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Monday Monster: the Huldra

Monday Monster: the Huldra

Tiveden, Sweden (WKQ News Europe): We’re here in Tiveden National Park to report on a sudden spate of hunting accidents plaguing the area. Game is scarce, but accidents and avalanches are more than plentiful. Some people claim that ‘troll women’ haunt these forests, driving off game and sabotaging hunters. Local legends tell of handsome girls with animal tails and backs covered in bark, ready to mislead travellers and bring down curses.

Long-time Tiveden resident Toke Ormson recently sold both his guns and his hunting business, blaming these creatures for destroying his livelihood: “I’ve been kissed by a Huldra,” he claimed. “She blew down the barrel of my rifle and now I cannot hit the broad side of a barn. I’m ruined!” [More…]

In ancient times the country folk of northern Europe often dealt with the huldra, a race of female spirits also known as trollwives. They were enemies of the gods, spouses to monsters, and fierce protectors of the deep forest, but also kind to men who treated them well. Some even became their wives, though only a good man could keep a trollwife for long. Huldra tolerated no misbehavior from their husbands, and made them pay dearly for foolishness: A Swedish braggart was beaten so badly by the Huldra he courted that he became addled in his mind and never recovered.

Plain-Faced Queens of the Wilderness
Huldra may have something in common with the more southerly nymphs, but while the latter are famed for their classical beauty and willowy frame, the huldra seem to have the robust outdoor physique of peasant stock. They typically look like a handsome shepherdess or farm girl, and there’s little to reveal their fey nature at first glance. Observant travellers can spot them by their short tails, which resemble those of a cow or fox. Huldra also have bark running down their backs, and occasionally give themselves away by showing their prodigious strength – for trollwives can straighten out a horseshoe with their bare hands.

Huldra consider themselves nobility, queens of the widlerness and ally of giants, trolls, and other monsters against the gods. Thor and Odin are their chief enemies, for these gods are forever warring with the huldras’ neighbors. They also frustrate mortals who delve too deeply into the wilderness, delighting in luring travellers astray. Their breath blowing over a hunter’s weapons curses the hunter and his weapons to miss their target.

Despite a vengeful streak, huldra may be helpful if shown kindness and respect. A courteous fisherman might earn a blessing on his rod and line, and wise farmers and miners who sacrifice to the huldra can count on them to watch over their work. Huldra seduce and kidnap young men, and the offspring of such unions are typically strong but monstrously ugly creatures. They steal human children and leave these changelings (called huldrebarn) in their place.

Very rarely a virtuous man can persuade a huldra to forsake the forest and become his wife. When married the huldra’s tail and back of bark disappear (along with most of their powers), but return if the huldra and her lover become estranged. This happens frequently, as huldra love deeply but are notorious for setting down exacting conditions for their marriage. Most huldra make their marital displeasure known with a curse and sound beating, before returning to the wilderness.

In Your Modern Game
The spiritual home of the huldra is the province of Lardal in Norway, which proudly bears a huldra on its coat of arms. From here the trollwives spread across the northern Europe and are common as far west as Iceland and as far east as Siberia. A few even accompanied their lovers off to ancient Vinland, and this is how the trollwives first came to America.

In the modern age, huldra clash with loggers, strip mining companies, and land developers as well as hunters, and Scandinavian governments seem unwilling to put a stop to their antics. Respect for the Huldra is such that Nordic work crews may divert roads and building projects around glens thought to be home to trollwives. Modern adventurers could find themselves hired to negotiate terms with the huldra so that building can go ahead, while less scrupulous employers might pay to have the trollwives removed by rougher means.

The modern mass media and the cult of celebrity can reach even the magical wilds, and more than one huldra has been seduced by the image of a movie star or music idol. Unfortunate celebrities might find themselves stalked by one or more huldra, and pursued by the vengeful monstrous husbands they’ve abandoned. Adventurers might be asked to protect the star from unwanted advances and return the reluctant trollwives to their spouses.

Campaigns without magic can use the huldra legend. Investigating rumors of ‘fey spirits’ the PCs might discover a family of feral humans living in the wilderness, remnants of the Neanderthal race that has survived untold millennia thanks to the superstitious reverence of locals.

In Your Fantasy Game
The brawny huldra will surprise adventurers familiar only with only their gentler cousin, the nymph. Both are fey spirits and defenders of the wild, but while nymphs embody beauty and use nature magic, the huldra are wild women warriors who protect their sacred glades and monstrous husbands with formidable might.

Because they can pass as human, huldra are sometimes spies and emissaries between the monsters of the wild and the standard races. They know that humans, elves, and dwarves all make war on the monsters they call kin, and often try to prevent mortals from reaching them. They are especially unfriendly to clerics whose patron gods preach war against the monster races or encourage mortals to forsake the druidic religion. They’re rightly wary of adventurers.

The huldra detailed below is the same challenge rating as a regular nymph, and can be substituted for them in encounters with little difficulty. A band of five huldra is Encounter Level 12, but a huldra might also act as herald for a young green dragon (EL 8 encounter) or gossiping in a glade with a nymph and a dryad (EL 9). A huldra and her hill giant husband, their three ogre ‘children’ and a dire wolf pet is EL10.

