Iceland is sometimes described as having “13 Santa Clauses”, meaning the Yule Lads. This isn’t really an accurate description, although in recent years the Yule Lads become slightly more benevolent, putting gifts in children’s shoes on the 13 nights before Christmas. But I think their history as the sons of trolls who got up to no good in the countryside is far more unique and interesting than trying to turn them into Santa Claus.
They are much more colourful Christmas characters than the ones I grew up with.
Let me tell you, inspiration for posts can come in all forms. A comment on Twitter got me thinking about how the Yule Lads are all individuals with some not-very-nice traits that we can recognise in other people as well as ourselves.
There are many different descriptions of the Yule Lads available. The list I include below features both their traditional and modern qualities and is reblogged from a recent post by one of my favourite authors, Yrsa Sigurðardóttir. If you happen to be in Iceland in mid-December, you must look out for them…
Sheep-Cote Clod (Stekkjastaur): Harasses ewes and tries to drink milk from their teats, but due to a pair of peg-legs he is not very successful.
Gully Gawk (Giljagaur): Hides in gullies, waiting for an opportunity to sneak into the cowshed and steal milk. In the old times there were lots of gullies everywhere (I am assuming).
Stubby (Stúfur): Abnormally short, dwarfish. Note that at the time there was nothing known as being politically correct. If you were abnormally short you would be called Stubby. His thing is to steals pans to eat the crust left on them.
Ladel-Licker (Þvörusleikir): Malnourished and extremely skinny, although today he is considered fashionably thin. Steals ladles and licks them.
Pot-Scraper (Pottaskefill): Steals leftovers from pots. Today he would steal cold pizza slices from boxes.
Bowl-Licker (Askasleikir): Has an ugly head. Hides under beds waiting for someone to put down a bowl of food scraps for the cat or dog of the house, which he then steals. Today pets eat pet food and this guy would have gotten himself another food crime to focus on.
Door-Slammer (Hurðaskellir): Slams doors, especially during the night. Go figure.
Skyr-Gobbler (Skyrgámur): A Yule Lad with an affinity for skyr. This guy I get.
Sausage-Swiper (Bjúgnakrækir): Hides in the rafters and snatches sausages that are being smoked. He is hard up today as no one has any rafters anymore, much less do we smoke sausages. He now pinches pepperoni off pizzas.
Window-Peeper (Gluggagægir): A voyeur of the peeping Tom variety who looks through windows in search of things to steal. This guy is the happiest of the bunch with the advances of the modern age. Window panes are now much more see-through than before.
Doorway-Sniffer (Gáttaþefur): Has an abnormally large nose and an acute sense of smell which he uses to sniff out food – from the doorway. This guy would be institutionalized today for sure. It is not proper anymore to stand sniffing in doorways.
Meat-Hook (Ketkrókur): Uses a hook to steal meat. His English name is worthy of a serial killer while the Icelandic version sounds more like a crummy pirate‘s name.
Candle-Stealer (Kertasníkir): Sneaks behind children and follows them around in order to steal their candles and eat them (i.e. the candles). They don’t make candles like they used to (from fat). He is not all too happy these days.
Out of all of these, I think I’d be Window Peeper – I’m not that greedy but I am curious about people and find them endlessly fascinating to watch.
Over to you now – do any of these sound like anyone you know in real life? And if you were a Yule Lad, which one would you be?