Yuletide folklore would not be the same without Iceland’s 13 Yule lads & Grýla the Mountain Troll & the Yule Cat.
Yule Lads or (Icelandic: jólasveinarnir or jólasveinar) the countdown begins!
Hold the Ho ho ho! Santa Claus move over the 13 Icelandic Yule Lads are here to help bring joy and mischief to the children of Iceland 13 days before Christmas. The Icelandic Christmas period is an exciting mix of traditional folklore and religion.
The Yule lads visit children 13 nights leading up to Christmas instead of One large elf (Santa Claus) that visits on Christmas eve. The 13 Yule lads visit each night before Christmas.
In Iceland each child during those nights, place one of their shoes on the windowsill. The well behaved boys and girls, will leave candy from the Yule lads. The naughty children shoes that were placed out for the Yule Lads will be full of rotten potatoes. Yikes!
The Yule lads each have a different personality.
13 Yule Lads names:
1. Sheep-Cote Clod (AKA Stiffy Legs) – Dec. 12: This peg-legged lad sneaks into sheep pens and sucks the milk out of a family’s ewes.
2. Gully Gawk – Dec. 13: Gully Gawk loves milk too, but he steals the foam off of buckets of fresh milk.
3. Stubby – Dec. 14: The shortest Yule Lad, Stubby breaks into a family’s kitchen to lick the burned bits of food off of their pots and pans.
4. Spoon Licker – Dec. 15: As his name implies, this scrawny lad sneaks into kitchen after dinner is over and licks all of the family’s spoons.
5. Pot Licker – Dec. 16: Pot Licker is more aggressive than his spoon-loving brother. He knocks at the front door, then takes advantage of the household distraction to sneak in and help himself to the pots in the kitchen.
6. Bowl Licker – Dec. 17: This lad’s greatest desire is to steal your bowl of food.
7. Door Slammer – Dec. 18: He waits until the town is asleep, then runs around slamming doors for fun.
8. Skyr Gobbler – Dec. 19: Iceland has its own form of yogurt, which they call skyr. Skyr Gobbler is quite partial to it and enjoys stealing it from others
9. Sausage Swiper – Dec. 20: Also a food-stealing lad, this one will take all your sausage.
10. Window Peeper – Dec. 21: He sneaks around at night looking for open windows to gaze into.
11. Door Sniffer – Dec. 22: Always in search of bread, Door Sniffer uses his large nose to find it inside homes.
12. Meat Hook – Dec. 23: In his search for meat, this lad sends his long hook down chimneys to steal what he wants.
13. Candle Beggar – Dec. 24: December is quite dark in Iceland, and this lad makes it worse by stealing precious candles.
The Yule lads are the sons of the mountain trolls Grýla and her husband, Leppalúði. Grýla is a huge, horrifying troll. She has three hundred heads with six eyes on each one. She has two white blue eyes behind her necks. Her teeth looks like burnt lava. Her sacks are so large she can carry away with her 15 tails, 20 naughty childen per sack! Grýla was first mentioned in the 13th century Sturlunga Saga, also mentioned by Snorri Sturluson in the Háttatal section of the Snorra Edda by the 16th century became a type of bogeyman.
By the 20th century, Grýla’s characteristics had merged with Santa Claus. Her sacks are now filled with gifts for children, she hands out on Christmas day. Grýla and her sons the Yule lads accompany her with the Yule Cat.
The Yule Cat, a big feline according to Icelandic folklore, eats children who do not receive new clothes for Christmas.
Sources & References:
*“Jólakötturinn, Grýla og Leppalúði”. jolamjolk.is (in Icelandic). Iceland: Mjólkursamsalan (MS). Archived from the original.
*Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology and Magic by Claude Lecouteux.
*Illustrations and photo in Public domain.