Tales Of The Nisses
Source: Folk-lore And Legends Scandinavian
The Nis is the same being that is called Kobold in Germany, and Brownie
in Scotland. He is in Denmark and Norway also called Nisse god Dreng
(Nisse good lad), and in Sweden, Tomtegubbe (the old man of the house).
He is of the dwarf family, and resembles them in appearance, and, like
them, has the command of money, and the same dislike to noise and
His usual dress is grey, with a pointed red cap, but on Michaelmas-day
he wears a round hat like those of the peasants.
No farm-house goes on well without there is a Nis in it, and well is it
for the maids and the men when they are in favour with him. They may go
to their beds and give themselves no trouble about their work, and yet
in the morning the maids will find the kitchen swept up, and water
brought in; and the men will find the horses in the stable well cleaned
and curried, and perhaps a supply of corn cribbed for them from the
There was a Nis in a house in Jutland. He every evening got his groute
at the regular time, and he, in return, used to help both the men and
the maids, and looked to the interest of the master of the house in
There came one time a mischievous boy to live at service in this house,
and his great delight was, whenever he got an opportunity, to give the
Nis all the annoyance in his power.
Late one evening, when everything was quiet in the house, the Nis took
his little wooden dish, and was just going to eat his supper, when he
perceived that the boy had put the butter at the bottom and had
concealed it, in hopes that he might eat the groute first, and then find
the butter when all the groute was gone. He accordingly set about
thinking how he might repay the boy in kind. After pondering a little he
went up into the loft where a man and the boy were lying asleep in the
same bed. The Nis whisked off the bed clothes, and when he saw the
little boy by the tall man, he said--
"Short and long don't match," and with this word he took the boy by the
legs and dragged him down to the man's feet. He then went up to the head
of the bed, and--
"Short and long don't match," said he again, and then he dragged the boy
up to the man's head. Do what he would he could not succeed in making
the boy as long as the man, but persisted in dragging him up and down in
the bed, and continued at this work the whole night long till it was
By this time he was well tired, so he crept up on the window stool, and
sat with his legs dangling down into the yard. The house-dog--for all
dogs have a great enmity to the Nis--as soon as he saw him began to bark
at him, which afforded him much amusement, as the dog could not get up
to him. So he put down first one leg and then the other, and teased the
"Look at my little leg. Look at my little leg!"
In the meantime the boy had awoke, and had stolen up behind him, and,
while the Nis was least thinking of it, and was going on with his, "Look
at my little leg," the boy tumbled him down into the yard to the dog,
crying out at the same time--
"Look at the whole of him now!"
* * * * *
There lived a man in Thyrsting, in Jutland, who had a Nis in his barn.
This Nis used to attend to his cattle, and at night he would steal
fodder for them from the neighbours, so that this farmer had the best
fed and most thriving cattle in the country.
One time the boy went along with the Nis to Fugleriis to steal corn. The
Nis took as much as he thought he could well carry, but the boy was more
covetous, and said--
"Oh! take more. Sure, we can rest now and then!"
"Rest!" said the Nis. "Rest! and what is rest?"
"Do what I tell you," replied the boy. "Take more, and we shall find
rest when we get out of this."
The Nis took more, and they went away with it, but when they came to the
lands of Thyrsting, the Nis grew tired, and then the boy said to him--
"Here now is rest!" and they both sat down on the side of a little
"If I had known," said the Nis, as they sat. "If I had known that rest
was so good, I'd have carried off all that was in the barn."
It happened, some time after, that the boy and the Nis were no longer
friends, and as the Nis was sitting one day in the granary-window with
his legs hanging out into the yard, the boy ran at him and tumbled him
back into the granary. The Nis was revenged on him that very night, for
when the boy was gone to bed he stole down to where he was lying and
carried him as he was into the yard. Then he laid two pieces of wood
across the well and put him lying on them, expecting that when he awoke
he would fall, from the fright, into the well and be drowned. He was,
however, disappointed, for the boy came off without injury.
* * * * *
There was a man who lived in the town of Tirup who had a very handsome
white mare. This mare had for many years belonged to the same family,
and there was a Nis attached to her who brought luck to the place.
This Nis was so fond of the mare that he could hardly endure to let them
put her to any kind of work, and he used to come himself every night and
feed her of the best; and as for this purpose he usually brought a
superfluity of corn, both thrashed and in the straw, from the
neighbours' barns, all the rest of the cattle enjoyed the advantage,
and they were all kept in exceedingly good condition.
It happened at last that the farm-house passed into the hands of a new
owner, who refused to put any faith in what they told him about the
mare, so the luck speedily left the place, and went after the mare to a
poor neighbour who had bought her. Within five days after his purchase,
the poor farmer began to find his circumstances gradually improving,
while the income of the other, day after day, fell away and diminished
at such a rate that he was hard set to make both ends meet.
If now the man who had got the mare had only known how to be quiet and
enjoy the good times that were come upon him, he and his children and
his children's children after him would have been in flourishing
circumstances till this very day. But when he saw the quantity of corn
that came every night to his barn, he could not resist his desire to get
a sight of the Nis. So he concealed himself one evening at nightfall in
the stable, and as soon as it was midnight he saw how the Nis came from
his neighbour's barn and brought a sack full of corn with him. It was
now unavoidable that the Nis should get a sight of the man who was
watching, so he, with evident marks of grief, gave the mare her food for
the last time, cleaned and dressed her to the best of his ability, and
when he had done, turned round to where the man was lying, and bid him
From that day forward the circumstances of both the neighbours were on
an equality, for each now kept his own.
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