Photo: Bjørn Jørgensen .Photo: Bjørn Jørgensen

Myths, Legends and Folktales

Norway has a rich tradition of myths, legends, superstition and folk tales. In these stories we meet all sorts of different gods and supernatural beings such as trolls, gnomes, pixies, wood nymphs and water spirits. The stories also often involve kings and queens and beautiful princesses as well as ordinary young people who experience an exciting adventure.

Norway’s traditional folk tales were first told hundreds of years ago and have survived by word of mouth. The stories are mainly a mixture of the everyday life of ordinary people and the world of fantasy and superstition. One generation after another handed the stories down to their children, but they were not recorded in any way until a hundred years ago or so, when two men called Asbjørnsen and Moe decided to ask people from all over Norway to tell them the stories they knew. Their book, The Collected Folk Tales by Asbjørnsen and Moe is now among the best-loved books in Norway and is adored by children and adults alike.

Some  familiar folk tales from Norway that are told in the UK are The Three Billy Goats Gruff, The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse and East of the Sun, West of the Moon, which were among the stories that Asbjørnsen and Moe collected.

You may also have heard of stories of some of the heroes and villains from Norse mythology including Odin, the chief Norse God and his son Thor. Thor ruled over the weather and, armed with his magical hammer, was the protector of mankind. These characters survive from over a thousand years ago when the Vikings believed in these gods as part of their religion.

In the 1960s, Marvel based a series of superhero comics on the god Thor. There have been more than 600 comics in the Thor series, and a movie based on his adventures was released in 2011.


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Did You Know?

Although nobody believes in trolls any longer, Norwegian people love telling stories about them and about people who are either captured by them or – even better – who outwit them!