top of page

Tomte, the benevolent elf of the north

The name of the Swedish Santa Claus is Jultomte, who was not always the Santa Claus of the Swedes. He is a mythical creature, born of legends.

According to old Scandinavian legends, Christmas Eve is surrounded by magic and superstition. Christmas night is full of mysteries. This is the night when everything that is invisible becomes visible, but only if you believe in it. In this case, we can also see Tomte.

Tomte is benevolent, but only if he gets his porridge with butter and almonds. Visit farms, forests, and the countryside to help where you need to take care of children or animals.

Once upon a time, a young man who worked on a farm was joked about by two young boys. Tomte took the porridge plate with him after work but saw neither butter nor almonds in it. Tomte killed one of the farmer's cows in his anger. Then he began to eat his porridge, and when he reached the bottom of the bowl, he saw that the butter and the almonds were there. Tomte was very ashamed that he had done bad things to the owner, he was very upset, so he went to the farm next door and brought a cow from there so that the farmer would not be sad.

Tomtes are capable of such and similar pranks if they do not get porridge with butter and almonds in exchange for their work. Of course, they almost always get it, so they work nicely and modestly because more Tomtes exist. The elf who is working on the farms is the gårdstomte, or another name the court elf

But there’s hustomte, for example, the house-elf who lives inside the house, in the basement, or in the attic. He makes sure the house is tidy, cleanes, and makes sure nothing has gone. Sometimes you hear him acting and taking care of the house. If he gets his porridge, he will be nice and won’t hide or misbehave anything.

The forest elf, or skogstomte, lives in the woods, in old logs, or in the nest of larger trees. It helps the forest and its inhabitants to live in peace for all. If there is a danger in the forest, it warns the animals, makes sure they always have food, and helps if they get sick or injured.

The children’s favorite elf, Jultomte, is the Christmas elf who visits the dear children and brings them a Christmas present. He doesn’t arrive through the chimney, but knocks straight on the door and hands over the gift, in return he also asks for porridge with butter and almonds, because if he doesn’t get it in the next year he won’t return.

From these lovely legends and a mix of elf stories, the figure of the now-known Swedish Santa Claus, Tomte, was knocked out in 1881 by Viktor Rydberg, who knocks on houses in his red cap, green little coat, brown trousers, and large wooden clog, who gives gifts to those who they live there. In return, we still treat him with porridge today.

Tomte, knocked to us last Christmas in his brown pants, green jacket, and wooden clog. He brought homemade caramel and wished Merry Christmas. Sure, this Tomte was our landlord, but it was a very nice experience and it was interesting to see how the legend became real at our door. In many families, the dads still go for the daily newspaper and then return as a Tomte dressed and give gifts to the family.

The Swedish word tomte means benevolent house elf.

The drawings in the blog post are the work of a Swedish artist, Jan Bergerlind.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page