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Gryla, the Icelandic ogress, is notorious for her habit of having human soup made of bad children. Here is her story!


Christmas is a season of legends, poems, carols, stories, folklores and myths. There are many popular characters in these stories associated with Christmas and most of them set off for their annual tour during this season. Some of them are concerned with distributing gifts while some others are wicked and notorious. Gryla is one such character, an ogress, who loves to have human soup made from bad children. She hails from Icelandic mountains, where she lives with her family, and sets off for her hunt for children during Christmas season, through the entire Iceland. It is said that she has an amazing hearing capacity and she can hear the voice of those children who are acting mischievously. Though she was a nightmare for Icelandic children, she was a gizmo for parents who used her name to make their children behave well whenever they became adamant. However, extensive use of this character made the children really scared which prompted the government to mandate people to stop using her name to scare children. Let's have a look at the characteristics of this Icelandic ogress.

Gryla of Iceland

Gryla is an ogress in the Icelandic folklore and is associated with Christmas season. She loves to eat human soup, made of children, typically the bad ones. She lives in a cave in the Dimmuborgir lava fields, in the mountains of Iceland with her family which includes her husband, a lazy troll named Leppaluoi, her thirteen children known as Yule Lads and her fiendish cat. Yule lads are very mischievous and steal from the nearby houses and also harass the people, mostly farmers. Later, under the influence of Santa, they developed good qualities and now, they are treated as the Icelandic version of Santa Clause. Gryla is said to have married thrice and Leppaluoi is her third husband. She also finds mention in Snorri Sturluson's thirteenth century Edda.

Gryla, being a wicked woman, has horrifying features like hooves, horns, big ears, wrinkled face, prominent nose and tail. She has an overall ugly appearance which is made even scarier with her unappealing black, shambolic hair that is usually covered with a scarf or a hat. She carries a big sack to store the kidnapped children.

Gryla is portrayed as wicked woman who is fastidiously addicted to boiling and eating the mischievous children that she kidnaps. She has an excellent sense of hearing which enables her to identify the children who have been mischievous throughout the year. She sets off for her annual tour during Christmas and kidnaps all of the bad children. Parents used to threaten their children with her name whenever they misbehaved.

Current Scenario
The folkloric characters of the wicked lady Gryla and her children were used by parents as a convenient method to frighten children. However, in 1746, the authorities prohibited parents from threatening children using these characters. Gryla is a popular folklore figure in Iceland and her legend appears in many songs, poems, stories and plays. In some of these works, Gryla dies towards the end.