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The Icelandic Yule Lads

The Icelandic Yule Lads, Grýla and Leppalúði’s sons, are a group of 13 mischievous trolls who start arriving in town, one per night, from December 12th until Christmas Eve. In the Iceland of yore, they were an incredible nuisance and brought grief to the general populace, whereas today they’ve morphed into kinder, gentler Yule Lads who bring gifts for kiddies who have been good.

Illustrations by Elín Elísabet Einarsdóttir

1

Stekkjastaur

Sheep-Cote Clod / Dec 12th
Stekkjastaur spends most of his time among the humans breaking into the sheep pens. He keeps trying to suckle the ewes, despite his disability, his two peg legs that make him completely stiff.

Giljagaur

Gully Gawk / Dec 13th
Another fan of dairy products, Giljagaur doesn’t try to go straight to the cow’s udders, but waits until the farm workers are distracted before he swoops in and slurps the froth off the fresh milk.

Stúfur

Stubby / Dec 14th
Stúfur is named for his height, or lack thereof. He considers burnt bits of food that get stuck to the pan a particular delicacy and goes so far as to raid kitchens for dirty pans to get his hands on the good stuff.

2

Þvörusleikir

Spoon Licker / 15th
Þvörusleikir is tall and skinny, and loves wooden spoons. He waits patiently for the work to be finished in the kitchen before he grabs the dirty spoons and licks them.

Pottaskefill

Pot Licker / Dec 16th
Like Stúfur, this Yule Lad also likes to lick the remains from the inside of the pots, though he has no interest for burnt remains. His tricks are simple. He knocks at the door, and when the inhabitants rush to see who it is, he sneaks to the kitchen and cleans out the pots.

Askasleikir

Bowl Licker / Dec 17th
In the old days, Icelanders ate their food from a lidded wooden bowl called “askur.” This old fellow would creep and snatch the askar whenever they were put aside, licking their insides clean. Since most people have upgraded to plates, he probably has too, but still keeps his name, for old times sake.

3

Hurðaskellir

Door Slammer / Dec 18th
Waking up is never pleasant, and being woken by a loud noice such as a door slamming is even less so. Hurðaskellir thinks this is hilarious and goes through town slamming doors for his own amusement.

Skyrgámur

Skyr Gobbler / Dec 19th
For the uninitiated, skyr (pron. skeer) is a delicious dairy product. It’s no wonder Skyrgámur is the size of a bull and has the habit of eating other people’s skyr.

Bjúgnakrækir

Sausage Swiper / Dec 20th
The name really says it all. Bjúga is a salty, smoked Icelandic sausage, a favourite of Bjúgnakrækir. He loves them so much, he doesn’t mind crawling through soot and smoke to get them.

4

Gluggagægir

Window Peeper / Dec 21st
Again, the name really says it all. However, it’s important to note that his intentions, although not honourable, are mostly food-related. He only peeps in windows in order to locate food he could possibly steal.

Gáttaþefur

Door Sniffer / Dec 22nd
Gáttaþefur was from birth blessed with a huge nose, heightened olfactory senses, as well as the ability to never catch a cold. He is partial to laufabrauð, and uses his abnormally large nose to sniff out its hiding places.

5

Ketkrókur

Meat Hook / Dec 23rd
Some of the Yule Lads are more clever than others. Ketkrókur, for example, travels with a long stick with a hook at the end, perfect for sticking it down chimneys in order to steal meat, preferably hangikjöt (smoked lamb).

Kertasníkir

Candle Beggar / Dec 24th
One of the few Yule Lads not constantly occupied with food, Kertasníkir instead enjoys stealing candles, preferably from children. This seems especially mean when you know that in the old days every kid usually got a nice candle at Christmas and sometimes not much else.