Torghatten mountain in Brønnøysund

Legends of Norway’s coast

From trolls to goddesses, our shores are alive with Norwegian folklore and mythical creatures. Learn about them and perhaps you’ll start to see the coast like we do: a place of magic and myth.

The scenery you see from our ships is never simply mountains, sea, and shore. Hiding in the landscape are sleeping trolls, powerful gods, and monster-like spirits. These fairytales are at the heart of our cultural heritage.

“I often think of Norway as one, large living legend: full of stories to tell, and to experience,” says Hedda Felin, Hurtigruten’s CEO. “Many of us here grow up to fairytales and Norwegian folk tales inspired by the natural beauty Norway is known for. Our mountains are made of trolls and the Northern Lights are our bridges to Valhalla.”

Here, we tell you about some of the Norse myths, Sámi legends, and Norwegian folk tales that live among the fjords and mountains of Norway’s coast.

Norse gods and goddesses

The gods of the old Norsemen, including the Vikings, have three distinct groups:

  • Æsir (specializing in war and bravery)

  • Vanir (specializing in fertility, wisdom, and society)

  • Jötnar (the giants of Jotunheim, although Jötnar aren’t always enormous)

The most famous of the Æsir gods are Thor and Odin, and Freya for the Vanir. Their tales are known around the world.

But we think it’s time to give other Norse gods the spotlight. We’d like to introduce you to the Norse gods of the sea, who the Norsemen of old prayed to as they sailed the same shores we do today:



The Vanir God of the Sea and Freya’s father. Seafarers would pray to Njord for still seas. Some fishermen now still have the tradition of thanking Njord for a good catch of fish. Njord was married to Skadi, a giantess associated with the mountains.

Even though, here in Norway, the mountains and the sea are side by side, the marriage was not a success as neither could bear to be away from their own beloved landscape for long.

(Depicted by W. G. Collingwood in Njörd's desire of the Sea)

640px-Ögir und Ran by F. W. Heine

Ægir and Rán

Jötunn ruler Ægir and his wife Rán were thought to live in a magnificent hall beneath the waves. It was believed Rán would create storms and drag unfortunate sailors to the bottom of the ocean with her net.

Completing the family, Rán and Ægir’s nine daughters are usually portrayed as the spirits of the waves, with each of their names describing different kinds of waves.

(Depicted by F. W. Heine in Ögir und Ran)

Mythical creatures

Here are six mythical creatures of Norwegian folklore to look out for as you sail with us. But, if you’re easily scared, it might be better not to imagine them!


For us Norwegians, we know that our most famous mythical creatures live in remote mountains, forests, caves, and the sea. It is also common knowledge to us, from a young age, that when a troll is exposed to sunlight it turns to stone. That’s why, if you look closely enough, you might see troll-like features in so many landmarks: a pair of feet, a hand, a big nose. Trolls can be big or small, but are often stupidly slow yet dangerously strong.

For the best study of these mythical creatures, see the illustrations of famous Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen (depicted here in Skovtrold). His distinctive pictures gave a face to so many of these creatures in our national imagination. At Tromsø’s Troll Museum, you can step into the world of our favorite Norwegian fairytale. Here, scenes from the legends are recreated in beautiful handmade figurines and brought to life through augmented reality (AR).



Kind but mischievous, nisse can change their size and even become invisible. If treated well, they will happily help around the house or farm while us humans sleep. The most famous of the nisse are the yuleniss, which have a special role for Norwegians in our Christmas celebrations.

Traditionally, farmers leave out bowls of porridge for yulenisse, a little like leaving milk and cookies for Santa Claus. But, unlike Santa, yulenisse might play tricks on you if you don’t do something nice for them.

(Depicted by Hans Gude in En Aftenstund i et Proprietærkjøkken)


This water spirit’s beautiful songs lure people to a tragic end in lakes or streams. The nøkken can also transform himself into various shapes, such as a handsome young man or a horse, to deceive his victims.

