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Yuletide in the Land of Ice and Fire

Poet and author Gerdur Kristny explores Iceland's Christmas myths, with music, sounds, poetry and stories from Icelanders.

Acclaimed Icelandic poet and author Gerður Kristný journeys into the curious world of Iceland's Christmas myths.

With not one but thirteen Santa Clauses, troll-like figures who sneak down from the mountains to make mischief at Christmas and a 'Yule Cat' who prowls through the snow looking for lazy people to eat, there are myriad fantastical - and sometimes sinister - festive tales indigenous to Iceland.

Creeping down from the mountains one by one over the thirteen nights before Christmas, Iceland's Jólasveinar, or 'Yule Lads' are eccentric characters out to make mischief. From 'Door Slammer' to 'Spoon Licker', 'Sausage Swiper' to 'Meat Hook', the Yule Lads - part of Icelandic folklore stretching back centuries - can be mischievous and menacing, stealing from pantries, playing pranks and scaring children.

These days they are known to leave gifts in children's shoes (or a potato in the case of the badly-behaved) but their parents - evil ogress Grýla and her lazy husband Leppalúði - are still the subject of frightening tales, known to eat naughty children. Even their pet Yule Cat prowls the country's towns and villages looking for lazy people to eat.

With music, sound, poetry and accounts from Icelanders bringing the tales to life, Gerður Kristný guides an atmospheric exploration of Iceland's festive stories, providing insight into unique Icelandic cultural traditions and revealing larger, universal, questions about folklore and why we tell scary stories.

Award-winning poet and author Gerður Kristný won the 2010 Icelandic Literature Prize for her poetry book Blóðhófnir, which is based on an ancient Nordic myth. She has also written award-winning novels and short stories for both children and adults.

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