Hulder in Scandinavian Folklore

In Scandinavian folklore, the Hulder (also spelled Huldra or Huldre) is a supernatural creature with a rich and diverse cultural history in the regions of Scandinavia.

Hulder in Scandinavian folklore. Image: Huldra’s Nymphs (1909) by British painter Bernard Evans Ward


The Hulder is often depicted as a female forest spirit, known for her beauty, allure, and mystical powers.

The appearance of this creature varies in different folktales and traditions, but she is generally portrayed as an enchanting woman with long, flowing hair and a fair complexion. She often wears traditional clothing, which can differ depending on the specific region. Some tales describe the Hulder as having a cow’s tail or hollow back, which she conceals with her clothing to appear human.

Abode of the hulders

The Hulder is said to dwell in remote, forested areas, and she is associated with natural settings such as forests, mountains, and rivers. In these remote places, she can be encountered by unsuspecting travelers, luring them with her captivating beauty and enchanting music.


While the Hulder may appear alluring and welcoming, she is also considered to have a mysterious and mischievous nature. In some tales, she is seen as benevolent, helping those who treat her kindly or aiding those in need.

However, in other stories, she can be vengeful and punish those who disrespect her or cause harm to the natural world.

One common theme in Hulder folklore is her potential as a temptress. She may try to entice men into her world or lure them into the wilderness, where they could become lost or trapped forever. In some tales, she seeks a human husband, but marrying a Hulder often comes with its own set of challenges and consequences.


The Hulder’s connection to nature and the wild makes her an essential figure in Scandinavian folklore, representing the mystical and untamed aspects of the natural world.

Her stories have been passed down through generations, reflecting the beliefs and cultural values of the people in these regions. Today, the Hulder remains a captivating and enduring figure in Scandinavian folklore and continues to inspire art, literature, and popular culture.


The Hulder is associated with nature, particularly forests, and is often considered the guardian or embodiment of the wilderness. Her name, “Hulder,” is believed to be related to other ancient Germanic and Norse figures, such as Huld in Old Norse and Holda in German folklore. These connections suggest that the Hulder has deep roots in ancient cultural beliefs and traditions.

In some traditions, the Hulder is believed to have a particular connection to cattle, and she may bring good fortune or prosperity to those who care for their herds.

Protector or keeper of the wild

While she may be seen as a seductive figure, the Hulder is also regarded as a guardian or protector of the wilderness and the creatures that inhabit it. The term for such spirits in Swedish is rå, which means “keeper” or “warden”.

Some stories suggest that the Hulder’s presence in the forest can influence its appearance and atmosphere. The woods where she resides may be perceived as more vibrant and enchanted.

In some folktales, the Hulder is known for possessing knowledge of medicinal herbs and plants. She may have the ability to heal or bestow blessings on those who treat her kindly.

Meaning of her name

The name of this spirit is said to have come from a Scandinavian word that evokes the meaning of “secret” or “covered”.

In different regions, the Hulder may be known by various names, such as “skogsrå forest spirit” in Swedish folklore or Tallemaja (“pine tree Mary”), emphasizing her close association with forests and trees.

In Sámi folklore, she is called ulda, which again highlights her connection to the wilderness.

Questions and Answers

In a scene from Svenska folksägner (1882), a hulder engages in conversation with a charcoal burner. Although she appears as a youthful farmer woman, a subtle hint of her true nature emerges as her tail discreetly peeks out from under her skirt.

What is a hulder?

The term “Hulder” is sometimes used to refer to an entire race of such beings rather than a single individual. This suggests that there are multiple Hulder creatures, each sharing similar characteristics and traits.

How are they portrayed?

The Hulder is often portrayed as a mysterious and alluring being, capable of captivating human travelers with her beauty, music, and charm. She may appear benevolent and help those who treat her kindly, but she can also be capricious and vengeful if disrespected or harmed.

The Hulder is frequently associated with old customs and beliefs related to the natural world. In some tales, she may be seen as a guardian spirit or protector of the forest, while in others, she may be viewed as a temptress or a figure of caution.

Is there any male holder in the folklore?

The word “hulder” is indeed used specifically for a female creature in Scandinavian folklore. The term “male hulder” is not used for the same being; instead, it refers to a different entity known as a “huldrekall.” Both hulders and huldrekalls are distinct mythical beings found in Norwegian folklore.

A huldrekall is a male counterpart to the hulder. In Norwegian folklore, the huldrekall is described as a male forest spirit or supernatural being. While not as well-known as the hulder, he is also associated with the wilderness and is believed to possess some of the same mystical qualities as his female counterpart.

What are some characteristics or traits of the Hulder?

The Hulder is a complex and captivating figure in Scandinavian folklore, and she is often associated with various characteristics and traits. Some of the common characteristics of the Hulder include: beauty, traditional clothing, long hair, shapeshifting, and mischief.

How does the Hulder interact with humans?

The Hulder is often linked to stories of humans becoming enamored with her and even marrying her. Such marriages may come with rewards or challenges depending on the specific tale.

What are the consequences of encountering or interacting with a hulder?

The consequences of encountering or interacting with a Hulder in Scandinavian folklore can vary widely depending on the specific tale and the behavior of the individual involved.

For example, if a person treats the Hulder with kindness, respect, or helps her in some way, they may receive blessings or rewards in return. This could include good fortune, protection in the wilderness, or knowledge of medicinal herbs and healing.

However, if someone mistreats or disrespects this spirit, they may face her retribution or punishment. She can be capricious and vengeful, and harm may befall those who offend her.

In certain stories, a human who becomes enchanted by the Hulder may be bound to her forever or face eternal consequences. This could result in them being trapped in the wilderness or losing their connection to the human world.

Encountering a hulder in the forest could lead to becoming disoriented or lost in the wilderness, unable to find one’s way back home.

Meeting a hulder may also alter one’s perception of time, with what appears to be a short interaction actually lasting for days or weeks.

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