In Scandanavian folklore
creatures which inhabit farm
s. The average nisse is gnomelike
in appearance, being approximately three feet
, with a cheerfully ruddy
complexion, a long white beard, and mischevious
eyes. All nisse in the body of recorded folklore are male
Nisse are usually benign and helpful creatures. They help make sure that the farm runs smoothly, making sure that crops are tended adequately, that the animals are fed and healthy, and that the farm's tools and buildings are in good shape. If a farmer forgets to do some minor but necessary task, the nisse will often step in to either remind the farmer or perform the task himself. In return for this service, the farmer will often leave a large bowl of rice porridge (surmounted by a hefty dollop of butter) in the hayloft of the barn, where the nisse traditionally makes his home. Scandanavian farmers generally considered themselves lucky if a nisse was thought to be inhabiting the premises.
Woe betide a farmer, though, who refused to give the local nisse his due. Nisse are also notorious tricksters and are fond of teaching lessons to those who do not respect them -- ranging from creating "bumps in the night" to dropping buckets of water on particularly obstinate farmers. Most folktales that revolve around the nisse involve the nisse teaching farm-folk a lesson of some sort, either about life, farming, or dealing with the nisse themselves.
Nisse almost never show themselves; when they do, it is only to children.