A certain ogress named Grýla lived in the mountains of Iceland with her third husband, a lazy troll going by the name of Leppalúði, her fiendish cat and a gang of thirteen mischievous sons, known as the Yule Lads. Quite a family, isn’t it? And kind of dysfunctional too!
Grýla the ogress for instance had some very serious issues. She was so abominable both in her appearance and in her manners that she could have contended in wickedness with the most wicked villains from Brother Grimm’s fairy tales and win: not only Grýla had hooves and horns and tail and she was overall very ugly, but she was also fastidiously addicted to boiling and eating children she had kidnapped. Bad children, that is. Using her excellent sense of hearing, Grýla could detect children who were misbehaving from all over the island and thus she could leave her cave and collect her favorite snack when Christmas time approached. This business of devouring bad children was very convenient both for Grýla, as there was never shortage of food, and for the parents, as they could use the ogress as a threat to make their offspring behave.
This convenient state of things went on for a long time: adults had successfully adopted the Grýla scare technique for centuries, until a public decree prohibited to traumatize children further with it in 1746. From that point on, to make kids behave, Icelandic parents had to invent more subtle and modern strategies.
What happened to poor Grýla after that? Probably she kept on collecting succulent children to snack on, but without much publicity in order to not go out of business. Or maybe she became an up-to-date entrepreneuse, selling figurines with her features to tourists in Reykjavík gift shops.
- Some Icelandic Christmas Folklore pt. VI – Pottasleikir AKA Yule Lad No. 5
- Some Icelandic Christmas Folklore pt. II – Stekkjastaur AKA Yule Lad No. 1
- Some Icelandic Christmas Folklore pt. VII – Askasleikir AKA Yule Lad No. 6
- Some Icelandic Christmas Folklore pt. IV – Stúfur AKA Yule Lad No. 3
- Some Icelandic Christmas Folklore pt. V – Þvörusleikir AKA Yule Lad No. 4