Stories and folklore from Värmland

Many myths and tall tales originated in Värmland – as did several much-loved storybook characters. Little Anna and Nils Holgersson were created by Värmland-based authors, while the region’s mythical inhabitants include the gnomes and goblins from the Finn Forests.

Little Anna

Little Anna and the Tall Uncle was written and illustrated by Inger and Lasse Sandberg. Lasse Sandberg began his career in 1948 as a student of illustration at Anders Beckman’s art school. In the 1950s his drawings were published in various magazines. In 1950, Lasse married Inger and they moved to rural Värmland.

Little Anna is a series of children’s books. Inger and Lasse Sandberg came up with the idea for the first Little Anna book in 1964 when they were expecting their third child, who they thought would be a girl. Little Anna’s trademark is a red and white striped dress, and the Tall Uncle is a tall man in a striped yellow suit with a green hat. Little Anna and the Tall Uncle are very different and yet are best friends. Little Anna is short and plucky, but the Tall Uncle is tall and cautious. Together they enjoy going swimming, building a hut, baking cakes and riding a motorbike.

From 1992 to 1996 there was a Little Anna themed attraction at the zoo in Eskilstuna, and from 1997 to 2006 there was a Little Anna playpark in Rottneros Park on the outskirts of Sunne.

Nils Holgersson

Selma Lagerlöf’s novel The Wonderful Adventures of Nils was originally published in two parts in 1906 and 1907. The book tells the story of young Nils Holgersson, a lazy boy who is cruel to animals and is turned into a pixie. Nils gets to travel all over Sweden on the back of Mårten the goose. His journey begins on 20 March 1898 and ends on 8 November 1898 when he returns home to Västra Vemmenhög farm.

In the course of his travels from Skåne up to Lapland, Nils saves the geese several times from the clutches of a wicked fox. On their way north to Lapland, Nils and the geese pass through Värmland, where they see the Klarälven river and the endless forests. Originally intended as a Swedish geography textbook, the story of Nils Holgersson has been translated into many languages.

The Nils Holgersson adventure park in Rottneros Park features a large pirate ship with a fleet of smaller ships, and a playground with slides and swings. The park is also home to a large statue of Nils Holgersson sitting on the back of Mårten the goose.

Selma Lagerlöf’s home at Mårbacka has a fun Nils Holgersson exhibition where children can listen to the animals talking about their lives. There is also a treasure hunt, craft tables and a quiz walk.

Goblins from the Finn Forests

Small supernatural beings are known in Scandinavian folklore as goblins meaning strangers. Their guise may vary, but goblins are normally associated with trickery. If you don’t give them gold or do favours for them, it is said that they can kill you.

Goblins include farm pixies, trolls and wights. These creatures inhabited their own world, where time and space were not the same as in the human world, but they lived in close proximity to humans.

Gnomes from the Finn Forests

Scandinavian folklore of the 18th century featured a wide variety of supernatural beings, phenomena and magic objects. In the old days, forest spirits were part of daily life in Värmland. The traditions of the Forest Finns were strong in northern Värmland, and various spirits were believed to dwell in the forests, including gnomes and gnomes.

According to superstition, gnomes were subterranean beings that dwelt beneath people’s homes. They were said to be dressed in grey, but could also make themselves invisible. If someone poured hot water on the ground above the , they would incur misfortune or illness as punishment. Gnomes could also distort people’s sight. In the old days, people were extra protective of unbaptised children and would place steel in the cradle to prevent evil spirits from replacing the child. On the other hand, if someone did the gnomes a favour, they would be rewarded with a gold coin or a gemstone.

Gnomes were believed to guard their surroundings, which might be a forest, an island or another defined space, and humans had to take care not to upset them.