Tag Archives: Tricksters



Informant: So Russefeiring is a celebration of graduates from high school… I guess high school, sort of… The age is kind of in between high school and college I think, ‘cause most of them are 18 or 19. Um, but, you know, they’re ending a three-year academic education. And so they celebrate in the week before Independence Day, where they, um…  They wear these special suits or coats through that whole time that they decorate and draw on and have their friends sign them and all kinds of crafty stuff. And then they have graduation hats that have this long string coming down. And during this week they have all these obstacle things that they have to do, and everything that they do gives them a little, kind of… Treat, or an award that they tie onto their hats. So let’s say you kiss the president of a school, then you get a knot in the string on your hat… And then if you drink a whole bottle of champagne in one, big gulp, um… Then you get a champagne uh–what’s it called…? The cork. And you tie that onto the string or into the hat… Like silly things, you know?

Interviewer: Can you talk a little bit about the different colors of the uniforms? 

Informant: Yeah so if you went to the schools where you, um, studied economy and finance… Then you were called blåruss… Like “blue russ,” and your hat’s blue. If you were into the STEM subjects, then your hat is red. And traditionally, if you… Went to a school that wasn’t strictly academic, like a trade school, then your hat would be black… I think you can study language, like Norwegian, at both schools, so it just depends on what school you went to.

Interviewer: Can you talk about the bus culture? 

Informant: So their last year, the year that they graduate, the students start early planning for their graduation and for this one week. So a lot of kids will get together and they will purchase a bus and then they will decorate the bus… It’s kind of a van more than a bus though. I would call it a van… And they will decorate it on the outside. They will usually ask a younger student who is not graduating if they will be willing to drive them around for that week.

Interviewer: And can you talk a bit about the drinking culture during that final week?

Informant: During that week the school knows this is happening. I mean, you still have to go to class, but people don’t take it that seriously. Because once Indepence Day has happened, everyone is studying. ‘Cause all the exams are after Independence Day. So before that it’s not really taken seriously. People are probably drunk in class. You don’t really go home that week… You sleep on the bus. You sleep wherever. You go home to shower every once in a while. Maybe. 


Informant: Our bus was both boys and girls… And I would imagine there were around ten of us, I think… You know, cause it costs money. We had to buy the bus and it costs money to fix it up a little bit… We didn’t have group names or get pins. I think a lot of people do now, but we didn’t.

Interviewer: Did you ever hear about your parents’ Russefeiring?

Informant: No, ‘cause none of them went to school like I did, you know? My mom didn’t go to that kind of school. And my dad, back then, he went to a sort of trade school, and he was much older when he did that. So they didn’t celebrate that way. Cause none of my parents were academic.


Russefeiring is a celebration, commemorating the end of the students’ studies. It is also a rite of passage into adulthood. During this one week, debauchery and mischief are encouraged. The students become trickster figures, of a sort, as they act impulsively, break rules, and emphasize humor and fun above all. The students are in a liminal place, on the threshold between adolescence and adulthood, as they are not quite students any longer, but also have not yet graduated. They are unstable figures, as demonstrated by the mischief they enact. Russefeiring also seems to be a sort of catharsis before final exams. One might even consider it a catharsis preceding adulthood. Once they have graduated, they must find jobs or dive more seriously into their studies at professional schools (ex. medical school). Russefeiring is one last teenage-hurrah; it is a week of instability before the students have to become stable adults.


Further reading:

Sande, Allan. “The Norwegian ‘russefeiring’. The Use of Alcohol as a Ritual in the ‘rite of Passage’ to Adulthood.” Nordisk Alkohol- & Narkotikatidskrift : NAT, vol. 17, no. 5-6, SAGE Publications, 2000, pp. 340–54, doi:10.1177/1455072500017005-603.


The informant is a fellow student and a good friend. While going out for smoothies, she shared her Filipino culture with me.


Informant: “Basically, what it is, it’s like a troll, that is kind of mischievous or it’s nice. And they’re like really short… Kind of dwarf-looking creatures. They’re mischievous in the fact that… My grandma told me that they kind of like steal  your property. Or not steal it, but take your property and wait for you to find it, and they won’t give it back to you until they feel like it. That’s how they’re mischievous.”

Me: “But they’re not dangerous?”

Informant: “They’re not dangerous, no. They’re just kind of mischievous. And then like, to make… A lot of people in the Philippines, they want to make sure that those Duwende are pleased, so they’ll leave food out in their yard and stuff, so that they’re pleased and stuff like that. Basically, the number one thing is that you don’t want to piss them off, or else they will do more mischievous stuff to you.”

Me: “A lot of pranks and things?”

Informant: “Yeah, a lot of pranks. They’re definitely not bad-bad, but they’re pretty, like, like kids. They’re childish.”

Me: “And are they called The Duwende? Or-”

Informant: “Just Duwende.”

Me: “Oh ok, so it’s kind of like their name. And they’re teeny people?”

Informant: “Yeah, they’re tiny.”

Me: “Sounds kind of like the Menehune in Hawaii.”

Informant: “Yeah! Well I don’t know, I’ve heard of it, but…”

Me: “Tricksters?”

Informant: “Yeah, tricksters. Definitely!”

Background & Analysis

The informant’s grandma had told her this legend/superstition, and she is from the Philippines although currently lives in America. The grandma learned this from her own family, and while the informant doesn’t know whether or not her grandma had ever encountered the Duwende, the grandma knows of people who have run into these creatures a long time ago, before her own time. From what the informant understands, the Duwende are specific to the Philippines, but can be found on multiple islands. On Visaya, there is supposedly a larger population of Duwende, but she is not sure why because she isn’t Visayan. The informant is also unsure how popular this legend is in the area that her family is from, which is Ilocos. The lessons to be taken away from this legend would be to have patience, be nice, and do good deeds which will ultimately be rewarded.

As I mentioned in the interview, the Duwende sound a lot like the trickster version of the Menehune in Hawaii. Normally, they are characterized as mischievous and taunting, but if you get on their wrong side, they can be dangerous. Since both Hawaii and the Philippines are archipelagos, it makes one wonder whether Menehune and Duwende have similar origins.

*For another version of this legend, see <http://www.bakitwhy.com/articles/supernatural-series-duwende>