Appearance and abilities
The Yule Lads are humanoid creatures about the size of a human child. Most of them have beards, and they all wear colorful costumes.
They are very agile and acrobatic, and have the power to instantly put someone to sleep.
The Yule Lads were once human children that where taken captive by the ogress Gryla for being naughty. To escape getting eaten by her, they volunteered to work for her instead and find more naughty children. It started with Kertasnikir. For a while, each new child they brought made the same deal with Gryla, until there were 21 Yule Lads. Then Gryla caught on to the scheme and ate lads 14 to 21. The remaining 13 have since been working for her. Every year around the Trolberg Winter Festival they come to Trolberg to hunt for naughty children. When they find them, they abduct these children from their homes and leave them in sacks underneath the Sonstansil Tree for Gryla to find.
They work in 2 shifts of 7 Yule Lads, with Kertasnikir working on both shifts since he is the leader. They reside in a wooden house that can show up out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly.
In "Chapter 10: The Yule Lads", Hilda learns about their scheme after they abduct Trevor, Trevor's mom and even Johanna to be sacrificed to Gryla. When she realizes they are basically trapped in this unwanted job by their fear of Gryla, Hilda convinces them to give Gryla the Sparrow Scouts broth as a substitute for humans. Gryla accepts the broth, and the Yule Lads thus no longer have to find her children.
In the animated series, only four of the 13 Yule Lads are mentioned by name:
The novel "Hilda and the Time Worm" gives the names of all 13, and the meaning of their names:
- Kertasnikir (candy snatcher)
- Hurdaskellir (door slammer)
- Stekkjarstaur (sheep botherer)
- Giljagaur (Milk slurper)
- Askasleikir (Bowl licker)
- Pottasleikir (pot licker)
- Stufur (Burnt Pan Licker)
- Skyrgamur (Yoghurt Gobbler)
- Bjugnakraekir (Sausage Swiper)
- Pvorusleikir (Spoon licker)
- Gattapefur (Door sniffer)
- Ketkrokur (meat stealer)
- Gluggagaegir (Window peeper)
- The "Yule Lads" are based on the Icelandic Christmas folklore. Where they are a group of 13 mischievous pranksters who steal from or harass the population, and all have descriptive names that convey their favorite way of harassing. They arrive one by one over the final 13 nights leading up to Christmas (Yule). They leave small gifts in shoes that children place on window sills, but if the child has been disobedient they leave a potato in the shoe instead.
- In the folklore, they are the children of Gryla and her husband Leppaludi, rather than children that Gryla enslaved.
- In "Hilda and the Time Worm", Kertasnikir refers to the other Yule Lads as his brothers, which corresponds with the folklore of them being the children of Gryla, but the book still keeps the plot of them being former humans abducted by Gryla and forced to work for her.