The Nordic Folklore and History Behind Bramble: The Mountain King
31 Mar, 2023
We wanted to know what the Nordic folklore and history is behind Bramble: The Mountain King. So we spoke to Tonje Lysfjord Sommerli, an expert in Scandinavian mythology, to find out more.
In Bramble: The Mountain King you take on the role of Olle, a young boy who takes on a great adventure through the unsettling yet stunning environments of Bramble to rescue his sister from the clutches of fairytale beasts.
Dwarfed by the sprawling world around him, as Olle you navigate and traverse a magical world of giants and gnomes. As you decipher friend from foe on an epic journey of suspense and survival. You can find out more in our preview of the game.
At Into Indie Games we’re really excited about the release of Bramble: The Mountain King. We’ve spoken to Dimfrost Studio the developers behind the game and begun our walkthrough of Bramble: The Mountain King with exclusive access to the early levels.
Like many others we’ve been captured by the dark fairy tale feel of the game and the wonderful atmosphere which Dimfrost has developed. Now we’re really intrigued by the Nordic folklore and history behind Bramble: The Mountain King.
Tonje Lysfjord Sommerli, a teacher at the Troll Museum in Tromsø Norway, kindly told us all about the stories that have inspired Bramble: The Mountain King. And specifically some of the characters which feature in the game.
Tonje Lysfjord Sommerli, Teacher, Troll Museum
Scandinavian folklore is full of intriguing and fascinating characters. Some benevolent – at least if you treat them with proper respect – and others more malignant. All over the world people have made myths and fairy tales to explain things which they could not rationally understand, and Scandinavia is no exception.
Strange natural phenomenons like earthquakes, landslides, mists and the Northern Lights were linked to supernatural creatures. The so-called “vetter” or “hidden people” who lived in their own, invisible world. Similar to elves and pixies in folklore from other European countries.
Before Christianity came to Scandiavia, these creatures were considered an important part of the natural world, and could be very helpful if you treated them well. However, when Christianity came to Scandinavia at the end of the 10th and beginning of the 11th Century. The priests and missionaries considered such creatures heathen superstitions, and forbade people to believe in them.
Thus, many supernatural creatures became the stuff of legends, myths and fairy tales instead, and they remain so to this very day.
The Nordic Folklore and History Behind Bramble: The Mountain King
In some fairy tales, there exists a Troll King/Mountain King, the most well-known is the King of the Ekeberg Hill in today’s Oslo. Apparently, when Oslo started growing and the urbanisation kept creeping onto his hill, the Ekeberg King had enough and moved away to stay with his brother at Kongsberg.
The most famous Mountain King is, however, the Troll King from the play Peer Gynt, written by Henrik Ibsen. This Mountain King lives beneath the mountain range Dovrefjell in Southern Norway. A range which is known in various myths and legends as a dwelling place of trolls all the way back to the Viking Age.
A common Swedish boy’s name, with Ole being the Norwegian and Danish version of the name. The name is related to Olav/Olaf, the name of the first Catholic saint of Norway, who is known in many myths and legends for being a notorious troll-killer.
The Näcken or Nøkken is a sinister creature living in ponds and lakes. He is always hungry for human flesh, and might take on different shapes to try to attract human victims.
Sometimes he looks like a small boat, docked at the shore, trying to trick passers-by into taking a little rowing trip onto the lake. When the unsuspecting victim is far from shore, the Nøkken shows his true shape and pulls his victim beneath the surface.
The Nøkken might also step on shore in the shape of a majestic, grey-white horse to try to trick humans, especially children, into climbing onto his back for a ride. When the victim is mounted, however, the Nøkken dives straight into the pond with the unlucky rider.
The Water Lilies (known in Scandinavia as Nøkkeroser, the roses of Nøkken) are closely linked to Nøkken, and can be found in forest ponds and lakes all over the Nordic countries.
The Skogsrå is also known as the Hulder (from Old Norse huldr, meaning “hidden”). She is a beautiful female creature, a guardian of the woodlands and of all the creatures who live there.
Sometimes, the Hulder falls in love with a young, handsome human male, and might seduce him into spending the rest of his life with her in her subterranean caves. If he chooses to follow her, a life in wealth and abundance awaits him, but he never gets to see his family again.
