Wight is an obsolete word for a human or other intelligent being (cognate to modern German "Wicht", meaning "small person, dwarf", and also "unpleasant person"). It is used only comparatively recently to give an impression of archaism and mystery, for example in the works of J. R. R. Tolkien. Probably inspired by Scandinavian folklore (see below), Tolkien also used the word to denote human-like creatures, such as elves or ghosts ("wraiths") - most notably the undead Barrow-Wights. It is akin to other words of Old English origin such as were and world. Some subsequent writers seem to have been unaware that the word did not actually mean ghost or wraith, and so many works of fantasy fiction and role-playing games (such as Dungeons & Dragons) use the term as the name of spectral creatures very similar to Tolkien's Barrow-wights.

Wights in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore

From the same root stems the name for a class of beings in Scandinavian folklore called vättar, vætter, vetter or vittror (all plural) who represent a later development of the dwarves (duergar) and dark elves (dökkálfar) in Norse mythology. In Norway, they were in many places known as huldrefolk, although commonly "huldre" refers to a quite different being. The correct translation of "wight" to the Scandinavian languages would be väsen or vesen, meaning (typically a supernatural or mythological) being.

The collected Norwegian folk tales of Peter Christian Asbjørnsen and Jørgen Moe contain many stories about huldrefolk.

Vättar are similar in appearance to humans, even strikingly beautiful, but smaller, often clad in grey and living underground. Therefore, they are also called de underjordiske (the subterranean ones). The cautious peasant in old Scandinavia should always warn the vättar before spilling hot water on the ground, or else grave retribution, such as disease, accidents or killed livestock, was to be expected. Vättar has their own minute cattle, from which they nevertheless get a tremendous amount of milk. Vättar were also described as having the ability go invisible from human sight whenever they wished to, as well as transform into animals (toads being a disguise of choice). This made them hard to observe, save brief glimpses. However, children were thought to be much more capable to see through the magic of the vättar.

One sometimes separated skogsvättar (forest vättar) from gårdsvättar (yard vättar). In these cases, the former were often interchangeable with the elves.

The stories about the Norwegian huldrefolk have taken on many aspects usually associated with trolls. For example, the women of the huldrefolk were said to be quite beautiful, with the one exception being their long cow-like tails. They take great pains to hide these tails so as not to be detected for what they are. Moreover, the huldrefolk sometimes kidnapped infants and replaced them with their own ugly huldre children (see: changeling).

The tomte or nisse is a solitary vätte, living on the farmstead. He is usually benevolent and helpful, which can not be said about a mischievous illvätte.

In Norse mythology, the landvættir ("land wights") were the resident spirits of specific farms and wild places. The term includes beings which are equivalent to fairies, to the Greek nymphs, or to other chthonic beings. In Icelandic sagas, Vikings (when not at war) took off the carved dragons from the bows of their Longships before making land, so as not to frighten the landvættir and incur bad luck from them.

In modern day Iceland, stories still abound of the vættir. It is said that work crews building new roads will sometimes divert the road around particular boulders which are known to be the homes of these people.

The Isle of Wight is an island off the south coast of England.sv:Vätte


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