(Depicted by Theodor Kittelsen in Nøkken)



A water spirit, perhaps closely related to nøkken, the fossegrim is an expert player of the Hardanger fiddle (a violin with eight or nine strings, invented in Hardanger), which he uses to lure people into the water.

(Depicted by Nils Bergslien in Fossegrimen)


Haunting coastal areas, Draug usually look like an undead sailor or fisherman, covered in seaweed and making nightmare-like screams on stormy nights. No wonder it’s feared by sailors as an omen of death.

(Depicted by Theodor Kittelsen in Sjøtrollet)



Said to appear off the coast of Norway, this monster of the deep that looks like an oversized octopus strikes fear into all seafarers. It is known to create terrible storms before dragging down ships with its tentacles and swallowing them whole.

(Depicted by W. H. Lizars in Naturalist's Library by Robert Hamilton)

Sámi mythology

Storytelling has always been a central part of Norway’s indigenous Sámi culture. Sámi children often heard tales of huldra [human-like creatures with animals’ tail who try to lure people to move to underground with them], draug, and river trolls. Although exciting and entertaining, these stories also served to scare children away from potentially dangerous places, such as rivers and the sea, as well as teaching them to treat nature with respect.

“In my childhood, I especially heard stories about the huldra. You were taught what not to do if the huldra took you into its world, but also how to bind the huldra in our world,” says Lisa Vangen, Manager of The Museum of Northern Peoples, which preserves the culture and contemporary history of regional Sámi people, and the people of the north.

“These stories could be a bit scary, and I remember I could be afraid to go out when it was dark outside. But in general, the stories consisted of the underground being [a society and civilization] equal to us who live above the earth.”

Traditional Sámi beliefs blend animism, polytheism, and shamanism, imbuing all elements of nature with spirits or supernatural powers. Sápmi, the area lived in by the Sámi, is large and beliefs vary from region to region, but you can find sacred sites everywhere.

Where to experience legends along Norway’s coast

You can see several places linked with the legends of Norway as you sail our coastline with us:

Vigeland Sculpture Park, Oslo

1. Frogner Park & Museum of the Viking Age, Oslo

Our North Cape Line voyage starts and ends in Norway’s capital, so be sure to explore the city's legends before you board. To the west of center is Frogner Park, famous for Gustav Vigeland’s dramatic statues, with many of them inspired by Norse legends.

Over on the nearby island of Bygdøy, the Museum of the Viking Age (re-opening 2027) is home to 5,500 artefacts that honor the gods of old, including the world’s best preserved Viking ships.

A hiker standing on Pulpit Rock looking down on a Hurtigruten ship in Lysefjord

2. Preikestolen and Kjeragbolten, Lysefjord

As you sail along Lysefjord northbound on The North Cape Line, you can’t miss Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock), an enormous plateau towering 2,100 feet (640 meters) above the water. That crack you see across it is tied to a legend: it’s said that, when seven brothers marry seven sisters, the plateau will split in two and tumble into the fjord below, causing an enormous wave that destroys all life in the area.

Further into Lysefjord is Kjeragbolten, a 177-cubic-foot (5-cubic-meter) boulder wedged in a crevasse 3,200 feet (984 meters) above the fjord. Legend has it that a woman running away from a troll jumped onto the rock to escape. The troll followed her, but he tripped and fell into the abyss below. It’s now known as the rock of love and courage, and that couples who stand together on the rock will enjoy everlasting love.

Hardangerfjord HGR 07742 1920

3. The orchards of Hardangerfjord

Did you know that apples are important in Norse mythology? Unlike deities in other cultures, Norse gods aren’t immortal. Instead, it’s the apples given to them by the goddess Idun that keep them forever young and healthy.

As you sail northbound on the North Cape Line, you can admire the orchards of Hardangerfjord. Around 40% of all Norway’s fruit is grown in this region. You might catch the sound of the Hardanger fiddle on the wind, a violin with eight or nine strings that was invented in Hardanger. It’s this fiddle that, according to Norwegian folklore, is expertly played by the fossegrim water spirit. Just don’t be lured into the water by the beautiful sound!


