Dazed and Confused: Supernatural Encounters in the Forests of Scandinavia
The Institute for Language and Folklore
The forest as a space can be understood from the notion of the forest as a place of otherness. The experience of being lost in the forest could be explained in different ways, if it happened unexpectedly one such explanation was that it was caused by a supernatural being. Uno Holmberg once suggested that there existed a belief in a mysterious curtain in the forest that hid trapped victims from searchers, a boundary that separated ‘this world’ from the supernatural ‘other side’. The forest was a fundamentally dangerous realm to humans and those things belonging to the human world. The forest was believed to be the home of not only wild animals and predators, it was also the realm of the forest spirit, trolls and other anthropomorphic and zoomorphic supernatural beings. Entering a forest was therefore to cross a boundary separating the farm household and village community from the dangerous forest and the other side. The beings encountered can be interpreted as the undomesticated expressions of nature, denizens of wild territory beyond human agency. In this paper, I will explore and interpret encounters taking place in the forests of Scandinavia, from Old Norse sources to younger narratives from the folklore archives.