Rotvältor and skrömt

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An uprooted tree – or a nightmarish creature reaching a skeletal hand towards you?

We see what we want to see, what we’re afraid to see, and what we’re taught to see. This is nothing new. But when I walk the woods around my home, I’m constantly reminded of that fact because of the many uprooted, fallen trees. These rotvältor, as we call them, are very easy to mistake for something else – a living shape, a creature in the dappled shadows.

What was that?

Did it move?

Is something looking at me?

It’s no wonder that people have come up with all sorts of legends about woodland spirits – skrömt. Elves and hobgoblins and ghosts of different shapes and forms, concepts to explain the feeling when we catch a glimpse of one of those natural shapes through the corner of our eye and jump out of our skin.

During the day, they’re harmless enough. A second look confirms that it was just a fallen tree or a big rock. But in twilight? With nothing but the softly glowing sky to illuminate them? Better not take any chances. Better run, in case it’s a troll.

Do we run from other fantasies, too?

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