Iceland Mag

8 Reykjavik

Iceland Mag

Culture

The story of all the Yule lads, including Window-Peeper, Spoon-Licker and Skyr-Gobbler

By Staff

  • Sheep-Cote Clod Known for his long stiff legs, this lad is usually portrayed as a friendly, clumsy fellow, but in the stories he sneaks into sheep sheds to suck milk from the ewes. Photo/GVA

Once there were as many as 82 different Yule lads, but as the stories and myths were being collected by ethnographer Jón Árnason their numbers, names and characteristics were standardized and gradually the public settled on 13 Yule lads. These stories were then distilled even further in 1932, when the poet Jóhannes úr Kötlum wrote his Yule lad poem. 

Read more: Instead of a friendly Santa Iceland has 13 mischievous Yule lads and an evil Christmas Cat

The poem is still recited in schools in December, and many Icelanders know all the verses by heart. The English translation is by Hallberg Hallmundsson.

Stekkjastaur - Sheep-Cote Clod

The first of them was Sheep-Cote Clod.
He came stiff as wood,
to prey 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.

Giljagaur - Gully Gawk

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.

Stúfur - Stubby

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.

Þvörusleikir - Spoon-Licker

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.

Pottaskefill - Pot-Scraper

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 scraping fest.

Askasleikir - Bowl-Licker

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!

Hurðaskellir - Door-Slammer

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 squeak.

Skyrgámur - Skyr-Gobbler

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.

Bjúgnakrækir - Sausage-Swiper

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.

Gluggagægir - Window-Peeper

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.

Gáttaþefur - Doorway Sniffer

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.

Ketkrókur - Meat-Hook

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.

Kertasníkir - Candle Beggar

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.

Related content

Editor's Picks