as it is).
This handmade Scandinavian gnome is next on my list.
Do you have any tomtem books or resources you love? Tell me — I need more!
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