One of the many things that inspires me about the Nordic region is the abundance of folklore that can be found here. It seems as though every forest is enchanted, every lake infested, every rock inhabited by little people, elves, trolls, witches and spirits. One of my favourite creatures is the Huldra. Also known as 'Skogsrå', 'Skogsfru', 'Skovfrue', the Huldra is a stunning woman of extraordinary beauty. She is often depicted with long, golden hair and is sometimes naked. In Norwegian folklore it is said that she can be identified as being one of these creatures by her cow's tail (the same is said in Sweden, although as a variation she is often said to have either a fox tail or a hollow back) and she is usually dressed much in the same, plain way as an ordinary farm girl and would probably go unnoticed if not for her striking features.
I have always heard of the darker side of the Huldra's temperament. In the legends that I have heard she is vengeful and bitter, often luring unwitting men into the forest only to kill them if they leave her unsatisfied. Upon marriage to a Christian man, her true self is shown, a hideously ugly being who often steals human babies from the villages in exchange for her own repulsive 'huldrebarn'. I was therefore initially surprised when I read about the more gentle side of the Huldra. In certain legends she is kind-hearted and sweet, a definite contrast to the versions that I have heard. However this is only if she is treated with respect; in one particularly dark tale she reacts to the betrayal of her husband by beating him about the ears with her tale, resulting in him becoming deaf and mad.
Most legends offer advice about how to avoid the Huldra, but my advice is simply this: if you come across a stunningly beautiful woman, wandering naked through the forest, make sure she doesn’t have a tail. She might be too good to be true :)
(pictures lovingly taken from here)