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A tomte\ or nisse is a mythical creature of Scandinavian folklore, specifically part of a group of creatures called vetter, common in rural areas. There were two varieties of nisse or tomte, one type that resided in the house (cf. the Russian domovoi) and one that resided in the barn. He would take care of the homestead, crops, house, and people while the human inhabitants slept.
The tomte was usually depicted as a man in height of four feet or less with a red knitted cap a long white beard and grey clothes. He is thus similar in aspect to a leprechaun, brownie, a gnome or a dwarf, and was the model for Santa Claus. Like the brownie, the tomte or nisse needed gifts, but this gift was a bowl of porridge or rice pudding on Christmas night. If he wasn't given his payment, he would leave the farm or house which couldn't survive without his nightly chores, or engage in mischief, such as tying the cows' tails together in the barn, turning objects upside-down, and breaking things (cf. poltergeist).