At latitude 65º N, there’s a lot of ice in Iceland. With glaciers and volcanoes, waterfalls and geysers, it’s no wonder the early settlers believed in a pantheon of gods who controlled the harsh elements. Over the centuries their lore evolved with the help of Icelanders’ great sense of humor and storytelling.

Last December we braved the ice and snow and cold to visit our Icelandic friends who told us about the rascally thieves known as Yule Lads. Thirteen days before Christmas, the trolls come down out of the mountains, one by one, to perform mischief, or sometimes to leave gifts. After Christmas, they trek back up into the mountains where they hide the rest of the year.


Aliases and M.O.’s of some of the lads (our friends assure us there are more than 13):

  • The Sheep Worrier and Gully Gawk steal milk from the fridge.
  • Stubby, the shortest of the lads, needs a stool to leave gifts in your shoe in the window.
  • The three lickers:  Spoon Licker, Pot Licker, and Bowl Licker, who lick accordingly.
  • Door Slammer (my personal favorite) sneaks around in the night and slams doors.
  • Skyr Glutton gorges on skyr, which is similar to yogurt.
  • Sausage Stealer is developing a taste for American hot dogs!
  • Window Peeper leaves gifts in shoes but also steals the small objects we lose over the year.
  • Door Sniffer loves the smell of baking and steals cakes.
  • Meat Hook climbs onto the roof and runs a hook down the chimney to steal roasting meats.
  • Candle Beggar steals and eats tallow candles to fortify him for the long journey back into the mountains after the holidays.

Yule Lads can explain a lot of the mysterious goings-on in our homes.  Do any of these mischievous thieves ever visit your homes, especially this time of the year?

10 thoughts on “Ice…land”

  1. Oh, how fun! Pretty sure a few of these lads have visited us. My cousin spent some time in Iceland when her husband was stationed there, and I just learned another cousin was born there! I would love to visit someday.


  2. Ha, Mary! Yes, I think our daughters must take lessons from the lads.

    Pamela, you should definitely go! At the risk of sounding like I work in the travel industry (I don’t, other than as a writer), Iceland is a fascinating place with a dramatic and haunting beauty. And it’s just a short hop from the east coast!

    Theresa, when we were there in December, we saw the sun from around 10 to 3, not so bad for a winter day! OTOH, in early July it’s pretty much light round the clock.


  3. I’m pretty sure window peeper lives at my house, or at least makes frequent flybys – it’s the only explanation for all the stuff that goes missing. I’ve loved trolls since I was a child and my grandmother gave me two Christmas ornaments she’d brought over from Germany when she came – one was a santa, the other a troll.


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