The 13 “Yule Lads”
The 13 “Yule Lads” Jólasveinar are the Icelandic equivalent of Santa (13 Santas). They are not much like Santa though, not at all.
They are the sons of two scary trolls who live in the mountains Grýla and Leppalúði. Grýla eats naughty children, she is first mentioned in the 13th-century compilation of Norse mythology, Prose Edda, but this post is about her sons.
They come to town, one by one, the first one comes 13 nights before Christmas. Back in the day, they came to play tricks on people, harass them and steal things.
Nowadays young children leave a shoe in their bedroom window sill. If they have been well behaved a Yule Lad will leave a little gift in the shoe. Naughty children will receive a potato.
WHO they are
Stekkjarstaur ‘Sheep-Cote Clod”
He harasses sheep but he’s impaired by his stiff peg-legs.
Giljagaur “Gully Gawk”
Hides in gullies, waiting for an opportunity to sneak into the cowshed and steal milk.
Abnormally short. Steals pans to eat the crust left on them.
Steals and licks wooden spoons. He is extremely thin due to malnutrition.
Steals leftovers from pots.
Hides under beds waiting for someone to put down their “askur” (a type of bowl with a lid used instead of dishes), which he then steals.
He likes to slam doors, especially during the night, waking people up.
A Yule Lad with a great affinity for skyr (similar to yogurt).
He hides in the rafters and snatches sausages that are being smoked.
A snoop who looks through windows in search of things to steal.
He has an abnormally large nose and an acute sense of smell which he uses to locate leaf bread (laufabrauð).
Uses a hook to steal meat.
Follows children in order to steal their candles (which were once made of tallow and thus edible).
Yule Lad list from Wikipedia
The Yule Lads were originally used to scare children. In 1746 a public decree was issued prohibiting Icelandic parents from using these stories to frighten their children into behaving.
In modern times, they have become a lot friendlier. They have mostly stopped stealing and harassing but are still known to pull pranks.
The images are by illustrator and author Brian Pilkington
Here are some Iceland Holidays for those who dare.