Where to find myth and legend in Norway’s landscapes

Norway’s unimaginable landscapes have impressed vacationers for generations. But lengthy earlier than that, they had been the spine of the nation’s wealthy mythology and folklore.

In day by day life, folks would navigate lakes and fjords of unfathomable depth, deep and darkish forests and mountains filled with rocky peaks and whistling winds. These fantastical backdrops offered the inspiration for Norway’s most memorable mythological creatures and legendary tales. In flip, the Norwegian wilderness got here alive with the opportunity of other-worldly encounters.

Nowadays, guests are seemingly to spend quite a lot of time having fun with Norway’s incredible outdoors, by means of climbing, swimming or chasing the Northern Lights in the winter sky. But figuring out the wealthy historical past and symbolism can deepen your appreciation of the wonder round you. 

You’ll find troll statues all through Norway although be warned, as Norwegian lore goes, they’re hardly ever useful to human beings © George Pachantouris / Getty

It’s seemingly the mountain you are trekking to was as soon as a troll, caught out in the daybreak mild. Diving right into a glowing lake to calm down, you may be sharing it with a sea serpent of epic proportions, or a water horse with malevolent intentions. Or maybe you can be granted the present of music by the plunging waterfall – however provided that your providing is sweet sufficient.

Here’s the place to search for connections to myth and legend whereas exploring Norway’s nice outdoor. 


Trolls are the quintessential picture of Norwegian myth and are most regularly seen at this time in memento retailers. Their picture can also be carved into wooden or stone that you just would possibly find on a hike or forest path. Here they’re diminutive and generally even smiling and pleasant however in accordance to Professor Terry Gunnell, an professional on folkloric traditions, they had been as soon as giants of the rocky panorama. 

View of the Seven Sisters Mountains from the deck of a Hurtigruten cruise ship along Norway's coast
The Seven Sisters Mountains are stated to be trolls who turned to stone in the daylight © Kerry Kissane / Getty Images

“Certainly anyone who’s been to the west of Norway and going up to Trondheim and additional is effectively conscious of the thought of trolls. For instance Jotunheimen; jotun means big in one kind or one other, so that is the land of the giants. It’s the scale of the panorama, it’s the ability of the panorama. 

“Trolls are very pagan beings, they’re those who created the panorama to a sure extent. They’re a growth from historical Norse, generally known as the ice giants that created the world or the world was created out of. But usually they’re a menace to anyone who’s out in the wild areas of Norway. A hunter would typically hear them speaking between one another about how they had been going to eat him. You can hear their voices throughout the panorama.”

Where to find trolls: Landscape options throughout Norway are stated to be remnants of trolls who stayed out in the solar, together with the well-known Seven Sisters Mountains in Nordland. As the story goes, they had been as soon as seven daughters who stayed out too late and had been pursued till dawn and petrified into these magnificent peaks. An much more well-known instance is Trolltunga, the enduring piece of rock discovered on many an Instagram image; it interprets actually as ‘troll’s tongue’. 

Bergen’s Trollskogen (Troll’s Forest) has numerous strolling trails appropriate for all of the household and filled with shiny, picket sculptures of trolls to uncover – don’t be concerned, they’re of the friendlier selection. 

Waterfall in the misty forest
The present of music could possibly be discovered at a waterfall – for these with the best providing © Michele D’Amico supersky77 / Getty Images


The musical sound of dashing water and the opportunity of hidden creatures behind its curtain have created mythologies round Norway’s 300 plus waterfalls.

Terry Gunnel explains: “for those who wished to turn out to be a very good musician – fiddle participant and fiddle music is the central one in Norway – then you definitely would go up to a waterfall and take a leg of lamb. If it is a adequate leg of lamb, this previous man will come out of the waterfall and train you the way to play explicit tunes. If it isn’t sufficiently big, then you definitely’ll simply train you the way to tune the fiddle. 

And in the event that they train you this tune, you will have sufficient energy to make all people in the room dance down to the river and drown. This is an efficient excuse to say ‘I’d like a break to drink some beer at a marriage’ in any other case you can play the waterfall tune.”

Where to find the Fossegrim:  He could possibly be at dwelling in any of Norway’s tons of of gorgeous waterfalls. The thundering Kjosfossen close to Flåm – and accessible on the Flåmsbana Railway –  is an efficient wager although, as you may stroll proper to the water’s edge along with your providing. The twin waterfall Låtefossen, close to the Hardangervidda National Park, can also be notably scenic. The water rushes beneath a bridge you could stroll or drive over (simply be ready to get moist).

An outline of the spirit seems on the foot of a statue devoted to violinist Ole Bull in Bergen with water dashing over it.

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Violent tidal currents and a swirling vortex in the Saltstraumen strait, the largest maelstrom in the world
Lakes and fjords will be treacherously deep in Norway and so tales had been invented to preserve kids away from them © Saturdated / Getty Images


The thought of a water spirit in the form of a horse might conjure romantic pictures of driving away into the sundown however for generations of Norwegian mother and father, they had been the dwelling – and very helpful – embodiment of the hazard.

