Friday, June 1, 2012

Folklore Friday: Know Your Legends: Fossegrim

Today we discuss the fossegrim, a Scandinavian spirit of water, and its interpretation in DND 3.x.

Pictured: Kurt Cobain reincarnated as a water sprite.
The fossegrim, a river/falls spirit of Scandinavian origin, is depicted in DND.  But how close is the Legend to the Game version?  When looking into the background of this creature I found such an array of sources and lore that it would be difficult to run through in a single article... But we can go over the most common parts of the legend and make a comparison.

First, the Lore.  The names associated with the fossegrim include näck, näkki, nøkk, nøkken, and strömkarl.  The originating creature is a water spirit which played fiddle or other localized string instruments to lure beautiful maidens and children to their home near a stream.

While some of the stories of the fossegrim and its derivatives are evil in their carriage (killing those who come) most of these fiddling water spirits are seemingly nice fey who enjoy company and playing.  Some of the stories I was able to track down seem to place the nøkken as someone who will teach the fiddle with proper sacrifices, or challenge passing fiddlers to gain passage or prizes from the spirit.

Even Charlie Daniels screws up his Knowledge Checks.

The fossegrim and their ilk enjoy lamb's meat and a bit of a lark.  With a fat lamb given on a Thursday during a period of tumult the fossegrim could be talked into imparting all of his knowledge of fiddling...

Oh, and apparently seeing them stripped completely bare and dancing would make the viewer suffer an untold (but very bad) fate.  As most of the paintings and 'portraits' of fossegrim show them in a state of dress as seen in the picture to the side, it seems that the actual effect of seeing them nude would not cause the damage.

Combined with his love of unwed women I think that the fossegrim may have mastered a dance.

A very seductive dance.  Possibly inspiring a helicopter's rotation.

Indeed, the fossegrim seems to just be the College Musician of the spirit folk.  He likes to eat well, drink well, and bed as many unwed maidens as he can... And he plays a sweet song to bring all the ladies to the waterfall.

So how does the streaking fiddler fairy become the fossegrim of our roleplaying games?

I blame the nudity.  Or a translation error.  In fact the fossegrim legend seems to have been mixed up with multiple other legends of male water spirits from around Europe, thrown in a blender, and retooled to become a Water Dryad.  While the concept is understandable, we do have all of the features of a fossegrim about.

In two different fey creatures.  So if you decide to make yourself a fossegrim just take the Blinding Beauty of the Nymph and a Grig's fiddle, mix with the Fiend Folio version of the fossegrim, and voila!  You have yourself a fossegrim fit to grace a book of folklore AND the Fiend Folio.

I really hope you have been enjoying these little dips into the world of folklore and DND.  If you wish to have a specific creature 'looked into' feel free to give me the scoop in the comments.  If you have any other questions you may comment or shoot me an email at my name at

As Always,

Good Gaming.