Spoon Licker? Door Slammer? Here's 13 Lads to Watch out for this Holiday
On the latest episode of Misfits and Mysteries, Emmy and Steve discussed the the 13 Yule Lads of Iceland along with their mother, father and cat. In this joint blog, we'll give you a brief overview of each of the lads -- but if you want to learn more (and hear our hilarious reactions to each of the Lads) you should check out Episode 10 of our Podcast. Here we go!
History of the Yule Lads
According to Icelandic folklore, the Yule Lads are13 mischievous trolls who each visit the countryside for a total of 13 days. In traditional folklore, the lads would leave their cave one by one during the Yule time to wreak havoc on Icelanders. That is, of course, until the popularization of Santa Claus.
With the rise in popularity of Santa, the Yule Lads had a more benevolent makeover. Now, rather than causing trouble and playing pranks, the 13 Yule Lads act as Iceland's version of Santa. Starting on December 12th, the children leave a shoe on their windowsill -- if they're good, they get a present, if they're naughty, they get a potato. Not as bad as coal in our opinion, but a potato definitely would be one of the worst presents we've ever recieved.
For the purpose of this blog, we will to focus on the actual folk lore from the original Yule Lads poem. Here's the whole Yule Lad family:
The Lads Family
Grýla (The Christmas Witch)
Grýla is the Yule Lads Mother. She is described as a scary troll and much like Santa Clause, has the ability to detect when children have been naughty or nice. Unfortunately, instead of giving naughty children coal, she abducts them and turns them into stew. According the legend, there is never a shortage of food at the Yule Lad residence.
"Grýla was their mother –
she gave them ogre milk – "
Leppalúði (The Lazy Husband)
Leppalúði is the lazy second husband of Grýla. He is the Yule Lads father and is described as being a lazy troll man who doesn't do much. He doesn't hunt naughty children or help cook them, rather he just hangs out and eats.
"and the father Leppalúdi;
a loathsome ilk."
The Yule Cat (All You)
The Yule Cat is the Lads' ferocious pet. This giant kitty comes down the mountain throughout the Christmas season to peek into families' homes and see if they have received new clothes by the Christmas holiday. On Christmas Eve, if families aren't yet donning their new apparel, the Yule Cat will eat them alive.
While it may seem like this cat is simply praying on the poor, this legend actually came about in the 19th century to incentivize farmers and their workers to finish processing the autumn wool before Christmas. So the tradition goes, those who took part in helping process the wool would be rewarded with new clothes ahead of the holiday -- but those who hadn't would not only receive none of the new clothes, but they'd also risk getting eaten by the Yule Cat. Talk about a double-whammy!
1. Sheep-Cote Clod
Sheep-Cote Clod is the first Yule Lad to come down the mountain each year on December 12 and departs on December 25. According to tradition, this trickster would harass farmers' sheep by drinking their milk straight from the source (if ya know what I mean). Thankfully for the sheep, he wasn't very effective at this prank because he had such stiff knees that he had trouble bending down to drink the milk. Clearly, he's not the smartest or most disruptive of the Yule Lads!
"The first of them was Sheep-Cote Clod.
He came stiff as wood,
to pray upon the farmer´s
sheep as far as he could.
He wished to suck the ewes,
but it was no accident
he couldn´t; he had stiff knees –
not to convenient."
2. Gully Gawk
Gully Gawk arrives on December 13th and departs on December 26th. Gully Gawk hides out in the gullies outside of your house and waits until you fall asleep to break into your barn and suck all the cows dry of milk. Gully Gawk robs families of milk, the key ingredient for making Christmas sauces, and Skyr, and Icelandic Yogurt like dish.
"The second was Gully Gawk,
gray his head and mien. He snuck into the cow barn from his craggy ravine.
Hiding in the stalls, he would steal the milk, while the milkmaid gave the cowherd a meaningful smile."
The next Yule Lad, Stubby (a.k.a. "itty bitty") earned his name because he's the shortest of the Yule lads. What Stubby lacks in height, however, he makes up for in stealth: Stubby is so tiny that he's able to sneak past families while they're cooking in the kitchen and steal their pans. According to the poem, he loved to eat the last crumbs and scraps left over at the bottom of the pan. Stubby arrives on December 14 and departs on December 27th.
"Stubby was the third called,
a stunted little man, who watched for every chance to whisk off a pan.
And scurrying away with it, he scraped off the bits that stuck to the bottom and brims – his favorites."
Ah, Spoon Licker. Arguably the most disgusting Yule Lad, this old man comes down the mountain just to -- you guessed it -- lick the food residue left on your spoons. He also has an incredibly long and muscular tongue (yuck!). Needless to say, make sure to put your spoons away between December 15 and December 28th when this guy is around.