The Hulder might, however, also choose to spend the rest of her life with her human bridegroom. If she is treated with proper respect, she usually turns out to be a good, hard-working wife.
If her husband treats her poorly, he will live to regret it; despite her beautiful appearance, the Hulder is as strong as ten regular men and she won’t hesitate to put her human husband in his place if she needs to!
Myths and fairy tales about trolls are well-known all over the Nordic countries. In Sweden and Finland, tiny forest trolls, similar to the ones we see in the Disney Movie Frozen, are more common. In Norway and Iceland, huge mountain trolls are more common.
Trolls are versatile, however, and might easily adapt to different environments, and from Norway there are also tales about trolls living in caves close to the sea. In the Scandinavian fairy tales, the trolls usually play the role of the villain. They kidnap princesses, cause natural disasters like earthquakes and landslides, and steal riches and livestock from the humans.
Despite being big, brutal and malevolent, trolls are not very bright, and the fairytale hero (or heroine) usually manages to outsmart the troll. Generally by tricking the troll into staying outside long enough for the sun to rise, turning the troll to stone.
Gnomes are in many ways the antithesis to the graceful, airborne pixies and fairies. They are known as “the subterranean people” or “the hidden people”. Since they live beneath the ground near human settlements.
They are shy and tend to keep to themselves, and wont show themselves to humans unless there is something to be gained from it, or if their dwellings are under threat. Still, it is important for humans to remain in good standing with them. A few basic rules for maintaining a good relationship with the gnomes is to shout a warning before throwing out dirty dishwater or hot water from a window or doorway. If you don’t, they might take revenge by pulling a prank on you, or causing harm to you or your property.
In Norwegian culture, these gnomes are known as “vetter” from Old Norse “vettr”. In the Viking Age, the Vetter most likely were a group of nameless, lesser deities linked to woodlands, rivers or lakes. When Christianity came to Scandinavia, however, the Vetter were considered a heathen superstition. They remain to this very day, however, as important elements in myths and fairy tales.
Fairies are closely linked to British folklore, where they are beautiful, airborne creatures, usually female. The word fairy most likely comes from the Latin word fata, meaning fate. In the tales of King Arthur, his half-sister Morgana is most commonly known as Morgan le Fay, linking her magic knowledge to the fairies and the magic of the land.
The closest things we have in Scandinavian folklore are the elves, who are quite different from the elves encountered in modern fantasy literature. Like the British fairies, the elves are closely linked to nature, death and fertility, and in the Viking Age it was common to make sacrifices to the elves. The Norse god Frey is sometimes named “the King of Elves”, due to his position as the god of fertility.
The Norse elves are tiny and usually live in wells or springs, or beneath rocks and cliffs. On Iceland, the belief in Elves remain strong even today. Many Icelandic believe in the so-called “huldufolk” or “hidden people” who live in, or beneath, rocks, boulders or in hills. These creatures have to be respected, so roads and buildings are often built far away from dwelling-places of elves, to avoid angering them, which may cause them to cause harm to humans.
In the Viking Age, the Vikings believed that gigantic humanoid creatures, jotuns, existed long before all other living things – even before the gods. The Jotuns are the primordial beings of the Norse cosmos, similar to the titans of Greek mythology. In many ways they represent the forces of chaos, although they are not necessarily always evil.
They are usually the enemies of the Norse gods though, although some of them have proven to be of great help to both gods and humans, and some gods even have a female Jotun for a wife or a mother. The Jotun Mimir guards the Well of Wisdom, and Odin sacrifices one of his eyes to Mimir to gain permission to drink from this well. Another Jotun, Aegir, rules the oceans, and a female Jotun, Skadi, is revered as a goddess of the mountains, of winter and of skiing.
More to follow when we play the full game…
Bramble: The Mountain King is scheduled for release on PC and console the 27th of April 2023. Fans can Wishlist now on Steam. You can stay up to date on Bramble: The Mountain King through the game’s official website, Twitter and Merge Games on Discord.
Want to learn more about Trolls and Nordic legends, then get in contact and plan your visit to the Troll Museum in Tromsø, Norway.
Thanks for reading our article The Nordic Folklore and History Behind Bramble: The Mountain King. For more interesting articles from Into Indie Games, check out the links below:
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