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    HomeOral HealthIcelandic Christmas folklore is horrifying

    Icelandic Christmas folklore is horrifying

    A sculpture of Grýla and her son Yule lad Skyrgámur at Keflavik International Airport

    My condolences to the kids of Iceland. Whereas many Christmas celebrations world wide are full of stories of consolation, pleasure and runaway consumerism, for younger Icelanders it’s a time of terror, the place you’ve gotten the prospect to flee together with your life… or a potato. At the least, that appears to be the case in accordance with this fascinating spooky folklore.

    Let’s begin with Grýla, a large half-troll, half-animal creature that lives within the Dimmuburgir Mountains and comes down at Christmas to search for naughty kids to abduct. When she brings them residence, she boils them alive in her cauldron for a sizzling stew for her and her third husband, Leppalúði, that lasts till the next winter. Apparently, Icelandic kids are genuinely afraid of Grýla; depictions of the ogress might be noticed all around the nation, though at instances she seems to be extra like an enormous, gnarled previous girl than a beast. Nevertheless, in accordance with the Icelandic legends collected by Jón Arnasenprinted in English in 1864, here’s a description that signifies why it evokes actual concern:

    “Grýla had 300 heads, six eyes in every head, along with two furious, ghostly blue eyes on the again of every neck. She had goat horns, and her ears have been so lengthy that they hung right down to her shoulders at one finish, and on the different met the ends of her 300 noses. On every brow was a tuft of hair, and on every chin a matted and soiled beard. His enamel have been like burnt lava. To every factor she had tied a bag wherein she carried the naughty kids and she or he had, as well as, hooves like a horse. Apart from all this, she had fifteen tails, and on every tail 100 luggage of pores and skin, every of which might maintain twenty kids.

    Which means that Grýla catches as much as 2,000 naughty kids without delay, indicating both that she’s a splendidly environment friendly kidnapper, or that Iceland has an unfathomable naughtiness downside. As a reminder, the official tourism website as Iceland softens Grýla’s picture by saying that it “can solely seize misbehaving kids, however those that repent should be let loose”, however I can not discover every other supply to again this up.

    Fortuitously, Grýla managed to search out love – effectively, marriage, a minimum of – thrice. The primary two have been known as Gustur and Boli; legends fluctuate as to whether or not they have been eaten, murdered, or died of previous age (and who died in what method). She is presently married to the troll Leppalúði, who lazes round of their cave whereas Grýla does all of the work of kidnapping and cooking the kids. However they certain have chemistry! The couple have 33 kids, 13 of whom are collectively referred to as the “Yuletide Lads”.

    The Yuletide Lads aren’t murderers, thank goodness, however they’re scary. For every of the 13 days earlier than Christmas, one among these brothers involves folks’s houses and does one thing uniquely disagreeable. Based on Travel to Icelandin addition they have very evocative names. They’re…


    1) Mutton Clod (Stekkjastaur)

    When he arrived on December 12, he would discover the ewes and drink the milk immediately from their teats.

    2) Gully Gawk (Giljagaur)

    On December 13, previous Giljagaur was ready “for an opportunity to sneak into the barn to suck up the froth from the contemporary milk when the milkmaid seems to be away.” Iceland Journey’s phrases, not mine.

    3) Stubby (Stúfur)

    Fortunately, not all of them are milk perverts. Stúfur simply desires the frying pan scrapings when he involves city on December 14.

    4) Spoon-licker (Þvörusleikir)

    Many Yuletide Lads like to wash the dishes manually. You possibly can most likely guess what previous Þvörusleikir is doing on December fifteenth.

    5) Pot Scraper (Pottasleikir)

    Ditto, however for December 16.

    6) Bowl Lick (Askasleikir)

    These guys could appear benign, however they go away you with troll spit in all places. Both manner, the bowls get licked on December seventeenth.

    7) Door slamming (Hurðaskellir)

    Your cookware and utensils develop into protected on December 18, when Hurðaskellir comes by to obnoxiously slam doorways in the course of the night time.

    8) Gobbler Skyr (Skyrgamur)

    Doorways slammed, the Yuletide Lads flip their consideration to meals. On December 19, Skyr Gobbler steals the skyan Icelandic dairy product associated to yoghurt.

    9) Sausage Scraper (Bjúgnakrækir)

    Fairly self-explanatory and sure, it is approaching December twentieth. Nevertheless, he is hiding within the rafters of your home ready to swipe these sausages, which appears unnecessarily creepy.

    10) Window Peeper (Gluggagægir)

    Regardless of the English connotations of the phrase ‘peeper’, previous Gluggagægir is simply wanting within the home windows for stuff to steal on December 21. In case you stood bare in entrance of your window, it is your fault.

    11) Door Sniffer (Gáttaþefur)

    By far essentially the most upsetting Yuletide Lad on this checklist, Gáttaþefur is definitely some of the benign – he respectively stays out until he involves your door and smells like Christmas cookies on December 22.

    12) Meat hook (Kjetkrókur)

    And we’re again to stealing meat! On December 23, Gáttaþefur heads on your tower and lowers a hook into your chimney, hoping to catch meat hanging from the rafters or cook dinner over the hearth.

    13) Candlelight Beggar (Kertasníkir)

    Lastly, Christmas Eve sees the arrival of Kertasníkir, who, oddly, desires to get out of the candles a bit.


    Regardless of their specific fetishes, the Yuletide Lads will go away a small deal with for kids who go away their sneakers on windowsills, if they have been good-natured. If they have been naughty, they get a Rotten Potato, although they’re going to most likely be killed and eaten by Grýla earlier than they’ve an opportunity to search out her.

    However Grýla is not the one killer stalking Iceland this Christmas. Grýla has a cat named Jolakötturinn, Yuletide’s cat, who’s black as night time and towers over homes, and has a really distinctive urge for food. It’s stated to roam the city and can eat anybody, not simply kids, who doesn’t obtain an merchandise of clothes for Christmas. Whereas Yuletide Cat folklore dates again centuries, it was made well-known in Iceland in 1932 by Jóhannes úr Kötlum, who wrote a poem about it. This was then set to music, which was recorded nonetheless later by tIcelandic pop star Bjork. Here is a few of what appears to be the preferred, albeit fairly literal, Translation poem on-line:

    If outdoors we heard a faint “meow”

    Then unhealthy luck was certain to occur

    Everybody knew he hunted males

    And I did not need no mice

    He adopted the poor

    Who didn’t obtain new garments

    Near Christmas – and tried and lived

    Within the worst situations

    From them he took on the similar time

    All their Christmas dishes

    And ate them themselves

    If he might

    The ladies competed

    To shake and sow and spin

    And knit colourful garments

    Or just a little sock

    Brutal, huh? Properly, the silver lining is that Yuletide’s Cat isn’t just a ruthless killer of the poor, however a grim reminder to present to these in want…so they will not be murdered by a cat. The poem continues:

    If it nonetheless exists I do not know

    However for nothing could be his journey

    If everybody obtained subsequent Christmas

    A brand new rag

    You would possibly need to maintain this in thoughts

    To assist when wanted

    ‘Trigger someplace there may be kids

    Who will get nothing in any respect

    Possibly on the lookout for those that endure

    From the dearth of ample gentle

    Gives you a contented season

    And Merry Christmas

    Merry Christmas to everybody! And sorry, Iceland.


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