Robin Goodfellow (Tomten)

The Christmas poem Robin Goodfellow (Tomten) by Viktor Rydberg.


History and facts about Robin Goodfellow.

  • Robin Goodfellow is an English version of the Swedish Christmas poem Tomten.
  • Tomten is written by Viktor Rydberg (1828 – 1895) and was first published in 1881.
  • The translation of Tomten to Robin Goodfellow was made by Anna Krook (1850 – 1926).
  • Robin Goodfellow is a creature known from English mythology.
  • William Shakespeare based the character Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck, in the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream on this creature.


Lyrics to the Christmas poem Robin Goodfellow (Tomten) by Viktor Rydberg (translation by Anna Krook).

Midwinter’s nightly frost is hard —
Brightly the stars are beaming;
Fast asleep is the lonely Yard,
All, at midnight, are dreaming.
Clear is the moon, and the snow-drifts shine,
Glistening white, on fir and pine,
Covers on rooflets making.
None but Robin is waking.

Grey, he stands by the byre-door,
Grey, in the snow appearing;
Looks, as ever he did before,
Up, at the moonlight peering;
Looks at the wood, where the pine and fir
Stand round the farm, and never stir;
Broods on an unavailing
Riddle, forever failing;

Runs his hand through his hair and beard —
Gravely, his head a-shaking —
»Harder riddle I never heard,
Vainly, my head I’m breaking.» —
Chasing, then, as his wont for aye,
Such unsolvable things away,
Robin trips, without hustling,
Now, about duty bustling.

Goes to the larder and tool-house fine,
Every padlock trying —
See! by moonlight, in stalls, the kine,
Dreaming of summer, are lying;
Heedless of harness and whip and team,
Pollë, stabled, has, too, a dream:
Manger and crib, all over,
Fill with sweet-smelling clover.

Robin goes to the lambs and sheep —
See! they are all a-dreaming!
Goes to the hens, where the cock will sleep,
Perched, with vanity teeming;
Karo, in kennel, so brave and hale,
Wakes up and gladly wags his tail;
Karo, he knows his brother-
Watchman, they love each other.

Lastly, Robin will steal to see
The masterfolks, loved so dearly;
Long have they liked his industry,
Now, they honour him, clearly;
Stealing on tiptoe, soon he nears
Nursery cots, the little dears;
None must grudge him the pleasure;
This is his greatest treasure.

Thus he has seen them, sire and son,
Endless numbers of races;
Whence are they coming, one by one,
All the slumbering faces?
Mortals succeeding mortals, there,
Flourished, and aged, and went — but where?
Oh, this riddle, revolving,
He will never cease solving!

Robin goes to the hay-shed loft,
There, is his haunt and hollow,
Deep in the sweet-smelling hay, aloft,
Near the nest of the swallow;
Empty, now, is the swallow’s nest,
But when spring is in blossom drest,
She for home will be yearning,
Will, with her mate, be returning.

Then she’ll twitter, and sing, and chat
Much of her airy travel,
Nothing, though, of the riddle that
Robin can never unravel.
Through a chink in the hay-shed wall,
Lustrous moonbeams on Robin fall,
There, on his beard, they’re blinking,
Robin’s brooding and thinking.

Mute is the wold, is nature all,
Life is so frozen and dreary;
From afar, but the rapids’ call,
Murmuring, sounds so weary.
Robin listens, half in a dream,
Fancies he hears the vital stream,
Wonders whither it’s going,
Whence its waters are flowing.

Midwinter’s nightly frost is hard —
Brightly the stars are beaming.
Fast asleep is the lonely Yard,
All till morn will be dreaming.
Faint is the moon; and the snow-drifts shine,
Glistening white on fir and pine,
Covers on rooflets making.
None but Robin is waking.