Christmas in Iceland is already cold and dark, with temperatures hovering between -2 and 4 degrees Fahrenheit and fewer than five hours of sunlight a day in December.
But it gets worse. Up in the mountains, above the villages where all the children go to sleep at night, lurks the giant troll-witch Grýla.
While most trolls aren’t known for being beauty queens, she’s considered to be particularly terrifying-looking. She’s described as having multiple tails, hooved feet, and an insatiable appetite for human flesh that makes her one hangry troll.
She comes looking for people to eat during the holiday season – especially naughty kids. She carries knives and a sack, and is often said to slice out children’s stomachs before stuffing them in her sack and carrying them off to her cave. And if that wasn’t gnarly enough – when she gets her victims home, she boils them alive to make a savory stew.
There are images of Grýla in the capital of Reykjavik and other parts of Iceland, and she is known to strike terror in children of all ages. Despite this gory Christmas legend persisting for centuries, Iceland is ranked the most peaceful country by the Global Peace Index and has one of the lowest crime rates in the world.
So maybe Grýla really has been keeping the kiddies in line. But the ironic part is, Grýla’s own kids are as misbehaved/devious as they come/as can be.
She’s said to live in a cave with her 13 grown sons known as the Christmas Lads, her third husband (she may have eaten a previous hubby she was bored with), and her giant man-eating pet, the big black Yule Cat. It would almost sound like just another family reality show if it wasn’t so creepy...
Christmas Lads are 13 hideous creepers who come into your house during advent, and are a lot like the troll version of Disney’s seven dwarves in Snow White. These weirdos’ names are usually self-explanatory and include Sausage Swiper, Spoon Licker, Door Slammer, and a perv named Window Peeper, but there’s also one named Stubby who steals pies (which is particularly messed up around the holidays if you ask us).
Of course their mom, Grýla, is on a whole different level. She’s not just there to mess with your spoons and pies, she comes to boil your ass alive. So even if she doesn’t discipline her own sons, she might just eat yours if you dare to go to Iceland this Christmas.
(Photo Credit: Icelandic artist Tómas Ómarsson)