We are a few weeks away from a celebration celebrated all over the world and for which we know the story of an old man with a white beard, dressed in red and giving gifts to everyone, we are of course talking about the Christmas celebration. However, if we study some of the hidden tales of this festival, we are far from the joyful and warm festivities. This is a frightening Icelandic tale, Gryla’s.
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Let us take the direction of the mountains of Iceland to take an interest in a history that is part of the national folklore, that of Gryla. But who is she? Legends about his physical appearance are varied. Indeed, some of them see Gryla as a gigantic witch while others will describe her as an ogress or a female troll. In any case, its history has terrorized Icelanders for many centuries and for good reason.
Indeed, according to legends, it would descend during the Christmas holidays of the Dimmuborgir: a mountainous peak that would shelter a volcano to search for and abduct children who have committed bad deeds or behaved badly in order to devour them.
It is also said that, according to legend, she married three times and that her last companion named Leppaludi lazily waited in the caves for his wife to return to celebrate Christmas in their own way. He even thought she would have a cat to feed him the children who are dressed in dirty clothes. The union of Gryla and Leppaludi would have given birth to 13 children: the Jolasneinar who are like little elves.
The word Gryla, or Grýla, would mean to Icelanders a sign of threat or danger. Moreover, the expression “ad Gera Gryla” has been translated into english by the word “diabolized” for the anecdote.
Gryla’s first written references date back to the 13th century, in a manuscript written by the poet Snorri Sturluson in which he tells that Gryla’s favourite dish was a children’s stew. As mentioned above, Icelanders take this frightening story of child cannibalism very seriously to such an extent that in 1746 a decree was signed to prohibit telling the story of Gryla and the Christmas goblins so as not to frighten children, even though the latter had no direct connection to Christmas in the beginning.