Grýla, the ghastly child-eating ogre and mother of the Yule Lads, has a rather under-publicized yet sinister sidekick: jólakötturinn, or the Yule Cat, who lives with her in her cave.
In the Iceland of yore, every person who did not get a new item of clothing for Christmas ended up in the belly of the Yule Cat. Today the Yule Cat is still alive and thriving, particularly in the minds of crafty teenagers who maintain that they absolutely must have that new [blouse, dress, pair of shoes, etc.] – or else the Yule Cat will get them.
Actually, it does seem like a rather bizarre bit of folklore. Why should the poor unfortunates who could not afford new items of clothing also become the hapless victims of the Yule Cat? Garðar’s invaluable Yule site offers a possible explanation: “…this tradition is based on the fact that every effort was made to finish all work with the Autumn wool before Yule. The reward for those who took part in the work was a new piece of clothing. Those who were lazy received nothing. Thus the Yule Cat was used as an incentive to get people to work harder.”
Sounds plausible enough. Although why every Icelander today should still insist on having a complete new outfit for Christmas on account of the dreaded Yule Cat remains a mystery.
[Incidentally, our very own Björk Guðmundsdóttir – ‘Bjork’ to you foreign lot – does a fabulous rendition of an old Icelandic song about the Yule Cat called, prosaically enough, ‘Jólakötturinn’… if anyone out there knows whether it is available for download, please notify the Weather Report!]
AS FOR THE YULE LAD
Today we have Stúfur – English translation Itty Bitty. [Note: YT does not condone that translation, finding it atrocious. ‘Shorty’ or ‘Stubby’ would be vastly preferable.] This old fella was very short, as the name would suggest, snuck into the farmhouses when no one was looking and snatched any available pan from the kitchen. He then proceeded to pick at the burnt remains of food that had stuck to the sides [whatever yer preference… yech!] and eat them.
AND IN A COMPLETELY UNRELATED BIT OF NEWS…
Someone logged on to The Weather Report this morning via Google with the search words ‘women with flat buttocks’. They landed here. [You have to wonder about some people. Really. You do.] Someone else came through the other day via Google on the words ‘what American is Iceland’.
Just thought I’d share.
AS FOR DA WEATHER
Mild with blustery winds. Blustery enough so that the horribly depressing thick dark daylight-obliterating cloud cover we’ve had over the past few days has blown away. At this very moment I can actually see purple clouds racing across the sky and – joy! – powder blue beyond. We’re in for some serious frost, though, [serious being relative, of course] over the next few days, and if the weatherman’s predictions hold true we may even get some snow on Sunday. Currently temps are 5°C and sunrise was at 11.14 and sunset is scheduled for 15.30. [Only one more week! To the winter solstice! Hallelujah…]