Region of origin: Scandinavia

A guardian spirit of the forest, the hulder appears in Norwegian folklore as a naked woman with a cow’s tail, or possibly with a fox-tail and/or a back covered in bark or exposed to be hollow like a dead tree in some regional Swedish versions. Most tales of the huldrer involve leading men into their forests for sex, killing or stealing them away to the underworld afterwards, or in some rare instances being returned with no memory of the encounter. If the tryst resulted in pregnancy, the child may be presented to the father (if he survived) or swapped out with another couple’s human child as a changeling. Other, less sexual, encounters with humans were more beneficial, such as watching over hunters or blessing their weapons to never miss, or helping keep a charcoal burner’s fire lit at night while they slept; in exchange provisions and supplies were left out for the hulder. There were stories of humans marrying huldrer but the process would cause them to lose their glamour of beauty, though in more modern versions, it was said if the hulder married a righteous Christian man she would lose her tail but otherwise retain her beautiful appearance (and also inhuman levels of strength and endurance).

Originally posted on Tumblr on August 28, 2016

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