During the Christmas season, young Icelandic children are told creepy tales of the Yule Lads.
Folktales are a core part of any culture all over the world. Moral narratives and mythological epics have been shared from generation to generation and they have gone on to shape the identity of each community. Heading over to the frozen and rough habitat of Iceland, we can find that their folklore reflects the nature of their environment. That's right, you're not going to find something warm and fuzzy here, only a dose of scary tales that will give the Brothers Grimm fairytales a run for their money. Some of these folktales are told to Icelandic children every year, especially during the Christmas season where the youngest ones are introduced to the spooky tales of the Yule Lads.
December 12 marks the beginning of Christmas in Iceland: Every night before Christmas Eve, 1 out of 13 Yule Lads visits Icelandic homes to tease residents. Meet the pranksters with names such as “Door Slammer”, “Bowl Licker”, and the rest of the family: https://t.co/9BxqLBm79J pic.twitter.com/DagtOM4RVQ— Icelandair (@Icelandair) December 12, 2019
The Yule Lads are creatures who are accompanied by their mother Gryla and a demonic Yule cat. These 'lads' are said to be on the lookout for unlucky children to kidnap, cook alive, and eaten. The story of the Yule Lads have been modified with several iterations over the centuries and was eventually set in stone in a poem that is taught in Icelandic schools. However, the origin of these scary Christmas creatures was even darker. So much so that it had to be censored and banned altogether. When you hear about these morbid elfin lads, all your childhood nightmares will seem rather silly as these creatures are said to terrorize children in the days leading up to Christmas.
Grýla is an Icelandic giantess who lives in the mountains with three husbands, 72 children, and the Yule Cat, cooking and eating any children who disobey their parents. Later, she became mother of Trolls called the Yule Lads and a Christmas icon in Iceland. #FolkloreThursday pic.twitter.com/fovfcfGisP— Rick Palmer (@Misterimhotep) November 29, 2018
As the legend goes, the Yule Lads would visit children at night in the 13 days leading up to Christmas. They were a malevolent group where each had their own unique name and personality. Every one of these creatures performed a wicked task that was related to their specific trait and usually stole food and resources that were necessary for survival.
Among the lads, the ones named Stekkjarstaur, Giljaguar, and Stufur were all said to steal milk and farm animals. The one called Askasleikir allegedly licked up leftover food from pots, while Bjúgnakrækir took sausages, and Ketkrókur held a hook he used to steal meat. Hurðaskellir would come and slam doors at night, for the sole purpose of scaring sleeping children. Kertasníkir supposedly followed children to steal their candles and lanterns, leaving them alone in the dark.
📷 🕯🌟So much magick happening tonight! Where to start? Let’s start in Iceland where they are having HUGE bonfires dedicated to the Elves and Yule Lads. The Elf Bonfires are called Alfabrennur and according to the old myths, it’s one of the... https://t.co/PUHiYIvbDm— The Velvet Lotus (@Sejaleona) January 8, 2021
Elders teach the children that these Yule Lads were parented by two monsters named Gryla and Leppalúði, with the mother being particularly menacing. Gryla was said to be a troll with hooves for feet and thirteen tails. She lived in the mountains and would periodically come down into towns to hunt for "bad children". As the story goes, these children would be placed in a sack and dragged back to a hillside dwelling where they would be boiled alive and eaten in a stew. Considering that, having coal stuffed in your stocking by Santa doesn't seem so bad as punishment after all. But the story was so terrible that parents in Iceland were officially banned from telling their kids stories about the Yule Lads In 1746. The phenomenon isn't considered as scary as it did several hundred years ago, thanks to modernization and the advent of Santa Claus as a Christmas-time mascot.
Today the last of the 13 Yule Lads returns to their home in the north, making it the last day of Christmas 😩 pic.twitter.com/ESSZBdI4Sj— 🎇 Shy & Matti Ólafsson 🎇 (@AWriterlyPair) January 6, 2021