In nordic folklore, a tomte was a kind of - not always benevolent - vätte (local spirit or minor deity) connected to a farmstead. There is, in fact, an etymological connection to the word tomt ("piece of land, plot").
Rydberg's immensly popular poem Tomten, first published in 1881, transformed him into a philosophic and fatherly guardian. Combined with the gift-giving julvätte ("Christmas vätte") of Rydberg's earlier story Little Vigg - and, of course, with foreign influences - he then evolved into the modern Jultomte, local version of Santa Claus.
The young artist Jenny Nyström (1854-1946) illustrated both the poem and the story - and thus embarked on a 60-year career devoted to creating the visual image of the Swedish christmas.
In 1960 Harald Wiberg produced new illustrations for a childrens' book edition of Tomten. Astrid Lindgren then wrote a prose paraphrase of the poem for the export version. In this form the book had - and still has - considerable success on the international market.
A translation of the poem, called The Gnome, is included in Judith Moffett's anthology The North! To the North! : five swedish poets of the nineteenth century (Southern Illinois Univ Press, 2001). It is also published in Veritas 24, the journal of the Viktor Rydberg society.
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transl. by Poul Steenstrup. Kbhvn 1960
Stockholm & New York 1961.
Many later editions in Edinburgh, London and New York, latest in New York 1997
Vætturin : ein søga
transl. by Naja Mola Mortensen. Torshavn 1981
Hamburg 1960 & Stockholm 1961
transl. by Yamanouchi Kiyoko. Tokyo 1979
Pam-ui yojong t'omten
transl. by I Sang Hui. Söul 2002
"recast" by André Bjerke. Oslo 1977
El tomten : un cuento de Suecia
transl. by Yolanda Morena Rivas. Bilbao 1982
versión castellana de Salut Renom. 1999
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19 dec 2008