Charles Vess’s story introduces us to the character of the Tomten, or Tomte. In Scandinavian folklore, the Tomte was a gnome-like character with a white beard and red cap—liter-ally a jolly old elf. The Tomte was thought to live in a house-hold, and like any house fey would respond with assistance or mischief depending on how well he was treated. Tomten were also closely associated with farming households, and are often depicted in art with a close association to farm or forest ani-mals like goats and foxes. One special goat, the Yule Goat, was originally the bearer of gifts at Christmastime in Scandinavian countries. The Tomten replaced him in folklore, but they’re also often shown together in images.

The traditional Christmas Eve gift for a Tomte is porridge, preferably with a pat of butter served on top. If treated well and shown respect, the Tomte can help to give your family a happy holiday season! Crafter and blogger Zara Rooke helps walk us through how to create our own Tomte for the holiday season: sort of a Scandinavian answer to Elf on the Shelf!

“The most distinguishing attributes of a Tomte are a long beard and a felted cone-shaped hat. The hat is often so large that you cannot see his eyes, just a nose poking out from underneath the hat. So to make a Tomte, you need a felted hat, a beard, a nose, and some sort of structure to use as a body.”

Article From 2014 Winter Issue #29
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