4. Ole Bull’s statue, Bergen

Look underneath the statue of Ole Bull in Bergen’s Ole Bulls Plass and you’ll see a fossegrim playing a harp. Ole Bull (1810-1880) was a composer and one of Norway’s most famous violinists. Just four years after he first started playing, aged 5, he was a soloist at the Bergen Harmonic Society. Bull’s violin skills were so masterful that people then would say only a fossegrim could have taught him to play.

In some fairytales, the fossegrim will exchange musical skill for snacks, preferably a goat, so maybe that is what Ole Bull did!

The Medieval Church of Nærøya island

5. Nærøya, Rørvik

The island of Næroya is named after Njord, God of the Sea. The sagas (the old stories about Norse legends) tell of many sea kings who had their seats of power on Nærøya, and it seems the island was a spiritual center even before Christianity arrived on our shores.

You can visit this seat of the sea king on our Næroya: The Island of the Gods excursion as part of your North Cape Line voyage.

Jotunheimen shutterstock 1824888890

6. Jotunheimen

You can’t see Norway’s most famous national park from our ships, but it’s well worth a trip inland if you have time before or after your voyage. Both The Svalbard Line and The Coastal Express full voyages start and end in Bergen, which is just south of Jotunheimen.

‘Jotunheimen’ means ‘The Land of the Giants’, after Jotunheim, the dwelling place of the giants in Norse mythology. It’s easy to see why the park was given this grand name. The landscape here is rugged and majestic, almost otherworldly. More than 250 mountains here soar6,500 feet (2,000 meters) high, including two of Norway’s tallest.

Torghatten mountain in Brønnøysund

7. Torghatten

Famous for the hole that goes right through its middle, Torghatten mountain is at the heart of one of the most legendary of Norway’s troll tales. It’s also one of the easiest-to-spot mythical sites from your ship, whether southbound on The Svalbard Line or southbound on The Coastal Express.

An aerial view over the Norwegian village of Træna

8. Træna

Ramona Remmen, born and raised on the remote islands of Træna that we visit northbound on The Svalbard Line, tells us this tale of a huldra:

“There’s one about there being a huldra here. She used to live on Sanna where the mountains are, but in 1912 two local boys climbed the tallest of the mountains and accidentally set the vegetation on it on fire. They say that the huldra fled to a neighbouring, less populated island, Dørvær, because of the fire that year.”

The Hurtigruten ship MS Nordkapp entering "Trollfjorden"

9. Trollfjord, Vesterålen/Lofoten

One of our favorite legends tells the story of how the small but spectacular Trollfjord came to be. Two trolls, Vågakallen and Hinnøygubben, were fighting over whose cows should be allowed to graze in Raftsundet strait. After several arguments, Hinnøygubben lost his balance and fell over, accidentally striking his axe into the edge of Raftsundet strait and carving out the Trollfjord.

You can see the Trollfjord with us between May and October southbound on The Coastal Express.

View of Finnkirka from deck

10. Finnkirka, North Cape

The North Cape area around the port of Honningsvåg is home to landmarks that were once ancient Sámi sacrificial sites. The Finnkirka rock formation is the easiest to spot from your ship; as you sail between Kjøllefjord and Mehamn, look for a sea cliff that looks like a huge cathedral towering over the crashing waves below. It’s lit up at night, so you can see it year-round sailing north on any of our voyages.

Kirkeporten is a huge stone arch in a rocky outcrop near the fishing village of Skarsvåg. Hornet, a rocky promontory shaped like a horn on the northeast side of the North Cape, can only be seen from the sea.

Legends of the aurora

As you might expect for such an awe-inspiring spectacle, there’s a whole world of myths and legends about the Northern Lights to fascinate you. Read about the many stories told to explain the phenomenon in the past.

Northern Lights over Norway