Mythical Monsters & Elves
The Vikings told wonderful myths about their many gods and goddesses. They told stories about many magical creatures like storm-giants, frost-giants, rock-giants, lava creatures, elves, dwarfs, witches, sorcerers, ghosts, shapeshifters, sea serpents, and dragons. Some Viking creatures were harmless. Some were not. Some were downright evil. There were ways to protect yourself from the not so nice ones. For example ...
Trolls: Trolls came in all sizes, from small ones to giant ones. Every story the Vikings told about trolls showed that trolls were cruel and mean. If you kept your wits about you, you could nearly always talk or trick yourself out of trouble with a troll because all trolls, big and small, were incredibly stupid. The Vikings believed that every mountain range had its own troll king, living inside it. The troll kings were the largest trolls of all. Each troll king had a throne of solid gold. Each had a very long nose. (Actually, all trolls had very long noses, but the moutain kings had the longest noses of all.) Each troll king had many heads, but only one eye, and that was located in the middle of one of their heads. Troll kings were very dirty, so their many heads were always itchy. To solve this, troll kings directed their troll servants to kidnap Viking maidens. If a troll king had five heads, he ordered 5 Viking maidens. If he had 15 heads, he wanted 15 maidens. Each kidnapped maiden had only one job - to scratch one of his royal heads. He would have had his own wife do that job, but the troll hag (his wife) was as dirty as he was. The had had only one head, but she had magical powers - she could take off her head and carry it around! If the truth be told, the Vikings were terrified of the long nosed mountain trolls. But not all trolls lived inside a mountain. Some lived under bridges, although they were not very nice either. There were also troll mobs. Viking legend is a bit unclear about what these trolls did. Some were short, some tall, some fat, some thin, and some were shaped like balls who twirled around the feet of other trolls. The scariest troll of all lived deep in the sea - the Draug! He surfaced in rough seas, when a storm was brewing. The Draug sat in half a boat and tried to get sailers to race him before the storm hit. Any sailer foolish enough to try was never heard from again.
Nissers: The Nissers were dwarfs or elves. Each Viking family had at least one Nisse living in their barn. The Nisse protected their animals and their home. In exchange, the family made little gifts they left in the barn for the Nisse to enjoy, gifts of tiny hats and jackets and turned up toed shoes and teeny toys and food. It was hard to catch sight of a Nisse, but you could sort of make friends with one by leaving presents. If you ever happened to catch sight of a Nisse (and that was only when they allowed you to do so), you would find your Nisse wore a long white beard, a red cap, and was very old. All Nissers were pranksters. Nissers delighted in tricking adults and animals and sometimes even children! But around the Christmas holiday, according to the children, a family's Nisse did something rather wonderful. Their Nisse snuck into the house and left the children little presents in their shoes or stockings. Nissers were not very scary. But they could be a pain, so it was smart to keep them happy. Once a Nisse moved in, he became part of the family. If the family moved, their Nisse moved with them.
The Fossegrimmen: The Vikings believed the Fossegrimmen was a scary looking ghost who haunted brooks and creeks. All the Fossegrimmen ever did was play his fiddle. The Vikings knew when the Fossegrimmen was around; they could hear his fiddle in the sound of running water. The Vikings did not try to catch a glimpse of the Fossegrimmen. They were pretty sure he was harmless, but just in case, they kept their distance.
The Mare: The Vikings believed if you could not see it, it could not harm you. But that did not mean it could not affect you, because it could. The Mare was a hideous creature who leaped on people at night while they were sleeping, and gave them bad dreams. That is perhaps why bad dreams are called nightmares. A bad dream might be unpleasant, but it could not really harm you, not like a sword or a dagger.
The Pesta: During the Middle Ages, when the plague spread across Europe, a tale began of an old women, dressed all in black, carrying a broom and a rake. As the story goes, if you caught sight of the Pesta, you would get the plague and die. Knowing he would die anyway, a Viking might try to kill the Pesta to save his family and home. The Pesta was a magical creature, so the odds were the Viking could not kill her. But just because the odds were against him never stopped a Viking from trying. In Viking times, clothes were decorated with embroidery and brightly colored dyes. Not only did that make clothes beautiful, but no woman wanted to be mistaken for the Pesta by wearing all black.
The Nokken: The Nokken (also called the Nokk) was not a nice monster. He was a water creature who lived in ponds. He was a shapeshifter, which meant he could change his shape to look like just about anything. One of his favorite shapes was that of a beautiful young man who tempted women to come and swim with him. Once a woman joined him in the water, he would grab her and drown her. The Nokken could not live out of water for long, but he could come on shore for brief periods of time.He switched ponds frequently, so you never knew where the Nokken might be living. While he was on land, one of his favorite shapes was that of a white horse. The horse (who was really the Nokken) would gallop from pond to pond. If he caught sight of some children, he would lower himself to tempt the children to climb on his back. Then he would quickly gallop into the nearest pond and drown them. Sometimes he took the form of a wooden boat, floating harmlessly. If someone waded into the water to drag the boat up on shore, they would find themselves grabbed by the Nokken and drowned. There were ways to protect yourself from the Nokken through the use of a talisman or magic charm. To the Vikings, a charm could be spoken, held, or tossed. To stop a Nokken, you could say his name three times. Or, you could throw of piece of metal into the pond to save someone or something from a Nokken attack. Most Vikings carried a small piece of metal with them at all times, just in case.
The Kraken: The Kraken was the worst of all. He was a huge crab or octopus looking water creature who lived in the sea, and he was enormous. Some said he was larger than a ship. Others insisted he was larger than an island. The Kraken had no mercy. He had only one job - to drag a ship down to the bottom of the sea. The only way to save yourself from the Kraken was to abandon ship and try to keep yourself afloat until you reached land or were rescued by another ship.