He lives in houses, stables and barns and act as a protecting spirit of the farm and household. He takes care of the livestock , especially the horses, and he works at the farm, bringing luck to the farm-people. But the nisse was not always a good person. If he was treated bad, he might take a terrible revenge and even kill people. If he left the farm, he took the good luck with him.
He liked to do some easy teasing, and it was not difficult to keep on friendly terms with him. He only needed a bowl of porridge with a big lump of butter at festivals. If he was respected, he made an effort to help the farmer, he might even steal from neighbouring farms - and there were often fights among the nisse-guys. The nisse also loved to tease the farm-dog- No one understood why it barked so much - but the nisse made himself invisible and was able to change into an animal, like a goat, goose or horse.
In his human figure the Farm-Nisse was the size of a 10-year old child, he looked like an old man with a beard, with grey clothes and red cap. Beyond his duties at the farm he also played cards and smoked a pibe.The ordinary old farm-nisse was always alone.
The Christmas Nisse was invented in 1836, he is the only one with a family.
The Church Nisse is present in many fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen. He lives in vicarages and churches, but he is not a part of Christianity. He did not like to hear God's name, and he left on Sundays, when the church bells were ringing. But he kept the church nice and clean.
The Forest Nisse is a new variation; he lives in nature , leaving mysterious traces, which cannot be explained. A forest-nisse is small, about 80 cm, he dresses in green and brown.
The Ship-Nisse is another variation, also named the Klabauterman. He can - if he is treated well - predict storms - and it is wise to listen to his advice.
The Sætternisse = the Misprint Gremlin has existed since the introduction of typography. He loves to smuggle in misprint in books and magazines, and he is able to make them undiscovered in the proofreading.
The Climbing Nisse is a new tradition, beginning in the 1940s.
There is an old saying that "the nisse is following you". It is used on many occassions, like if you've got into some trouble - if you think you can just forget it or move away from it, then reemember that "the nisse is following you". You cannot escape the problems.
He origins from various old tales. There is a tale of a man and his household, who were being teased so much by their nisse that they had to move. After having loaded the wagon , drawn by oxes, the farmer let the coachman drive slowly ahead and went into the house to see if he had forgotten something. When he came out, he saw the wagon driving slowly down the road with the nisse on top of the load, laughing at him.
copyright grethe bachmann