From Iceland — Ask An Expert: Are there more than 13 Yule Lads?

Ask An Expert: Are there more than 13 Yule Lads?

Published December 12, 2022

Ask An Expert: Are there more than 13 Yule Lads?
Catherine Magnúsdóttir
Photo by
Supplied Photo

With Christmas on the horizon, we can once again look forward to visits from our favourite holiday tricksters . But the thirteen Yule Lads we know and love today were not the only ones lurking in the mountains back in the day. As it turns out, there used to be many more Lads and even Lasses that would relish in terrorizing households all over Iceland. But who were they and what would they do? We went to Dagrún Ósk Jónsdóttir, a folklorist at the University of Iceland, for an answer.

“We have around maybe 80 or 100 names of Yule Lads on record. They used to travel around different areas of Iceland in different groupings. In some old sources it says that each farm got one specific Yule Lad that stayed with them for the whole Christmas season. Some would come from the mountains or sail in on sealskin-boats from abroad,” Dagrún explains.

Much like the thirteen Yule Lads still visiting kids in the lead up to Christmas, most lads of yore would steal food or make a mess, but they were a lot less friendly than the gift-giving lads we’re familiar with today.

“They would often attack the things you kind of need most or hold most dear, like light or food or clothes. Some female Yule Lads, like Flotsokka and Flotnös, would steal flot, the boiled down animal fat that was used for food or light, and which was quite valuable. Flotnös would put it up her very big nose and Flotsokka would steal unfinished knitted socks and fill them with the flot, ruining both.”

Back in the day, those Yule Lads were a lot more frightful and a little less entertaining, some going from harassment to straight-up horror movie material.

“Skirt-Sweeper used to annoy women specifically, lifting up skirts and blowing their hats off, generally being all up in women’s clothing,” Dagrún says. “My favourite one is Lung-splatterer, who has his lungs on the outside of his body and he would run after children and try to hit them with his bloody lungs.” Not a fellow you’d want to run into at night

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