Grýla and Leppalúði - the Parents of the Icelandic Yule Lads

I have written a previous travel-blog on the mischievous Icelandic Yule Lads. Now I am going to tell you about their parents - the cannibal trolls Grýla and Leppalúði. You might have noticed them down-town Reykjavík or even in Akureyri if you have travelled up north to the capital city of North-Iceland.

You can see what Grýla and Leppalúði in Akureyri look like in my photo below.

Grýla is a very bad and grim ogre, and she eats badly behaved children, she comes to pick them up, puts them in her sack and then cooks them in her cauldron. I remember how scared we Icelandic kids were of this terrible troll, Grýla - and she still gives me the creeps!

Grýla and Leppalúði - the Parents of the Icelandic Yule Lads

There are descriptions and accounts of the trolls Grýla and Leppalúði in "Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Folklore of Jón Árnason". 

Both of them were trolls, and the name Grýla is amongst the names of females trolls in Snorra-Edda by Snorri Sturluson, Iceland's greatest Saga writer. 

The photo below of Grýla is taken inside her cave in the Christmas House in Eyjafjörður in North-Iceland. I put my camera through an opening in the cave and got quite startled when I saw the photos!

Grýla and Leppalúði - the Parents of the Icelandic Yule Lads

Grýla and Leppalúði were cannibals like other trolls and mostly prayed on children, but didn't mind eating fully-grown men as well. Badly behaved children were scared by Grýla when they were growing up. The word grýla is used in Sturlunga Saga (a collection of Icelandic Sagas) about a giantess or an ogress which causes terror and danger.

The photo below of Grýla is taken at Fossatún in West-Iceland. You can climb into her cauldron - if you dare! If you are a guest at Fossatún you will be able to visit the Troll garden, where several trolls can be found.

Grýla and Leppalúði - the Parents of the Icelandic Yule Lads

According to Sturlunga Saga then Grýla had fifteen tails. An old poem about Grýla describes her as having fifteen tails and on each tail, she had a hundred balloons and every balloon contained twenty children!

Other descriptions of Grýla say that she had 300 heads and 3 eyes on each head. She kidnaps the children and she and her husband, Leppalúði, put them in a large sack. Another account says that she has bad nails on each finger, eyes in the back of her head and horns like a goat, the ears dangle down to her shoulders and are fastened to her nose. Her chin is bearded and her teeth are like charcoal!

So you can see from the accounts that she is quite ugly and scary looking!

Grýla and Leppalúði - the Parents of the Icelandic Yule Lads

Grýla's husband is the troll Leppalúði. Although he is a troll he is not as ugly as Grýla - or is he? They are the parents of twenty children apart from the Yule Lads, which are considered to be 13. And according to the Folklore of Jón Árnason there exists a poem describing yet another 19 of Grýla's children. And Leppalúði had a son out of wedlock called Skröggur.

Leppalúði had that son by a girl who nursed Grýla, while she was ill and bedridden for a whole year. Leppalúði couldn't take care of Grýla and their big household, so he hired this girl called Lúpa. When Grýla got better from her illness she was furious to find out that Leppalúði had a child by Lúpa and drove Lúpa and Skröggur away.

Grýla and Leppalúði - the Parents of the Icelandic Yule Lads

Grýla had been married before she met Leppalúði. Her first husband's name was Boli. They had a lot of children. Boli was also a cannibal like Leppalúði. Boli died of old age and after his death Grýla found Leppalúði.

Grýla wasn't old, even though she had had so many children, as one account in the Folklore of Jón Árnason tells of Grýla and Leppalúði having twenty children together and that Grýla was 50 years old when she had the last children, twins, by Leppalúði. The twins died while they were still in the crib.

Grýla and Leppalúði - the Parents of the Icelandic Yule Lads

You can find Grýla and Leppalúði in Reykjavík's centre. They used to be located in Bankastræti street, but have been moved up to Skólavörðustígur street now.

There is a funny coincidence I noticed when taking these photos downtown. The ad from the Blue lagoon above Grýla's and Leppalúði's head says: "Fegurðin kemur að innan" or "Beauty comes from within" - I don't think they referring to the terrible trolls Grýla and Leppalúði... ;)

Grýla and Leppalúði own the Christmas Cat, a terrible big cat which comes lurking on Christmas Night and eats people who don't get any Christmas presents containing clothes. So you better get some soft Christmas presents if you don't want the Christmas Cat to eat you!

The offspring of these terrible trolls are the Yule Lads and they are described as being very mischievous and ill-mannered. And who wouldn't be after being raised by two frightening trolls like Grýla and Leppalúði? You can meet the Yule Lads below at Árbæjarsafnið Open Air Museum in Reykjavík.

I think the Yule Lads are softening over the years and they are nice to well-behaved children and give them presents in their shoe the last 13 days before Christmas. And children very much look forward to the arrival of the Yule Lads and put their shoe on the windowsill by their bed and wake up very excited and look for the present in their shoe.

Grýla and Leppalúði - the Parents of the Icelandic Yule Lads

Once in Reykjavík check out the most popular day-tours available from the city to make the most out of your Iceland trip. Don't miss seeing the Northern lights, the glacial lagoon and the ice caves during your visit!  

If you want to visit an Icelandic home during the Christmas season and hear stories about the Yule Lads, then you can visit the home of the lovely couple Ásta and Valgeir in South-Iceland for An Enchanted Christmas Eve and New Years Adventure. The evening will end with a dinner at Rauða húsið restaurant in Eyrarbakki and you will be driven back to Reykjavík after dinner.

Grýla and Leppalúði - the Parents of the Icelandic Yule Lads

If you want to treat your loved ones to a Travel Voucher to Iceland | Best Christmas Gift Ever then Guide to Iceland offers vouchers, with which you can book anything on Guide to Iceland.

And if you are staying here for New Year's Eve then I have written another blog on what we locals do here during the holidays.

Have a lovely time in Iceland :)

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