In Icelandic mythology Grýla is a terrible mountain-dwelling monster and giantess who ventures down from her lair at Christmas time in search of naughty children to cook in a stew and eat, with the vain hope of remedying her insatiable appetite.
According to the legend Grýla has been married three times and her current husband, Leppalúði, lives with her and her their sons, the Yule Lads - mischievous and criminal Santa-type figures who also torment the Icelandic people by harassing sheep, stealing food, and window-peeping - in their cave in the Dimmuborgir lava fields, along with the black Yule Cat.
The legend dates back to the 13th century, though it didn’t become associated with Christmas until the 17th. In 1746 a decree was issued banning the use of Grýla and the Yule Lads to scare children.
[Written with the help of Wikipedia. Image: Grýla by Þrándur Þórarinsson]
Advent Calendar of Oddments 2012: December 19th