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Scan Magazine | Culture Feature | Nisseland

Swedes call him “tomte”, Finns “tonttu” and Norwegians and Danes “nisse”. Whichever the name, the mythological Scandinavian creature is loved by everyone.

Fairytales, mischief and Christmassy cosiness Step into Nisseland and enter the world of the “nisse” – a mystic, playful creature synonymous with the winter solstice and Nordic Christmas. By Thomas Bech Hansen | Photos: Nisseland

He wears woolly red clothes, has a mischievous streak, and likes his porridge with a spoonful of butter. No, this is not the description of a suspect, although the nisse can be elusive. This is a mythological creature from Scandinavian folklore, which Swedes call “tomte”, Finns “tonttu” and Norwegians and Danes “nisse”. World’s largest collection Where to find this enigma? The Danish town of Mørkøv, an hour’s drive from Copenhagen, is a great place to begin. Here, spanning 2,000 square metres, Nisseland exhibits the world’s largest collection of mechanical nisse figures, along with other characters, for instance from Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy-tales. “It has become our life’s work,” says co-owner John Roger, who has made nisse figures with his wife, Nette Philipsen, since 1983.

With Christmas around the corner, Nisseland is currently experiencing its busiest time of year. “Our Christmas panoramas include extremely detailed nisse figures and historically accurate settings. We use authentic objects to show how a bookbinder or cobbler’s workshop would look in old times,” says Roger of the display, which represents places where the nisse, according to the legend, would tease humans by hiding tools or overspicing porridge.

Famous figures Over the years, Roger and Philipsen have made nisse figures for shops around Denmark, Gothenburg’s Liseberg amusement park and the Tivoli in Copenhagen, and they have also managed to build a fan base in Japan. These days, however, full focus is on Nisseland in Mørkøv. “We are always improving. I craft the mechanics and the heads, Nette is in charge of decorations and she sews all the clothes. Sometimes we call in extra help to make props, like barns,” explains Roger. When asked whether a certain wool-clad fella interferes, however, he remains mysteriously silent.

Trolls, pirates and Hans Christian Andersen Nisseland also features trolls, pirates and life-sized characters from some of Hans Christian Andersen’s most beloved fairy

Apart from the impressive winter landscapes of old-world, dimly lit cosiness, Philipsen’s version of a Danish yuletide pastry must not be missed. “My wife serves up Denmark’s best æbleskiver,” adds Roger. In fact, the Danish Santa Claus Guild has awarded Nisseland first place in its prestigious æbleskiver ratings.

tales, including The Emperor's New Clothes,

The Tinderbox, The Princess and the Pea and many more.

For more information, please visit:

Issue 70 | November 2014 | 19

Scan Magazine | Issue 70 | November 2014  

Promoting Brand Scandinavia. Featuring interview with comedian Robert Gustafsson.

Scan Magazine | Issue 70 | November 2014  

Promoting Brand Scandinavia. Featuring interview with comedian Robert Gustafsson.