Huldra (‘trollwife’)

Medium Fey
Init +2; Senses Low-Light Vision; Listen +2, Spot +2

DEFENSE
Defense 19, touch 15, flat-footed 17 (+2 Dex, +2 Wis, +1 Monk, +4 natural)
hp 33 (6d6+12)
Fort +4, Ref +7, Will +7
Massive Damage 15
DR 10/cold iron
+2 Saves v enchantment
+4 Saves v some Fort checks (Endurance)

OFFENSE
Spd 50 ft., Climb 40ft
Melee Unarmed Strike +8 (1d8+5) or
       Flurry of Blows +6/+6 (1d6+5)
Special Attacks Bestow Curse

TACTICS
Before Combat Huldra typically approach in stealth, moving through the tree tops or using their Back of Bark to remain hidden.
During Combat Huldra favour westling and brawling, and improvised weapons like stones and tree branches.
Morale If badly injured the huldra retreats, using its Back of Bark ability to hide from pursuit.

STATISTICS
Str 20, Dex 14, Con 15, Int 10, Wis 15, Cha 16
Base Atk +3; Grp +8
AP 0; Rep 0
Feats Deflect ArrowsB, Dodge, Endurance, Improved DisarmB, Improved GrappleB, Mobility.

Skills Climb +20, Diplomacy +5, Disguise +5, Handle Animal +12, Intimidate +8, Jump +14, Knowledge (Nature) +9, Sense Motive +7, Survival +8 (+10 above ground), Swim +7

SQ Back of Bark, Monk Abilities, Wild Empathy

SPECIAL ABILITIES
Spell-like abilities 3/day – bestow curse, 1/day – tree stride.

Back of Bark (Su): The Huldra’s bark-covered back gives it the power to assume Tree Shape as a Move action. To use this ability the Huldra must turn its back on any non-fey that can see it.

Huldra Blessing (su): once per day the huldra can bless a target within 30 feet, granting them a +4 bonus to a particular skill or attribute check for 24 hours.

Natural Brawn (ex): A huldra’s feyborn athleticism grants it the abilities of a 7th level Monk. Bonus Feats typically selected are Improved Grapple, Deflect Arrows, and Improved Disarm.

Wild Empathy (Ex): This power works like the druid’s Wild Empathy class feature, except that a huldra has a +6 racial bonus to this check. Synergy bonus from Handle Animal grants an additional bonus, for a total of +8.

Skills: Huldra have a +8 racial bonus to Climb checks. They can always choose to take 10 on a Climb check, even if distracted or endangered.

ECOLOGY
Environment Northern Mountains and Forests
Organization Solitary or Band (3-5)
Treasure Standard
Alignment Usually Chaotic Neutral
Advancement 7-12 HD (medium)
Level Adjustment +7

Huldra Maiden (4th Edition)

Huldra are playful but fierce defenders of wild places and fey domains. Haughty and proud, they tolerate few non-fey in their lands.

HULDRA LORE
A character knows the following with a successful Arcana check:
DC 15: Huldra are fey guardians of the forest who take the form of handsome women with bark on their backs and animal tails. Many huldra are the wives of monstrous humanoids such as giants. They are fearsomely strong, but favor hit and run tactics.
DC 17: Huldra are occasionally helpful to polite and respectful travellers. They’ve been known to fall in love with worthy mortals.
DC 20: Huldra can lay a curse on opponents, and sometimes transform into trees to escape their enemies. They can teleport short distances in woodland. 

Huldra Maiden Level 10 Skirmisher

Medium Fey Humanoid XP 500

Initiative +9 Senses Perception +12; low-light vision
HP 107; Bloodied 53, also see Back of Bark
AC 24; Fortitude 24, Reflex 20, Will 22
Speed 7, also see Treestride

Melee: Mighty Blow (standard; at-will)
+15 vs. AC; 2d6 + 6 damage.

Ranged: Boulder Pitch (standard; recharge 456) * Weapon
Ranged 8/16; +15 vs. AC; 3d8 + 6 damage and target is pushed 1 square and dazed until the end of the huldra’s next turn.

Huldra’s Kiss (minor; encounter) * Charm
Close Blast 3; +11 vs. Will. Targets take a -5 penalty to attack and skill rolls (save ends).

Treestride (move; at will) * Teleportation
A huldra can teleport 8 squares if it begins and ends adjacent to a tree, treant, or plant of Large size or greater.

Back of Bark (immediate; when bloodied; encounter) * Illusion
Immediately after using its Treeside ability, the Huldra cloaks itself in the illusion of a tree. It can make a Stealth check to hide with a +20 bonus.

Alignment Unaligned Languages Common, Elven
Skills Athletics +16, Nature +12, Stealth +12

Str 22 (+11) Dex 15 (+7) Wis 14 (+7)
Con 19 (+9) Int 12 (+6) Cha 18 (+9)

HULDRA TACTICS
Huldra prefer to attack in woodland, moving to flank enemies via their Treestride ability and looking for rocks or branches to throw with their Boulder Pitch attack.

They frequently perch in high branches to stay out of the reach of foes. Bloodied huldra retreat and hide using their Back of Bark ability, pursuing enemies again once healed. 

ENCOUNTER GROUPS
Huldra are normally encountered with monstrous humanoids (often their lovers) and other fey creatures. 

Level 10 Encounter (XP 2400)
– Huldra Maiden (lvl 10 skirmisher)
– Eladrin Fey Knight (lvl 7 soldier)
– 4 Quicklings (lvl 9 skirmishers)

Level 11 Encounter (XP 2800)
– Ettin Spirit Talker (lvl 12 elite controller)
– 2 Huldra Maidens (lvl 10 skirmisher)
– Shambling Mound (lvl 9 brute)

Level 12 Encounter (XP 3600)
– 6 Huldra Maidens (lvl 10 skirmishers)
– 2 Daggerthorn Briers (lvl 7 obstacles)

Ever met a huldra at a convention? Want to tell us about it? Visit the Forum!

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