Danish folklore

Danish folklore consists of folk taleslegends, songs, music, dancingpopular beliefs and traditions communicated by the inhabitants of towns and villages across the country, often passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. As in neighbouring countries, interest in folklore grew with an emerging feeling of national consciousness in 19th century Denmark. Researchers travelled across the country collecting innumerable folktales, songs and sayings while observing traditional dress in the various regions. Folklore today is part of the national heritage, represented in particular by national and local traditions, songs, folk dances and literature.

Norse Mythology

Norse mythology refers to the Scandinavian mythological framework that was upheld during and around the time of the Viking Age (c. 790- c. 1100 CE). Complete with a creation myth that has the first gods slaying a giant and turning his body parts into the world, various realms spread out beneath the World Tree Yggdrasil, and the eventual destruction of the known world in the Ragnarök, the Nordic mythological world is both complex and comprehensive. Its polytheistic pantheon, headed by the one-eyed Odin, contains a great number of different gods and goddesses who were venerated in customs integrated into the ancient Scandinavians’ daily lives.

Norse Bestiary Alphabet

Numerous Danish folktales contain mythical figures such as trollselvesgoblins, and wights as well as figures from Norse mythology. The nisse is a particularly well-known legendary figure in Danish folklore, apparently dating back to pre-Christian times when it was believed there were household gods. Other Scandinavian countries also have similar figures and there are similarities to the English brownies and hobsJust Mathias Thiele collected legends about the nisse in his Danske Folkesagn (Danish Folktales) (1819–1823), which encouraged artists such as Johan Thomas Lundbye to depict the julenisse (Christmas nisse) later in the 19th century. Dressed in grey with a pointed red cap, he was no taller than a 10-year-old boy. Traditionally each farm had its own nisse living on the loft or in a stable. The creatures would be helpful if treated properly, for instance by giving them a bowl of porridge with a clump of butter at night, but, failing such treatment, they could also be troublesome.

Top 6 Danish Monsters

6 creatures from Danish traditional folklore

Helhesten (the horse from Hel, land of the dead)

You can hear it before you see it. Since one of Helhesten’s front legs is missing, this ghostly horse really makes some noise as it drags its 3 ill-shod legs across the village brosten (paving stones). Let’s hope you don’t meet it on its nightly church crawl – seeing it is a varsel (omen) of death or disaster.

Mosekonen (the bog wife)

When tågen (the fog) is so thick that people come back telling ”jeg kunne ikke se en hånd for mig” (I could not see my hand in front of me), you know the old saying is true: Mosekonen brygger (the bog wife is brewing). What exactly she is brewing, nobody knows, but it certainly fills Denmark with a lot of dense and damp smoke!

Lindorm (Lind worm)

A lindorm [LENNoarm] is a bit like a drage (dragon), except it can’t fly or sprude ild (breathe fire – though it does emit a lot of gift, poison). The lindorm resembles a huge snake that grows fatter all the time from all the mennesker (people) it swallows. Lindorme like to coil around kirker (churches) to prevent people from going to gudstjeneste (church sermon).


A mare is a kind of heks (witch). At night she enters the places where folk (people) are sleeping. She then sits down on their chest so they can hardly breathe, giving them mareridt (literally mare’s ride) – the Danish word for nightmare.

A Nordic merman

Ellefolk (Elven people). Unlike their English cousins, Danish Elves are not immortal. Ellefolk live in bogs, forests, høje (mounds) and enge (meadows). Their job is to guard the wilderness, so don’t get too close – they might take you captive! People who escape from an elverhøj (elf hill) usually don’t remember anything. They’ve become ellevilde (wild, literally ”elf wild”). Danish elves are sometimes male, but very often female.

Ellepiger (Elven girls)

They usually dance in circles in skumringen (twilight), wearing white clothes and slør (veils). They are very beautiful and make human males fall in love with them – until the men catch a glimpse of their backs, which are hollow and rotten like old tree trunks.

Ellekoner (Elven wives)

Some are described as ugly, old ”hags” who run across the country with their long breasts thrown over their shoulders. (The old tales are very colourful and not so PC!)

Havfolk (sea people)

Have you seen Den lille havfrue (the little mermaid) yet? A land of shores and islands, Denmark has a lot of sea people – including havmænd (mermen). A famous tale, Agnete og havmanden, tells the story of a girl who is abducted by a havmand (merman) to be his wife and live under havet (below the sea).

11 creatures from Scandinavian folklore


Scandinavian Folklore 2


Scandinavian Folklore 3


Scandinavian Folklore 4


Scandinavian Folklore 5


Scandinavian Folklore 6


Scandinavian Folklore 7


Scandinavian Folklore 8


Scandinavian Folklore 9


Scandinavian Folklore 10


Scandinavian Folklore 11


Scandinavian Folklore 12

Danish Fairy Tales, Folk Tales and Fables

Norse mythology

Norse or Scandinavian mythology is the body of myths of the North Germanic peoples, stemming from Norse paganism and continuing after the Christianization of Scandinavia, and into the Scandinavian folklore of the modern period. The northernmost extension of Germanic mythology and stemming from Proto-Germanic folklore, Norse mythology consists of tales of various deities, beings, and heroes derived from numerous sources from both before and after the pagan period, including medieval manuscripts, archaeological representations, and folk tradition.


Gefjun plowing with her four oxen - painting on the ceiling of Frederiksborg Palace, Denmark

Gefjun (pronounced “GEV-yoon” and sometimes spelled “Gefjon,” “Gefiun,” or “Gefion”) is an ancient Norse goddess of agriculture, fertility, abundance, and prosperity. Her name is derived from the Old Norse verb gefa, “to give,” and her name can be translated as “Giver” or “Generous One.” Most of our information about Gefjun has been filtered through the mind and pen of the thirteenth-century Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson. While Snorri’s retellings of Norse mythology can’t be accepted uncritically, his descriptions of Gefjun surely do contain much that is authentic.


Freya is the goddess of love and fertility in Norse mythology, and she is associated with sex, lust, beauty, sorcery, gold, war, and death. The name Freya means “Lady”, and it can, for instance, also be spelled, Freyja, Freja, Fröja, Frøya. Freya is not an Aesir, although she lives in Asgard together with her husband Odr (Old Norse: Óðr). She is called an Ásynjur, a female Aesir, but she belongs to the Vanir, an old branch of gods that reside in the realm of Vanaheim. She, Freyr, and Njord were sent to the Aesir by the Vanir as a token of truce; in return, the Aesir also sent two Gods to the Vanir. Freya became an honorable member of the Aesir after the war between the Aesir and Vanir ended.


A small silver figurine, found on the Danish island of Funen, is the first-known 3D representation of a valkyrie from the Viking Age, archaeologists say. Images of armed women interpreted as valkyries – literally ‘choosers of the slain’, companions of the god Odin, who in Norse mythology are sent to battlefields to fetch warriors fated to die – are known from a handful of brooches, as well as on 8th-century picture stones in Sweden, but until now this motif had always been depicted in 2D. The 3.4cm (1.3in) figurine, which was found by a metal detectorist in a field outside Hårby, and has been dated to c.AD 800, depicts a woman wearing a long, patterned dress. Her hair is tied in a knot at the back of her head, behind which is a small hole – perhaps an eyelet for a string, allowing the figurine to be worn as a pendant – and she is shown holding a sword and a round shield.

Destiny of a Nation

Mythology Festival, Denmark

Feud Over Norse Mythology


Myths about Denmark’s Vikings



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