Anyone familiar with Icelandic holiday mythology has probably heard of Jolasveinar-the Icelandic Yule Lads. One folklorist and crafter brings us new stories unique to each of these mischievous fellows. This story is shared from an original post on Tales of Yngiwulf.
Thorulfr finds the first Yule Lad in the barn with the Sheep!
The first of them was Sheep-Cote Clod. He came stiff as wood, to pray upon the farmer´s sheep as far as he could. He wished to drink the ewes’ milk, but it was no accident he couldn’t; he had stiff knees – not too convenient.
“Jólasveinarnir” by Jóhannes úr Kötlum Translated by Hallberg Halmundson Illustration by Olafur Petursson
Once upon a time, there was a young boy named Thorulfr. Thorulfr was a good boy, helping his father around the farm and with the tending to the sheep and feeding the cows.
One morning, he donned his woolen blue cap and pinned his cloak with his Christian Cross. Wrapping his legs to protect from the snow, he opened the door on the morning and went out to meet the day. The deep snow made it hard to move his legs. The wind threw snow into his eyes and mouth. He pushed through and made it to the barn where the sheep waited for him.
He made to open the barn door, when he heard the sheep bleating inside.
“Stay-ay-ay-ay away from me-ee-ee-ee,” he heard the sheep say. “My milk is for the ewes!”
Thorulfr yanked the door open and ran in to see what was the matter. There, standing amongst the sheep, was a troll – the famous stiff-legged troll, Stekkjastaur (otherwise known as Sheep-Cote Clod, or Gimpy)!
He hovered over a mother sheep, his back side stiffly pushed into the air and his body bent over. His legs, stiff as boards, would not let him crouch down. So there the troll stood bent over, his red hat swaying beneath his upside down head! His lips puckered and stretched toward the sheep as his hands reached for an udder, but he would fall over before he ever reached it!
Thorulfr laughed at the silly troll – he looked like a kissy-faced letter A, with his stiff legs and his body bent over.
“Gimpy, leave them sheep be, and I will bring you a glass of fresh milk!” Thorulfr shouted.
The troll stood. “Truly, young master?” he whined. “Oh, ye are too kind by half!”
Thorulfr brought the draught of fresh milk, still warm from the udder, and put it in the troll’s hand. He laughed heartily and gulped it down in a flash. “Ahhhh!” he gasped. “The fresher the better!” he proclaimed as he spat loose wool from his mouth. “My good young master, be sure to put a shoe on the window sill tonight that I might repay ye for your kindness!”
“Oh, thank ye kindly, Gimpy – I surely will!” Thorulfr answered, beaming a great, toothy smile.
“And tell your friends to look out for me mum, Grýla,” he warned, peering slowly left and right and tapping his nose. “She’ll be looking for the naughty children by now. Finds them tasty, she does! She makes a great, big stew!”
Thorulfr nodded and gulped. “But I’m a good boy!” he squeaked.
Gimpy laughed. “Aye, that ye are. The shoe, boy. Don’t forget the shoe!” And with that, he disappeared on a whistle of wind that blasted through the barn!
The next morning, Thorulfr woke and went to the windowsill that kept his shoe that night. Reaching inside, he pulled out a wooden reindeer toy! Thorulfr laughed with delight at the little creature and thought kindly of Gimpy and his ewe milk.
Originally posted December 12, 2011 at Tales of Ngiwulf. Click here to read more