How many people know the story of Gryla? No, Gryla isn’t the girl I dated in college but she could be a doppelganger of Gryla. Gryla is Iceland’s version of Krampus. Her story has been told mouth to mouth since before the 13th century. The original stories and poems had her living in a village where she would ask parents for their kids.
Later stories have her in the mountains living in a cave with her husband and 13 sons. It is said she likes to eat children and even a husband from time to time. Gryla, meaning “Growler”, is an ogress, who wasn’t associated with Yule (Joi) until the 19th century. Her lazy husband and thirteen children would steal children and make stew.
In Iceland, Yule is a time for getting friends and family together for festivities. Iceland also believes other folks like elves, trolls, and other magical creatures join in on these festive activities. Gryla lives in her cave and eats children but only the really naughty ones. Her sons are called jolasveinar or Yule Lads, would go into the village and play pranks on the villagers during the celebration. The Yule Lads were not always an issue as they would reward those who wore new clothes; children would put out their clean shoes for the hope of coins.
Sometimes the Yule Lads are accompanied by their giant Yule cat.
Gryla is as terrifying now as she was in the 13th century; her Yule lads, however, had a big makeover.
The early version of the sons was scary just to look at and did more than play tricks on the villagers. When Santa became known worldwide, the Yule lads grew beards and looked more elf-like and did some good along with their pranks.
Gryla isn’t just a creature living in a cave terrorizing the villagers; she also controls the weather.
When you think of Gryla;
you think of snow, darkness, and the solitude of winter you also think of Yule time. Krampus works with St. Nicholas whereas Gryla is her own person living in a cave and scaring the children.