Grýla is a mythical giantess living in the mountains of Iceland. Most of the stories told about Gryla were to frighten bad children,[1] and her name is mentioned in Snorri Sturluson's thirteenth century Edda.

The Christmas Monster

Grýla was not directly linked to Christmas until the 17th century.[2] By that time she had become the mother of the Yule Lads. Terry Gunnell hypothesizes that the medieval custom of dressing as Grýla may be related to other visiting traditions[3] such as Julebukk or the Yule Goat and that her name may mean "threat" or "threatening".

She has the ability to detect children who are misbehaving year-round. During Christmas time, she comes from the mountains to search nearby towns for her meal.[4] She leaves her cave and hunts for the children. She devours children as her favorite snack. Her favorite dish is a stew of naughty kids for which she has an insatiable appetite. According to legend, there is never a shortage of food for Gryla.[5]

According to folklore Grýla has been married three times. Her third husband Leppalúði is said to be living with her in their cave in the Dimmuborgir lava fields, with the big black Yule Cat and their sons. As Christmas approaches, Grýla sets off looking for naughty boys and girls. The Grýla legend has appeared in many stories, poems, songs and plays in Iceland and sometimes Grýla dies at the end of the story.

Grýla was featured in an article by The Onion, a satirical news site, citing her as the cause of the 2010 eruptions of Eyjafjallajökull.[6] In 2012, Stuff Monsters Like, a satirical blog inspired by horror films, posted an article entitled "Monsters Like Holiday Stew", in which they referenced Grýla's appetite for small children.[7]


  1. Gryla story as retold by Icelandic Canadian Club of Toronto Retrieved 24 April 2013
  2. Five Scary Visitors in the night Retrieved 24 April 2013
  3. Grýla, Grýlur, Grøleks And Skeklers: Medieval Disguise Traditions in the North Atlantic Terry Gunnell
  4. Grýla, Grýlur, Grøleks And Skeklers (Christmas in Iceland 2000) Archived 2006-10-13 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. Iceland Ogress Gains WorldWide Attention Retrieved 24 April 2013
  6. "Grýla - Responsible For The Year's Biggest Volcanic Eruption". The Onion. Retrieved 24 April 2013
  7. "183. Monsters Like Holiday Stew". Stuff Monsters Like.

See also

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