As I circle the largest lake in Iceland, Myvatn, I pull off the main road to gaze upon several volcanoes looming in the distance. In front of me are rocks and wild vegetation all products of many eruptions over the years.
But it’s not the seismic and volcanic activity here that catches my eye, it’s the story of Iceland’s legendary “Yule Lads”. Perhaps some half of the Icelandic people believe these spirited characters to be real, while others believe in fairy tales and the stories passed down through generations, all embellished as the years go by.
But here in Dimmuborgir it is rumored that the Yule Lads live here and they are—all 13 of them— the sons of the vicious Icelandic Trolls, Gryla and Leppaludi. Rarely spotted in the summer time, as they sleep in caves, but in the winter they wake up and begin Christmas preparations. I’m told that if I come here in December, I might have a chance to meet them.
The brothers have funny names that relate to their behavior or culinary preferences, such as Sausage Swiper, Spoon Licker, and Skyr Gobbler. There’s a noisy brother too, Door Slammer, who loves to open and slam doors with force and high decibels.
Thirteen days before Christmas, Icelandic children will leave their shoes out and receive an offering or gift from each of the Yule Lads. I’m told that the best children, who’ve behaved well during the year, will receive a present, but those who haven’t will get a rotten potato.