The Yule Lads
Johannes Ur Kotlum also immortalized another Icelandic Yuletide legend: that of the Jolasveinarnir or The Yule Lads. Following tradition, his 1932 poem, poem Jolin Koma, “or Christmas is Coming’, depicts the Yule Lads as the offspring of the mountain trolls Gryla and Lappaluoi. Their mother, Gyra was herself especially unpleasant. She sported hooves for feet, possessed thirteen tails, and had a particular liking for stewed children- especially at Christmas.
In the original legends, her thirteen sons were little better. Each had a particular personality- ranging from the mischievous, unpleasant to the downright psychotic. Every Christmas for thirteen days, one lad a day would leave their mountain cave to descend on the world of humans and create their kind of Christmas havoc. These days either fell before December 25 or after, depending on varying traditions.
First came Stekkjarstaur, who harassed the sheep. Gilijagaur, who hide in gullies, waiting for an opportunity to sneak into the cowshed and steal milk, followed him. Stufer, who was next, entered houses and took the food. Pvorusleikir, the spoon thief, followed him and then Pottaskefill who stole the leftovers from pots. Next came Askasleikir, who hid under the beds to steal from and frighten anyone sleeping. Huroaskellir was next, disturbing households with his nocturnal door slamming.
Skyrgamus and Bjugnakrakir were less noisy but just as disturbing to their human victims. Then, the nosy Gluggagaegir arrived, to terrify people by peering at them from the outside of their windows. The doors were attacked the next night by Gattaperfur, followed by Ketkrokur and his meat hook and finally Kertasnikir who stalked children in the dark.
Today, this merry band of mischief-making brothers has become much more cuddly. Swapping their medieval garments from cherry red Father Christmas suits, they have been transformed into the Icelandic version of Santa Claus and his Elves combined. Instead of appearing one by one, to rob, terrorize and intimidate humanity, they all team up to visit the homes of children, placing gifts in their shoes, which are set expectantly on windowsills on Christmas Eve. For good children, there will be presents. However, some of the Yule Lads’ ancient mischief is not entirely lost. For the bad ones can expect only a rotten potato or some similarly unpleasant surprise.