Today we have a very unusual Me Me Monday blog…
1st Nisse: Yes, we do. (He looks a little man with a red cap pulled down over his eyes with a big nose and a long gray beard.)
2nd Nisse: We’re here, just in time for Christmas. Remember us? (He looks similar to the first, only he has a pair of beady eyes and a shorter beard.) Oh, wait, we’re secondary characters in a work in progress called Wind Me Up, One More Time.
3rd Nisse: That Quartz tried to interview us for Secondary Characters Speak Out. Without even offering us any rice pudding. The cheek! (He’s similar to the 2nd, only his beard is more tousled and his eyes are even more beady.)
2nd Nisse: We’ve changed a lot since then.
Many of you may be wondering, just what is a nisse?
I’ve got an unusual guest this Christmas Eve to answer that question…a real person. In fact, it’s my mother. 🙂 Mom, what exactly is a nisse?
Mom: A small little creature who lives in your house, often in the attic. Unless they live outside. They resemble small human beings.
2nd Nisse: (mutters) We don’t live in the attic, do we? (His dark eyes are bright with curiousity under his red hat.)
3rd Nisse: (raising his nose, which isn’t as red as the Ist) I certainly don’t. (nudges at 1st Nisse) He might.
!st Nisse: …
Mom: There are house nisse and outdoor nisse. They are very much a part of Scandinavian folklore. The Jul nisse shows up at Christmas bearing gifts. He’s pulling a sled with gifts on it. Does this sound familar?
2nd Nisse: Santa Claus is a nisse? Why doesn’t everyone know this?
3rd Nisse: He might have started out a nisse, but the legend of Santa Claus changed over time.
1st Nisse: All things change over time. Even us. This is why it’s import to remember our legends.
Me: ‘Nisse’ is a Scandanavian term, right?
Mom: Yes. The word ‘nisse’ is used in Norway, Denmark, and Southern Sweden.
Me: Are they in other parts of the world known by different names?
Mom: They’re all over Scandanavia. In Northern Sweden, they called tomte. In Finland, they’re tonttu.
Me: Are they in other countries as well?
Mom: There is something like them in the Netherlands and Estonia, although I don’t know much about them.
2nd Nisse: (whispering to the 1st) Does any of this sound familar?
3rd Nisse: (whispering back) No, but we’re from the town of Verity. We’re not entirely sure where it is, but it’s populated by people, especially women who came from all sorts of places. Including the women at the factory who made us.
2nd Nisse: We’re native to Verity if we were made there…does that mean we’re not really nisse? Do we have to be from Norway in order to be nisse.
1st Nisse: We’re nisse. As long as we keep what we were are alive in our hearts, we’ll always be nisse.
Me: About your own history with the nisse…when did you first start collecting them?
Mom: I saw my first nisse in 1974 at Karen Margretta’s, a Danish shop in Corona del Mar. Margretta, the shopkeeper, told me a little about house nisse and outdoor nisse. If you take good care of your nisse, it will take care of you.
2nd Nisse: That certainly sounds like us!
3rd Nisse: Yes, we plan to take good care of Heather since she gave us bright red caps.
2nd Nisse: I thought it was Heidi?
3rd Nisse: No, it’s Heather. We thought it was Heidi at the time Quartz interviewed us. Heidi is Carrot Monster’s human. You know, the stuffed rabbit?
2nd Nisse: I swear, all humans look the same to me!
Ist Nisse: …
Me: So you saw that nisse…
Mom…and I decided he had to be mine.
Me: You’ve been collecting them ever since, right?
Mom: In 1976, I bought quite a few nisse ornaments in Denmark. After the trip, I started making them myself. All kinds; nisse made pine cones, beads, balsa wood, calico, and pipe cleaners.
Me: You’ve been collecting them for quite a few years. I grew up with them on the Christmas tree.
Mom: I did go through a period where I stopped and collected glass ornaments instead. I found that the nisse made me more cheerful, so I returned to nisse collecting.
Me: You and a lot of other people. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of nisse with massive beards, big noses and no eyes.
1st Nisse: (smooths his beard and looks smug)
Me: Yet not all nisse are like that.
1st: (looses a bit of his smugness)
Me: For instance, you made my favorite nisse when I was a little girl. She looked quite young and had blonde braids.
Mom: Nisse can be many things. There are young nisse who look almost like elves with red hats. I’ve seen a few with gray hats, but I prefer red hats.
2nd Nisse: (shudders) I hated those gray hats.
3rd Nisse: I’m so glad Heather made us some red ones. I’m ever so much more cheerful while I’m wearing mine.
1st Nisse: (nods vigorously)
Mom: Nisse can be young or old, male or female.
1st Nisse: Or something in between.
2nd and 3rd Nisse: (bob their heads emphatically)
Mom: They can be thin or round. Their shapes vary.
Me: What are some special memories you have associated with your own nisse?
2nd Nisse: We are her nisse. Aren’t we?
3rd Nisse: No, we’re Heather’s nisse. Only we told Quartz the scribbler’s mother brought us out every Christmas.
1st: We were messing with him.
2nd Nisse: We were?
3rd Nisse: So who do we belong to? Heather or the scribbler’s mother?
1st Nisse: We’re fictional characters. What do you think?
2nd Nisse: Well, we might be based on nisse which belong to the scribbler’s mother.
3rd Nisse: We might even share some of the same memories as they do.
2nd Nisse: Why would we do that?
Ist Nisse: Hush. The scribbler’s mother is trying to talk.
Mom: I think one of the most surprising moments was during a Christmas faire in Ventura, California. A Norwegian lady was selling nisse. I bought one and realized I could make more elaborate, intricate nisse myself, so I started to. I made the ones out of pipecleaner, the ones you loved as a child?
Me: I remember.
Mom: I found a tiny basket and thought a nisse should be in it. I used to make them with long, blonde hair. Many of them resembled you as a child.
Me: I remember those, too.
2nd Nisse: Have we met any nisse like that?
3rd: Not that I remember.
Me: Anything else you’d like to add?
Mom: Be sure to put something out for the nisse on Christmas Eve, both outdoors and indoors. They’re particularly fond of rice pudding. If you don’t have any rice pudding, you can put out a little milk or fruitcake. Or cookies. 🙂 This may be where the legend of leaving something for Santa came from.
2nd Nisse: Mmm, rice pudding.
3rd Nisse: You think we’ll get some?
1st Nisse: The scribbler’s mother said she’d leave some rice pudding out. Just be patient. Soon, very soon, it will be ours.
2nd and 3rd Nisse: 🙂 🙂
Thank you, Mom, for agreeing to be interviewed and talking to me about nisse! Next time I’ll actually send you questions. Alas, I had to paraphrase or put your words into a form which worked for this interview, sacrificing accuracy to do so. For which I feel bad. 😦 I’m very grateful to you for taking the time to share your stories about the nisse with everyone!
And everyone who celebrates it…Merry Christmas! And Happy Holidays to all who are enjoying something else! Those who’ve already celebrated theirs…I hope it was spectacular. (hugs)