This is the "Introduction" page of the "Introduction to Scandinavian Folklore" guide.
Alternate Page for Screenreader Users
Skip to Page Navigation
Skip to Page Content

Introduction to Scandinavian Folklore  

Last Updated: Apr 4, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Introduction Print Page

White Bear King

Painting by Theodor Kittelsen


Norwegian Landscape



Scandinavian folklore is the expression of beliefs, arts, artifacts, customs, and traditions that shape the cultures of nothern Europe. Like all world folklores, Scandinavian folklore involves the preservation and transference of local traditions. Folk share in lore to help make sense of their world and spiritual places in nature and in their community. Folk share in lore that are special and complementary to their unique environments. Northern Europe is a place of darkness, snow, ice, lush forests, and magnificant mountains and black waters. To this end, Scandinavian folklore is influenced by such surroundings. One will find mythical creatures that resemble local fauna, such as bears or foxes. There exist invisible spirits that move and behave like the cold winds of the north. And there are beautiful water beings that are equally alluring and dangerous, like the harsh, icy seas.

Ultimately, Scandinavian folklore endures as one of the most popularly enjoyed and researched world cultures. Many contemporary, beloved stories and genres have been influenced by this history. And, today, some folk still participate and engage with ancient customs. This libguide introduces the Scandinavian folklore culture. It provides an overview of famous stories and artistic depictions. It also examines the lasting legacies of these stories. And, finally, it includes a guide to useful resources such as books, journals, societies, and research databases. 


A Note for Clarification

Scandinavian or Nordic?

The title and subject of this libguide - Scandinavian Folklore - is somewhat a misnomer. Though "Scandinavian" is the most commonly used term found throughout the literature (see references under Resources tab), the term "Nordic" is generally more appropriate. Scandinavia refers to the political histories uniting Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. The Nordic countries represent a larger group of territories united by loosely shared cultural and geographic histories. The Nordic countries include Denmark, Norway, and Sweden as well as Iceland, Finland, Greenland, the Faroe Islands, and the Aland Islands. 


Why Study Folklife?

Why study folklife at all? The Louisina Folklife Program beautifully describes the benefits of engaging with global folklife:

"First, they are important to you, individually. What is your favorite holiday? Answering that question tells you something about yourself.

Folklife is also important to families. Traditions, customs, stories, and special objects help us to feel connected to each other. Ask some family members about what traditions they love, and you can learn about what is special in your family.

In addition, folklife can help you to learn about what is important in your groups. Every culture is proud of some sort of folklife, in one way or another. 

Sometimes people are embarrassed by their own folklife traditions because they believe outsiders will not understand them. But when we study each other's folklife traditions, we often learn that other people's traditions are quite similar to our own. And they are similar, despite some differences. We are all much more alike then we realize. Just think about it. No matter where people come from, their birthday will probably be an important day for them, even though they may celebrate it in different ways.

Folklife is important because it tells us about who people are, where they come from, what they are connected to, and what makes them unique.

That's why we study folklife."


Richness in Life & Lore

“Acknowledging that we are not separated from our surroundings can be a way to make the most out of the world around us!” - quote by artists Karoline Hjorth and Riita Ikonen, featured under Legacy & Culture tab.

Subject Guide

Profile Image
Robert Frawley



Loading  Loading...