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Iceland Mag

Culture

Sheep-Cote Clod, the first yule lad has come down from the mountains

By Staff

  • Stekkjastaur The first Yule Lad as envisioned by popular cartoonist Halldór Bjarnason Photo/Halldór

While the children of most western countries believe in a friendly Santa Claus who arrives on Christmas Eve, Icelandic kids await the arrival of the Yule Lads: 13 mischievous troll like characters who live somewhere up in the mountains.

Read more: Instead of a friendly Santa Iceland has 13 mischievous Yule lads and an evil Christmas Cat

In December the Yule Lads make their way down from the mountains, one by one, the first arriving on December 12, and the last on December 24. According to tradition the Yule Lads will bring small treats to well behaved children. Beginning on the evening of December 11 Icelandic kids will therefore put their shoes out on the window sill, hoping for something nice. Naughty kids will wake up to a potato. 

The thirteen brothers all have very descriptive names reflecting either their nature or the prank they play.

Read more: The mystery, origins and history of the strange Icelandic Yule lads

Stekkjastaur, named Sheep-Cote Clod in English, is the first Yule Lad to head into town. Stekkjastaur was known to try and drink milk straight from the ewe’s teat, but was impaired by his stiff legs. All Icelandic kids know the story of the Yule Lads, as told in the 1932 "Yule Lad Peom" by Jóhannes úr Kötlum. Jóhannes describes Sheep-Cote Clod in the following manner:

The first of them was Sheep-Cote Clod.
He came stiff as wood,
to prey upon the farmer's sheep
as far as he could.
He wished to suck the ewes,
but it was no accident
he couldn't; he had stiff knees
- not to convenient.

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