"The fourth was Spoon Licker;
like spindle he was thin. He felt himself in clover when the cook wasn´t in.
Then stepping up, he grappled the stirring spoon with glee, holding it with both hands for it was slippery."
Pot Scraper, the lad who appeared on December 16 and left on the 29th, was a real prankster. Each year, he plays the classic ding-dong-ditch trick on hundreds of families -- but this time with a twist. He will knock on the door, and while you're opening the front door, he will run around to the back door to sneak in the kitchen and steal the food scraps from your pots. Who wants those scraps anyways, though?
"Pot Scraper, the fifth one,
was a funny sort of chap. When kids were given scrapings, he´d come to the door and tap.
And they would rush to see if there really was a guest. Then he hurried to the pot and had a scrapingfest."
Bowl Licker arrives December 17th and departs on December 30th. Bowl Licker hides beneath children's beds and waits for them to put down their Askur, which is a type of Icelandic bowl with a lid used instead of a dish. he guzzles down whatever night time soup was left in the bowl
"Bowl Licker, the sixth one,
was shockingly ill bred. From underneath the bedsteads he stuck his ugly head.
And when the bowls were left to be licked by dog or cat, he snatched them for himself – he was sure good at that!"
Door Slammer, arguably, the least convenient lad, arrives on December 18th and departs on December 31st. Door Slammer likes to sneak into houses late at night and slam the doors until everyone wakes up. He then runs off to the next house to slam all of their doors.
"The seventh was Door Slammer, a sorry, vulgar chap: When people in the twilight would take a little nap,
he was happy as a lark with the havoc he could wreak, slamming doors and hearing the hinges on them sqeak"
8. Skyr Gobbler
Skyr Gobbler arrives on December 19th and departs on January 1st. This lad has an insatiable hunger for Skyr and cannot help himself, he has to eat it.
"Skyr Gobbler, the eighth, was an awful stupid bloke. He lambasted the skyr tub till the lid on it broke.
Then he stood there gobbling – his greed was well known – until, about to burst, he would bleat, howl and groan."
9. Sausage Swiper
Sausage Swiper arrives on December 20th and departs on January 2nd. Sausage Swiper sneaks into your house and hides up in the rafters, where you hand your smoked sausage. Once the sausages are smoked and ready for dinner, sausage swiper steals them and runs off to the next home.
"The ninth was Sausage Swiper, a shifty pilferer. He climbed up to the rafters and raided food from there.
Sitting on a crossbeam in soot and in smoke, he fed himself on sausage fit for gentlefolk."
I take back what I said about Spoon Licker being the most disgusting Yule Lad: Window Peeper is just a plain old creep. This guy looks into your windows with his little binoculars to see what he might be able to steal from your home. Unclear if he actually steals anything or not, but he certainly likes looking! He arrives on the 21st and leaves on January 3rd.
"The tenth was Window Peeper, a weird little twit, who stepped up to the window and stole a peek through it.
And whatever was inside to which his eye was drawn, he most likely attempted to take later on."
This strange Lad arrives on December 22nd and departs on January 4th. While the families of Iceland enjoy their traditional Laufabrauð treats, Doorway Sniffer will take a whiff of this thin, flatbread-like cake from underneath your doorway. Creepy!
"Eleventh was Door Sniffer, a doltish lad and gross. He never got a cold, yet had a huge, sensitive nose.
He caught the scent of lace bread while leagues away still and ran toward it weightless as wind over dale and hill"
Meat Hook is a strange one. This Lad arrives on December 23rd and departs on January 5th. Back in the day in Iceland, many families would hang meat from the rafters of their home to dry. Meat Hook would take his long metal hook, stick it down the chimney, and swipe the meat away before you even knew what had happened.
"Meat Hook, the twelfth one, his talent would display as soon as he arrived on Saint Thorlak´s Day.
He snagged himself a morsel of meet of any sort, although his hook at times was a tiny bit short."
Candle Stealer, also known as Candle Beggar is the last Yule Lad to arrive. He arrives on December 24th and departs on January 6th. Candle Stealer follows children around and steals their candles and eats them.
"The thirteenth was Candle Beggar – ´twas cold, I believe, if he was not the last of the lot on Christmas Eve.
He trailed after the little ones who, like happy sprites, ran about the farm with their fine tallow lights."
If you enjoyed this blog, please consider sharing it on social media. If you want to learn more about the Yule Lads, check out our latest episode out now anywhere you listen to Podcasts. And as always, Stay Spooky Misfits!