With under a fortnight before Christmas, children around the world giddily await the arrival of Santa, having sent off their wish-lists and been on their best behaviour all year. Throughout Iceland’s history, however, children have cowered beneath their sheets, as the night before the 12th of December has forever marked the arrival of one of the mischievous and malicious Yule Lads.
While Iceland’s Yule Lads have no doubt transformed their public image for the better over the last decade, becoming the country’s very own Christmas mascots, they have for the longest time been considered evil entities.
So just what have the Yule Lads done to garner such a negative reputation?
Well, these half-trolls descend from their home one by one, inspiring fear and causing trouble in unique ways. Sons of the vile giantess Grýla, their nasty Christmas antics are only overshadowed by her festive feast of naughty children.
The first to stir up trouble is Stekkjarstaur, or ‘Sheep-Cote Clod’. As his name suggests, his modus operandi is to harass the household’s sheep. Icelanders would usually keep their sheep underground in the winter months, so when the sounds of their tormented bleating would echo up into the house, it was a sign Stekkjarstaur has found them.
Challenging him would be more of a death wish than letting him kill all of the livestock, but it should be noted that Stekkjarstaur, like many of his brothers, is limited by a deformity. His stiff legs impair his ability to move, so the best thing to do, when hearing him rile up your animals, is to wait it out; he’ll have to move on to your neighbour soon enough, in order to terrorise as many Icelandic homes as possible by sunrise.
See Also: Finding the Yule Lads in Reykjavík
After Christmas, Stekkjastaur will return to his home in the basalt fortress of Dimmuborgir, in the Mývatn Area of north Iceland, where he spends his days with his enormous family and their great Christmas Cat (which is by no means as adorable as it sounds…).
In his wake, he promises to leave shell-shocked sheep, and the corpses of those he terrified to death. His antics are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stirring up Yuletide fear…
Make sure to come back to hear more about the dark side of each of the Yule Lads in the run-up to Christmas. Feel free to leave your thoughts and queries in the Facebook comments box below.