Icelandic Christmas Folklore Is Horrifying

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

My condolences to the youngsters of Iceland. Whereas many Christmas celebrations all over the world are filled with tidings of consolation, pleasure, and rampant consumerism, for younger Icelanders it’s a time of terror, the place you’re fortunate to flee together with your life… or a potato. At the least, that appears to be the case in keeping with this fascinatingly scary folklore.

Let’s start with Grýla, an enormous part-troll, part-animal creature who lives within the Dimmuburgir mountains and comes down at Christmas to search for naughty youngsters to abduct. When she will get them dwelling, she boils them alive in her cauldron for a piping scorching stew for herself and her third husband, Leppalúði, which lasts till the next winter. Apparently, Icelandic youngsters are genuinely scared of Grýla; depictions of the ogress could be noticed all through the nation, though generally she appears extra like an enormous, gnarled outdated lady than a beast. Nevertheless, in keeping with the Icelandic Legends collected by Jón Arnasen, printed in English in 1864, right here’s an outline that signifies why she encourage real worry:

“Grýla had 300 heads, six eyes in every head, in addition to two furious and ghostly blue eyes behind every neck. She had goat’s horns, and her ears had been as long as to hold all the way down to her shoulders at one finish, and on the different to hitch the ends of her 300 noses. On every brow was a tuft of hair, and on every chin a tangled and filthy beard. Her tooth had been like burnt lava. To every factor she had certain a sack through which she used to hold naughty youngsters and she or he had, furthermore, hoofs like a horse. Apart from all this, she had fifteen tails, and on every tail 100 luggage of pores and skin, each one among which luggage would maintain twenty youngsters.”

Which means Grýla is grabbing as much as 2,000 naughty youngsters at a go, which both signifies she’s a marvelously environment friendly kidnapper or Iceland has an unfathomably terrible naughtiness drawback. For the document, the official tourism web site for Iceland softens Grýla’s picture by saying she “can solely seize youngsters who misbehave however those that repent should be launched,” however I can’t discover one other supply to again that up.

Fortunately, Grýla managed to seek out love—nicely, matrimony, no less than—on three separate events. The primary two had been named Gustur and Boli; legends range as to whether or not they had been eaten, murdered, or died of outdated age (and who died through which method). She’s presently married to the troll Leppalúði, who lazes about of their cave whereas Grýla does all of the work of kidnapping and cooking youngsters. However they definitely have chemistry! The couple has 33 youngsters, 13 of that are collectively referred to as the “Yuletide Lads.”

The Yuletide Lads aren’t murderers, thank goodness, however they’re creepy. For every of the 13 days main as much as Christmas, one among these brothers involves folks’s homes and does one thing uniquely disagreeable. In response to Iceland Journey, additionally they have very evocative names. They’re…

1) Sheep-Cote Clod (Stekkjastaur)

Arriving December 12, he would discover the ewes and drink the milk instantly from their teats.

2) Gully Gawk (Giljagaur)

On December 13, outdated Giljagaur would wait “for an opportunity to sneak into the cowshed to slurp the froth off the contemporary milk when the milkmaid appears away.” Iceland Journey’s phrases, not mine.

3) Stubby (Stúfur)

Fortunately, they’re not all milk perverts. Stúfur simply needs the scrapings off frying pans when he involves city on December 14.

4) Spoon Licker (Þvörusleikir)

Plenty of the Yuletide Lads take pleasure in manually cleansing dishware. You possibly can most likely guess what ol’ Þvörusleikir will get as much as on December 15.

5) Pot Scraper (Pottasleikir)

Ditto, however for December 16.

6) Bowl Licker (Askasleikir)

These guys might sound benign, however they do depart you with troll spit in every single place. Anyway, bowls get licked December 17.

7) Door Slammer (Hurðaskellir)

Your cookware and utensils change into secure on December 18, when Hurðaskellir pops by to obnoxiously slam doorways in the course of the night time.

8) Skyr Gobbler (Skyrgámur)

With the doorways slammed, the Yuletide Lads flip their consideration to meals. On December 19, Skyr Gobbler steals folks’s skyr, an Icelandic dairy product akin to yogurt.

9) Sausage Swiper (Bjúgnakrækir)

Somewhat self-explanatory and sure, he arrives December 20. Nevertheless, he hides in your own home’s rafters whereas ready to swipe these sausages, which appears unnecessarily creepy.

10) Window Peeper (Gluggagægir)

Regardless of the English connotations of the phrase “peeper,” ol’ Gluggagægir is simply trying in home windows for stuff to steal on December 21. For those who occurred to be standing in entrance of your window bare, that’s on you.

11) Door Sniffer (Gáttaþefur)

Simply probably the most upsettingly named Yuletide Lad on this listing, Gáttaþefur is definitely probably the most benign—he respectively stays outdoors until he involves your door and smells Christmas cookies on December 22.

12) Meat Hook (Kjetkrókur)

And we’re again to meat theft! On December 23, Gáttaþefur heads to your rook and lowers a hook down your chimney, hoping to snag any meat hanging from the rafters or cooking on the hearth.

13) Candle Beggar (Kertasníkir)

Lastly, Christmas Eve sees the arrival of Kertasníkir, who, weirdly, needs to take a bit out of candles.

Regardless of their specific fetishes, the Yuletide Lads will depart a small deal with for kids who depart their footwear out on windowsills—in the event that they’ve been good. In the event that they’ve been naughty, they get a rotting potato, though they’ll possible be killed and eaten by Grýla earlier than they get an opportunity to seek out it.

However Grýla isn’t the one killer who stalks Iceland at Christmas. Grýla has a cat named Jólakötturinn, the Yuletide Cat, who’s black as night time and towers over homes, and has a really distinctive urge for food. It’s stated he prowls the city and can eat anybody—not simply youngsters—who doesn’t obtain an merchandise of clothes for Christmas. Whereas the folklore of the Yuletide Cat stretches again centuries, it was made well-known in Iceland in 1932 by Jóhannes úr Kötlum, who wrote a poem about it. This was later set to music, which was recorded even later by the Icelandic pop star Bjork. Right here’s a part of what appears to be the preferred, albeit fairly literal, translation of the poem on the web:

If outdoors one heard a weak “meow”

Then unluck was positive to occur

All knew he hunted males

And didn’t need mice

He adopted the poorer folks

Who didn’t get any new clothes

Close to Christmas – and tried and lived

In poorest circumstances

From them he took on the similar time

All their Christmas meals

And ate them additionally themselves

If he may

Due to this fact the ladies competed

To rock and sow and spin

And knitted colourful garments

Or one little sock

Brutal, eh? Effectively, the silver lining is that the Yuletide Cat isn’t only a cruel killer of the impoverished, however a grim reminder to provide to these in want…so that they don’t get murdered by a cat. The poem continues:

If she nonetheless exists I don’t know

However for nothing could be his journey

If all people would get subsequent Christmas

Some new rag

It’s possible you’ll need to maintain it in thoughts

To assist if there’s want

For someplace there is perhaps youngsters

Who get nothing in any respect

Mayhaps that searching for those that endure

From lack of plentiful lights

Offers you a contented season

And Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everybody! And sorry, Iceland.

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