• Into the Rabbit Hole

Ep 28: The Yule Boys

An Icelandic tradition where children are visited for 13 nights by the Yule Lads, merry but mischievous creatures. Kids leave one of their shoes on the windowsill and if you’ve been good you get candy, but if you’ve been bad you get rotting potatoes.

Each of the Yule Lads have their own personalities.

(Stekkjarstaur) Sheep-Cote Clod: harasses sheep, but is impaired by his peg-legs

(Giljagaur) Gully Gawk: he steals milk from the cowshed

(Stúfur) Stubby: He’s very short and steals food from frying pans

(Þvörusleikir) Spoon Licker: he licks spoons. Is malnourished, very thin

(Pottaskefill) Pot Scraper aka Pot Licker: he steals unwashed pots and licks them clean

(Askasleikir) Bowl Licker: he steals bowls of food from under the bed (it used to be common to keep food there)

(Hurðaskellir) Door Slammer: he stomps around and slams doors keeping everyone awake

(Skyrgámur) Skyr Gobbler: he eats all the Icelandic yogurt (called skyr)

(Bjúgnakrækir) Sausage Swiper: he snatches up any meat left out, especially lamb

(Gluggagægir) Window peeper: hangs out by windows looking for things to steal

(Gáttaþefur) Door sniffer: he has a huge nose and an insatiable appetite for stolen baked goods

(Kertasníkir) Candle Beggar: he steals candles

The first mention of the yule lads can be found in the 17th century poem called Poem of Gryla. Gryla is a giantess with an appetite for the flesh of mischievous children who she cooks in a large pot. She is also the mother to the Yule Lads. This poem was the first time that the story of Gryla had been associated with Christmas.

She is described as a hideous giant who walks around asking parents for their disobedient children. She can be thwarted by giving her food or chasing her away.

Originally she lived in a small cottage, but later adaptations have her living in a faraway cave.

From her cave she has the ability to detect misbehaving children at any time of the year, but during Christmas time she leaves the mountains to search the nearby towns for her next meal. She lurks in the towns until she finds naughty children and then takes them home in a giant sack where she cooks them in a big pot. Supposedly she has an insatiable appetite, but according to legend there is never a shortage of food.

She has been married three times. Her 3rd and current husband is Leppaludi. He’s kind of a lazy homebody. He just hangs out in their cave with their yule cat and their sons.

The Yule Cat is no ordinary cat. It is a huge and vicious cat who lurks about the snowy countryside during Christmas and eats people who have not received any new clothes to wear in the past year.

At first, the Yule Lads were used as a disciplinary tool to frighten children into good behavior, much like the boogeyman. The Yule Lads ranged from pranksters to monsters who eat children.

Eventually, the King of Denmark decreed that the yule lads could no longer be used as a parenting tool to scare their children.

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