Tonttu: A hardworking fairy from Finnish folklore


In Scandinavia, specifically in Finland, there exists a fairy called “Tonttu,” which has its origins in ancient folklore. Tonttu is a cherished protective deity that lives in various places such as forests, homes, and even Finland’s famous saunas. In this article, I will explore Tonttu, the endearing fairy from Finnish folklore.

Tonttu, the Finnish Fairy

Tonttu is a fairy with a distinctive appearance, characterized by a small child-like figure wearing a red pointy hat. The origin of Tonttu is rooted in ancient Nordic folklore, and the name of the fairy differs in each Nordic country. Tonttu is the Finnish name for the fairy, and it is also sometimes referred to as “haltija,” which means “fairy” in Finnish.

According to Finnish folklore, Tonttu usually lives in the forest or in the attics of houses. Once they have taken up residence in a house, they are considered to be like guardian deities, protecting the inhabitants of the house from disease and fire to ensure their happiness.

The name of the fairy differs in each Nordic country

Tonttu is a fairy from the folklore that has been passed down among people living in Northern Europe since ancient times. Folklore, even if it means the same thing, has its own unique characteristics that reflect the culture and climate of a particular place, as it crosses over into another country or region. For example, just as the pronunciation and accent of a word can change drastically by crossing a single mountain, it may be easier to understand if you think of Japanese dialects.

Therefore, “Tonttu” is the Finnish version of the name, and names differ in other Nordic countries. For example, in Sweden, fairies are called “tomte” instead of “tonttu.” In Norway and Denmark, it is known as “nisse. Thus, although the name differs in each Nordic country, they all refer to the same fairy from Nordic folklore.

Tonttu’s work is based on a complete division of labor

One of the characteristics of Tonttu is their clear division of labor, with each Tonttu having its own area of expertise. This system is similar to the perfect division of labor in human society.

For example, some Tonttu live in the forest and watch over plants and wild animals, while others live in huts in human villages and take care of livestock. There are also Sauna Tonttu who live in saunas, Christmas Tonttu who support Santa Claus, and many other types of Tonttu in Finland, making for a rich variety of Tonttu.

Christmas Tonttu who helps Santa Claus

During the Christmas season in Finland, it is said that Christmas Tonttu appears. In Scandinavia, Christmas is called “Joul” and Christmas Tonttu is also known as Joulutonttu.

The job of Christmas Tonttu is to help the busy Santa Claus during Christmas. The Christmas Tonttu checks if Finnish children have been well-behaved throughout the year, records the information in a note, and reports it to Santa Claus. Based on the list of children reported by the Christmas Tonttu, Santa Claus decides which children will receive Christmas presents, such as “good children who will receive presents” and “bad children who will not receive presents this year.”

According to Norse folklore, Christmas Tonttu lives with Santa Claus and his reindeer in a place called “Korvatunturi” in Finland.

Sauna Tonttu is the guardian deity of saunas

Recently, there has been an increase in the number of people in Japan who are interested in saunas, which originated in Scandinavian Finland. In Finland, there are many public saunas, and private saunas are installed in many households as well. Although saunas are now primarily used as health facilities, they have also been regarded as sacred places for purifying oneself and washing the dead since ancient times in Finland. 

In Finland, there is a fairy named Sauna Tonttu who serves as a guardian for saunas. It is said that Sauna Tonttu watches over sauna users to ensure that they have a pleasant and safe sauna experience. Children in Finnish families are taught to clean the sauna after use so that Sauna Tonttu can be comfortable. Additionally, it is a custom on Christmas Eve to leave the sauna early so that Sauna Tonttu can have more time to enjoy it.


Tonttu is a small guardian fairy from Nordic folklore. In Finland, Tonttu is a beloved presence that brings happiness and protects families from disasters.