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An Icelandic monster, the Yule Cat is a giant, ferocious cat that lurks in the snowy countryside around the Christmas season and eats people who did not receive new clothes to wear before Christmas Eve.
Farmers used the Yule Cat as a threat to scare their workers into finishing their wool-work before Christmas. Those who processed the autumn wool were rewarded with new clothes, and those who did not take part received nothing, thus falling prey to the gruesome cat. Other versions focus the Yule Cat’s victimization of children who do not work hard enough.
The Yule Cat is connected to the giantess Grýla and her sons, the Yule Lads. The three create an awful grouping. The Grýla is a mythical troll or ogress who is as ugly as she is ravenous. Stories of her are meant to frighten children who misbehave year round as she can detect them. During Christmas, she comes from the mountains, from her caves, to hunt for children as they’re her favorite snack. And she was always hungry.
Folklore says she’s been married three times, and her third husband lives in their cave in the Dimmuborgir lave fields, with the Yule Cat and their sons.
The Yule Lads are the modern versions of Santa Claus. Unknown in number, they place rewards or punishments into childrens’ shoes set on window sills during the last thirteen nights before Christmas Eve. Many versions of the Yule Lads exist in Icelandic lore, ranging from mere pranksters to homicidal mosters who eat children, like their mother.
Their original portrayal showed them as mischievous, or criminal, pranksters who stole from and harassed the population—mostly rule farmers—and are now canonized as the thirteen Yule Lads. Some include: Hurðaskellir, or Door-slammer, who likes to slam doors, especially at night; Bjúgnakrækir, or Suasage-Swiper, who hides in the rafters to snatch sausages as they smoked; and Kertasníkir, or Candle-Stealer, who follows children to steal their candies.