Monday, December 29, 2014

The 12 Scares of Christmas: The Yule Lads

Tonight, we continue a seasonal series, exploring the darker side of Christmas. In this season of the darkest nights of the year and ancient traditions celebrating the passing of the season, those of us who are lucky enough to have haunted hearts appreciate the darker, creepy and sometimes terrifying aspects of the winter holiday-- some of which could not be more a part of the Christmas holiday in their own right.

 For our next scare of Christmas, we remain in Icelandic mythology-- and on the mischevious child-eating Gryla's own family tree. The Yule Lads are a group of 15 unique troll creatures who commit their deeds year round and especially on Christmas. And they just so happen to be Gryla's children, although the legend of Gryla and the Yule Lads existed independently for centuries before they came to be associated as family. 

 Unlike their mother, who abducts, devours and makes stews out of children, the Yule Lads are-- while their own individual brand of creepy -- not as brutal as their mother. Like a demented take on Snow White's seven dwarves, the Yule Lads, each with a name and a certain fascination, are quite the crew. 

 There is Stekkjastaur, who has peg legs and harasses sheep; Askasleikir, who hides under beds and steals bowls; Gattapefur, who uses his large nose to sniff out laufabraud, a type of bread to steal; Gillagaur, who steals milk from cows, Hurdaskellir, who slams doors during the night; Ketkrokur, who has a hook he uses to steal meat; Stufur, who steals pans; Skyrgamur, who steals skyr, a kind of Icelandic strained yogurt; Kertasnikir, who steals candles from children; Pvorusieikir, who steals wooden spoons to lick; Bjugnakraekir, who hides in rafters and steals sausages; Pottasiekir, who steals leftovers from pots; Gluggagegir, who looks through people's windows for things to steals; and, finally, Leppaludi, who is Gryla's husband. 

 And here they are all, explained in a graph from 

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