tells about “tomtar” (transl: house-gnom)
“On the Bäck farm there were gnoms
as long as the lower houses were still there. We always had such beautiful
horses and cows and when the weather was bad and stormy in the evening, father
used to say to the boys: “Don’t you worry about going to the stable, it will
be alright”. You see, one was never to acknowledge that house-gnoms existed. When
the boys came to the stable the next morning, the horses were groomed and fed.
One should never try to get a look at the gnoms working or follow them
because then they might do something bad to you.
I remember, it was just before Christmas and the tailor, Hasselqvist, was
at our house in order to sow clothes of frieze
for the men. Anders from Stenkas was a farmhand on Bäck. “Do you remember
Anders from Stenkas, Stina?” That question was for my mother (Stina
Olsdotter,1768). “Oh yes, it
was him who was married to Maja from Stackevåla.” Anyway, Anders was outside
on a pitch black night. When he was about to go inside, he saw somebody walking
with a lantern north of the house. He thought it was one of the maids who were
going to the well for water and he said to himself, “I’ll scare her a
bit”, and went off.
He saw the light move towards the juniper shrubs and he followed. After a
little while he got a funny feeling and when he saw a red knitted cap on a man
who was as small as a child, he went straight back to the house. We thought he
was ill because he came in white as a sheet. I asked him what was wrong, but he
didn’t say a word, just went straight to bed without supper. And he had the
biggest appetite of anyone I ever had to feed. Hasselqvist, who by the way was a
big gossiper, said “He has seen a premonition
and he’d better be silent tonight or he might get in trouble.” The next
morning Anders told us what he had seen and no wonder he had acted strangely.
Johannes from Nestuga wasn’t as lucky. He was a big drinker. At that
time you were not allowed to distil spirits all year around, but only in
semesters, as they called it. But of course everyone distilled anyway. Far away
in the woods where there weren’t even proper roads, the sheriff couldn’t
possibly go. So, what was I telling you? Right, Johannes had been to some place
where a big brew had been made. They had also been drinking a lot and when
Johannes was going home he was leaning on a huge stick. He came to a fence and
knew there was a cross-over somewhere but wasn’t man enough to find it.
Suddenly, a little man with a lantern came up close and was about to jump over
the fence. At the moment he jumped, Johannes hit him over the thighs with the
stick. No one knows how Johannes got home that night, but when he woke up the
next morning he couldn’t move his right leg. It was as if it was broken and he
couldn’t stand on it for six months.
Johannes couldn’t recall anything at first, but then he remembered that
his injury was in the same spot as where he had hit the little man with the
stick. So the gnoms could do bad things to you, if you got them angry.
Another time, when the little girls at home were older and the other
youths around us had grown up, many used to say that there were no gnoms. But
back home we knew better.
When in the barn in the evening the work had to be done properly and
quietly. In the upper house everybody laughed at our girls. One evening when the
girls were in the barn milking the cows, the boys came in and made a big noise
and threw the milking stools around, saying that they were going to scare the
In the morning when they came back it was quite a sight in the barn. The
cows were lying as they were dead, thrown over each other in their stalls and
hanging in “binsa”, almost strangled. After
that the boys were quiet when they were in the barn.
I remember what Britta in Röjtar told me. She had a cow which was about
to calve. And that cow, said Britta, was always late. Britta had been up several
nights looking after her, but it seemed to take long. However, when lying awake
worrying about the cow one night, she suddenly jumped up and ran down to the
barn. When she came to the door she saw light coming from inside and she went
straight back to the house and went to sleep. When she had been sleeping for
about 3 hours, someone knocked on the window and shouted “Britta, Gullros has
calved, come and look after the calf. When Britta came to the barn the calf was
clean and the cow was licking him.”
“But grandma, where are the gnoms nowadays?” “Well, they disappeared at the same time as the giants in Trångfors.” “Oh, tell me more”, I said. “Some other day, little Marie, today your mother and I want to have a chat.”
In Swe: tomte or tomte-gubbe (sing.). A small human-like creature that
secretively helped around the farm.