Eight years ago I started a blog with the goal of creating my version of the Icelandic Jólasveinar and counting down to Christmas by telling their stories. I started with needle felted figures...here is a link to the first post. This year I finished a new version, their faces are sculpted in Paperclay their bodies are needle felted and clothes are hand sewn. Thank you for your continued interest in my little Jólasveinar and their antics...let's begin.
The first to arrive is Stekkjastaur.....Stiff-legs. His legs are so stiff that he cannot bend his knees. Thankfully he is tall and is able to leap and bound over boulders and lava rocks on his way down from the mountain.
When he arrives he sneaks into the sheep shed, hoping to milk one of the ewes, for his favorite drink. He is particularly stiff today, after his long walk from his mountain home. The sheep startled they jump and tumble about the shed, and due to Stekkjastaur’s stiff legs are able to get away. Poor Stekkjastaur will have no milk today.
Here is their story: Today December 12th is a big day in Iceland, the first of the 13 Jólasveinar, variously called Yule Goblins, Christmas Men, Christmas Elves or Christmas Lads, arrives down from the mountains.
Today's arrival is Stiff-legs aka Sheep-Cote Clod followed by his brothers the last one arriving on the 24th, Christmas Eve. Then they leave for the mountains one by one, the last one leaving on 12th night, January 6th.
These charmers were first mentioned in print in the 17th century and were known by various names which differ from region to region, with up to 80 names recorded.
Most of the names reflect the tricks they played. They coveted things people found hardest to do without during the lean times and the blackest Arctic nights, food and light.
Their parents were real charmers, their names are Grýla (Ugly) and Leppalúði (one who wears tattered clothes). It was said that Grýla and Leppalúði liked to feast on misbehaving children and were used as bogeymen to terrify children into obedience. The family pet was an enormous Black Cat who had the same culinary habits as Grýla and Leppalúði.The children of today, do not have to worry about Grýla, Leppalúði and the Cat's former culinary habits, as they now probably prefer a Pizza or a Hamburger with a Coke.
In the 20th century the 13 Jólasveinar have mellowed and evolved from bogeymen into benevolent beings. They are now entertainment for, and friends to children. Each night when the Icelandic children go to bed they leave their shoe on the window sill. If they have been good, they will receive a gift from each of the Jolasveinar, as they arrive from their mountain home. If they have been bad, they will find a potato in their shoe.