Where: Norway, Northern Europe
What’s in Store: ‘Nisse’ creatures from the rich Nordic mythology – thought to bestow luck on the family
Bag a Bargain: A minature 1inch wooden troll makes a great stocking filler
Trolls are possibly the most popular souvenir that tourists choose to take home as a reminder of Norway, not the frightening, plastic multi-coloured-haired toys so popular with children of the 1980’s, but wooden figurines closely related to ancient Norwegian folklore.
Trolls and mythology
Storytelling has long played a part in Norwegian tradition, having originated as a method of passing long, dark hours by the fireside over the winter months. Supernatural beings would often appear in these stories – witches, elves etc, but most uniquely to Norway, Trolls.
Their most famous appearance must be in the tale of the Three Billy Goats Gruff, where each goat in turn is harassed by the troll under the bridge. Trolls are generally associated with mountainous areas, particularly Norway’s largest mountain range, Jotuheimen, where they would typically hide away in dark and damp places, such as caves, by waterfalls, and in dark forests, out of a fear of the sunlight which would turn them to stone. They are typically irritable, and short-tempered creatures, and when a household is suffering a run of bad luck, however, this is often blame this upon a troll living beneath their home. They also play a significant role in old Norse mythology, as they are believed to be descended from giants and, as they can live for hundreds of years, are also believed to have been the creators of Thor’s hammer and Odin’s spear.
The role and the appearance of the troll has changed over the years. Originally they were large and ugly creatures, usually described as having yellowish skin, pot bellies, hooked noses, coarse scruffy hair, long tufted tails and possibly multiple heads, and an equally unattractive temperament. In a bid to make them more appealing, they seem to have become blended with the smaller, elf-like ‘Nisse‘, a more sociable, though still shy species, who, once befriended become a home help. Kindness towards the Nisse can ensure their faithful return and a bestowal of luck upon the family.
Bag a bargain
The souvenir troll is usually a small figure (about one inch is the optimum height for sales), with some of the traditional features, but softened by an inane grin and baby-like proportions.
Trolls are still common collectable ornaments, coming in all shapes and sizes, generally made from wood, and other local materials and available in souvenir shops all over Norway. The Norwegians are also still rather attached to them as a national emblem, as well as a source of income, and they frequently appear as mascots and in place names, as well as living on in many traditional folk tales.
Other from Norway:
– Reindeer leather goods
– Traditional Norwegian knitted jumpers, usually in white, red and blue
– Hand-made Sami crafts, often carved Reindeer bones.
Although everything in Norway costs an earth compared to the rest of Europe, these types of goods are authentic and hard to find elsewhere so represent good value for money.
By Guilia Vincenzi