Jólasveinarnir – The yule lads

Yesterday night, something special occurred here in Iceland. I had put my shoes next to the window and I found a small gift  in them this morning! Stekkjastaur, one of the Jólasveinar, the Yule lads dropped by.

The 13 yule lads are figures from the Icelandic folklore with roots in the old pagan age, who in modern times have become the Icelandic version of Santa Claus. Their origine is unknown but one can link their story to dwarfs and elves.

So who are those lads? Legends tell us that they are the sons of Grýla, a troll woman dwelling in the mountains known to  eat children. A lot of them. Descriptions of her tell a lot about her love for humans, whipping tails, cloven hooves and bags full of *bad* children that she keeps for a surprise lunch break. Her name first appears on a 13th century manuscript as a troll.

And still nowadays, a friend of mine told me the story of his 10 years old daughter, asking him if it was safe to go out and play in the snow for she was afraid of Grýla coming down the mountains kidnapping her. My friend just answered that Grýla moved to Miami two years ago. So his daughter had a nice afternoon in the backyard.

With a mother like Grýla, you could easily imagine that her offsprings would make your Christmas miserable as well. Well, you’re kind of right.

Those lads stay with their mother all year long, and start leaving Grýla’s den on the 12th of December and start appearing at your place on the 12th. And will stay there for 12 days, so be prepare for some tricks happening for the next weeks.

So, yesterday, the first one came into town. All of them have a specific name which is connected to the trick they will do. Stekkjastaur, translated as Sheep-Cote Clod. He’s known to harass sheep but is impaired by his stiff peg-legs. Today, Giljagaur, Gully Gawk, will join his brother. Giljagaur is waiting outside for any opportunity to sneak in the cowshed and drink milk.

If you want to know what Giljagaur brought me, stay tuned for more tomorrow.

I’m a Swiss expat’ living in Iceland and exploring its possibilities. When i’m not busy guiding or advocating vacation in Iceland, i hang out in Reykjavik and drink coffee.

And yeah, i have met Bjork and the guys of Sigur Rós.

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  3. Janet Coppock

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  4. élise

    and then… tell me, what did you get in your shoe!?

    February 23rd, 2011 // Reply

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