Norwegian Language Blog

Trolls and Huldras Posted by on Dec 15, 2010 in Culture

On all of my 3 trips to Bergen, I have had some sort of encounter with a troll or a huldra, two of the many creatures in Norwegian folklore.  Legends of these creatures are found throughout the country, but in my experience, the west coast seems particularly impacted by them. One summer my mom, brother, and I took the “Norge i et Nøtteskall” (Norway in a Nutshell) tour from Oslo to Bergen.  The tour consisted of a ride on the tog (train), en buss (a bus), og en båt (a boat).  If you’ve ridden on a buss in the mountains in Norway, you probably recall being frightened every time you looked out the window and saw steep drop offs on either side, as well as almost no extra road space on the sides of the buss.  The route is full of zig-zags and hills and all I can say is you better have faith in the driver.


My fear was quickly muted when we stopped at a beautiful foss (waterfall) and embraced the misty and cool air.  Just to stand there and marvel at the foss with it’s dramatic stature surrounded by mossy covered jagged stones would have been enough for tourist satisfaction.  But there was more.  A beautiful woman’s voice began to fill the air around us and we had no idea what was about to happen.  A gorgeous woman with a red dress and a cow tail appeared in the foss.  She was a huldra, a seductress who lures men into the forest to free her from her not-quite human existence, or to suck the life out of the man.  She is a dangerous creature that men typically cannot resist.  If she can manage to conceal her cow’s tail from the man and marry him in a church, her tail falls off and she becomes fully human, although ugly.  In old age, she is said to become gentle and kind


While huldras are beautiful creatures (at least until marriage to a man…). trolls are very ugly-they are big, hairy, and stupid creatures with long crooked noses and up to 9 hoder (heads.  Trollslive in the mountains, at the bottom of lakes, and under bridges (i.e. De tre bukkene bruse-the 3 Billy Goats Gruff-a very well known folktale that may have originated in Norway). Trolls are said to have the ability to change their appearance in order to be sneaky and get what they want. They also fortunately turn into stone if they are exposed to light.


While I have seen umpteen troll souvenirs in gift shops all over the country and also in Scandinavian gift shops here in the U.S., I hadn’t seen quite such a strong representation of rolls until I explored around the mountain that the funicular in Bergen takes you to.  My friend and I were there  a couple of months ago with my dog and stumbled upon a troll park.  There were dozens of wood carved troll statues all with different appearances.  Ketil Dybvik from Stavanger, carved all of the wooden trolls from materials found in the forest.  There was also a children’s sort of jungle gym that included a long bridge where you can act out “De tre bukkene bruse” if you so choose.  I thought the park was absolutely brilliant-such a fun and unique play area for kids (and for girls in their mid-20s with a dog…).   See here for more information about activities on Fløyen. Whether you believe in trolls and huldras or not, they are still a big part of Norwegian culture and folklore-a fun thing for tourists and natives to experience!

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!