“It’s an excellent method of advising kids”, Terry Gunnell says. “First of all in regards to the dwelling nature of lakes that depth, but additionally simply the hazard. It helps preserve kids away from lakes and secure.

Most of the tales inform of kids who see an odd horse beside a lake and they get on the again of the horse. Stories can finish in two methods; if one of many kids occurs to say ‘my God’ about one thing, then the horse goes away and leaves them in peace. Other somewhat nastier tales inform about kids being taken into the lake and bits of lung and liver being discovered floating up to the highest of the lake afterwards.”

Lake Seljord
Lake Seljord is the house of Norway’s most well-known sea serpent © Jens Chr.Strandos / Getty Images / 500px Plus

Sea serpent

Lake Seljord is supposedly dwelling to the legendary serpent Selma. Eyewitness accounts of the serpent date again to 1750 however the motif can be acquainted to many individuals all over the world.

“They’re very similar stories to the stories of Loch Ness and those found in Lagarfljót in Iceland. We get remnants of it in Tolkien’s The Hobbit; the idea of the hero versus the serpent. Monsters in lakes are known from Scotland to Iceland to Norway.”

Where to find Selma: Seljord is so pleased with its affiliation with the legendary serpent, it even has it emblazoned on its coat of arms. The finest view is from the highest of the Sea Serpent Tower (which has full directions on what to do for those who see it). For a small city, its mark on Norwegian tradition is big: many folks tales and songs are recognized to have been initially recorded in this space.

Big adult brown bear walks in the woods.
The bear’s extra human-like qualities gave rise to tales of were-bears in Norway © Kjekol / Getty Images / iStockphoto


Norway is dwelling to each brown and polar bears and Terry Gunnell explains that the extra human traits of the bear – the truth that they cry and stand on two legs – impressed many tales about them. 

“The idea of the were-bear is very widely spread. They’re very similar stories to werewolf stories; a person changes into a bear and goes out into the wild and then has to be dealt with.”

Where to find bears: The Svalbard archipelago is dwelling to round 3,000 polar bears. It could be very harmful to go alone; a guided tour or cruise is your finest probability of recognizing one as they roam freely. Brown bears are a treasured rarity in Norway however you might get fortunate and see one in Øvre Dividal National Park between June and mid-August.

Traditional Sami reindeer-skin tents (lappish yurts) in Troms region of Norway with the northern lights in the skyional,Sami,Reindeer-skin,Tents,(lappish,Yurts),In,Troms,Region,Of
The spectacle of the Northern Lights gave rise to conventional Sami superstitions © V. Belov / Shutterstock

Northern Lights

One of the nice pure wonders of the world, the Aurora Borealis is an awe-inspiring sight however in depths of the darkish countryside the multitude of colours will be terrifying. Such awe-inspired previous Sámi superstitions in regards to the lights; that they had been one thing to be feared and stayed away from. Some even believed that the lights carried the souls of the lifeless with them.

Where to see the Northern Lights: Northern Norway is likely one of the finest locations in the world to attempt and see the Northern Lights however with this elusive phenomenon, nothing is assured. Peak season is between November and March – listed below are some recommendations on how to see the Northern Lights in 2022.

Norwegian farm overlooking a lake with fog in the air above it.
Fear of the Huldra was so nice, that individuals generally moved their total farms simply to please them © Mats Anda / Getty Images


“We’ve acquired varied phrases for them” says Terry Gunnell. “They’ve turn out to be elves in Iceland however the Norwegians do not use that phrase for them very generally. They have a tendency to be known as the underground folks or the Huldra, the hidden ones. Both are phrases that you just use to keep away from naming them.

There are numerous Norwegian tales about how Jesus was strolling and this lady heard that he was going to be visiting and so she hid her unwashed kids (or uglier kids or generally the extra stunning kids). He observed that a few of them had been lacking and stated they’d keep lacking from now onwards. That’s the creation of the hidden folks.

“They’re underground people. They’re under our feet and you get lots of stories about people moving their farms [as cow waste falls] on the table of the people underneath and they aren’t very happy about it.”

Where to find Huldra: Huldra are sometimes related to forests in Norway so you will not want to look far in this inexperienced panorama to find their dwelling. The Eventyrskogen (Fairytale Forest) in Årdal is a picturesque straightforward strolling path with numerous references to elves, trolls and different Norwegian folklore tales.

For extra on how the ‘underground folks’ work together with farms, Skaldegard gives storytelling together with tales of the Huldra on a personal go to.

Norway is on our 2022 Best in Travel record. For extra tales from a few of the world’s most fun locations click here.

Safety suggestions and restrictions throughout a pandemic can change quickly. Lonely Planet recommends that vacationers all the time verify with native authorities for up-to-date steerage earlier than traveling during Covid-19.

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