On the Record

'The Nisser Lady'

On the Record with Virginia Rasmussen

Virginia Rasmussen
Virginia Rasmussen

SYCAMORE – Virginia Rasmussen of Sycamore has been affectionately called “The Nisser Lady” because of her stories about “nisser,” the Danish word for elves.

In August, Rasmussen published her first book about nisser, “Cloudberries & Aebleskiver.”

The book can be purchased online through Wild Rhubarb Press. The Sycamore and DeKalb public libraries also have copies.

Rasmussen spoke to MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton about nisser, her book and the magic of storytelling.

Milton: What is “Cloudberries & Aebleskiver” about?

Rasmussen: It’s about three elves that come from Denmark, and they have some rather unusual experiences. In Danish, elves are called “nisser.” Their names are Soren, Hans the Hungry and Peder the Timid. Cloudberries grow on Scandinavian mountains and Aebleskiver are a popular Danish pancake.

Milton: What are “nisser”?

Rasmussen: “Nisser” is the Danish word for elves. Nisser is plural and nisse is singular. Nisser are ancient. Nobody knows where they come from, especially because there usually are no females. They have long white beards, long white hair, pointed red stocking caps, red or blue coats, blue britches, long white knee socks and black shoes with silver shoe buckles. Usually, they are very friendly characters, but if you cause them trouble, they’ll cause you trouble. They are also a part of Christmas traditions in Denmark. There, they live in an attic and go around the house at night. They love Danish food, particularly desserts. They are a bit mischievous and may hide car keys or glasses or burn the potatoes you’re cooking. On a farm, they live with animals and are able to talk to them.

Milton: How did you get the idea for the book?

Rasmussen: It all started at the Danebod Folk School in Tyler, Minnesota. It was a place where Danish immigrants learned to become American citizens. Now it’s where Americans learn Danish traditions and the language. It’s a family camp. I started telling stories about Danish elves. I told one or two people, then during the evening during a talent time. They always wanted me to tell more stories. I was known as “The Nisser Lady” by the kids.

Milton: Are you Danish?

Rasmussen: My husband’s father came from Denmark, so I say that I’m a Danish in-law. Growing up, we had a nisser that lived in our attic. I think almost all countries have some form of nisser, whether it’s a Norwegian troll or Swedish tomte or a gnome or elf.

Milton: When did you decide to write a book?

Rasmussen: I took a writing class up there, and that gave me the idea of the story in the book. A friend pushed me to write my story down and have it published. The book was published in August 2020. It’s my first book, but I’m thinking about writing another one.

Milton: Would you describe the book as a children’s book?

Rasmussen: It’s not just a children’s book; it’s a book for anyone that likes stories. There’s humor in the book and it’s informative. There are also a couple of Danish recipes. Online, at www.wildrhubarbpress.com, you can buy other items, including bookmarks, notecards, an apron and a tote bag.

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