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Trolls For Christmas: A Strange Holiday Story From Iceland

Christmas Story Yule Lads Troll IcelandYou better not shout, you better not cry, you better not pout I’m telling you why …because trolls will come and steal your stuff and possibly eat you.

At least, that’s how the song would go in Iceland. Because where we have Santa Claus coming down the chimney on Christmas eve, in Iceland their Christmas involves trolls, and lots of them.


In the old days life in Iceland was harsh and their stories reflected that hardship. For example, to make children behave around Christmas time parents didn’t bribe them with shiny gifts but instead told them stories about how trolls would come down from the mountains and go after them if they were bad.

Christmas Story Yule Lads Iceland ScaryThe trolls were called Yule Lads, and they were the sons of a famous evil troll named Gryla. Born in the mountains, the thirteen Yule Lads lived to cause mayhem, and Christmas time was their favorite time to stir up trouble.

In the days before Christmas the Yule Lads would come down from their dark mountain caves one by one to terrify children in their own particular style.

Imagine that you’re a kid in Iceland around Christmas time in the old days and you’re jolted awake by a thump-thump sound from outside. Trust me, you’re going to want to stay under your covers because that’s not Santa and his reindeer landing on the roof. It’s probably Sheep Cote-Clod, a troll with wooden legs that breaks through fences looking for sheep to steal.

Scary Christmas Story Yule Lads IcelandSee something shining through the window? That’s probably the eyes of Window Peeper, who likes to look in windows before breaking in. Door Slammer is a troll that likes to creep around houses in the middle of the night and slam doors.

Some of the thirteen trolls like to hide under beds, others follow and attack children who happen to be carrying candles. The thing that all of them have in common is that they’re especially attracted by the acts of bad children, even for something as simple as saying a curse word.

You can see how stories of the Yule Lads became a little addicting to some parents in Iceland who wanted to stop their children from misbehaving. Apparently things got so bad that eventually a public decree was made banning parents from scaring their kids with stories of the Yule Lads, and that was the Modernd Day Yule Lads Story Santa Claus Icelandbeginning of the end for the traditional scary Christmas trolls.


After the public decree, slowly the story of the Yule Lads were changed to make them less scary.

Children were actually encouraged to attract the Yule Lads to their houses by leaving a shoe on a window sill. If a child had been good then each day before Christmas a Yule Lad would leave a small gift in the shoe, but if the child had been bad then they would leave a rotten potato.

Nowadays the Yule Lads are miles away from the terrifying trolls of the old stories. They are usually shown dressed in red Santa outfits and acting goofy like they’re redneck cousins of Kris Gryla Christmas Story Iceland ScaryKringle or something. But misbehaving kids in Iceland aren’t completely off the hook for their bad behavior, because one part of the old story still survives.

Gryla, the troll mother of the Yule Lads is still believed to come down from the mountains to search the towns for bad children. She slinks in the shadows looking to raid houses of their most ill-behaved kids, then stuffs them in a sack to take back to her mountain cave so she can make a dinner stew out of them.

So maybe it’s not quite safe to come out from under the covers around Christmas time in Iceland… at least if you’re a misbehaving kid :D.

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The Story Of Noori: The Fisherman’s Daughter Who Married A King

Picture illustrating the story of Noori Jam Tamachi, showing Noori using a fishing net and the King Jam Tamachi talking to her.There once lived a woman named Noori who had spent all her life in a small fishing village next to a beautiful lake. All the villagers there lived in huts made out of straw and got their living from fishing on the lake.

The daughter of a humble fisherman, Noori loved the little village and all things to do with life by the water.

What she loved best was simply to go out on the lake no matter what the reason and just watch the blue waves shimmering in the sun. She thought she would spend her whole life in that little fishing village, but things have a way of changing…


One day while Noori was helping her father unload some nets from the boat a great clamor arose in the village. The news traveled fast from person to person: “The King is coming!” and all the villagers rushed around to make their houses and garments as presentable as possible.

The woods surrounding the village were great hunting grounds and King Jam Tamachi had been spending time there doing some hunting. Now he was ready to relax for a while by the lake before returning back to his palace.

A picture of fishermen in boats on Kenjhar Lake illustrating the story of Noori Jam Tamachi.Noori was quite curious because she had never seen the King before, or really anyone of royal status for that matter. The villagers around her whispered that he would be wearing clothes made of gold as well as the finest jewelry. She thought the idea of someone wearing clothes of gold to be kind of strange and reminded herself to look and see if this was actually true.

But as soon as the handsome King came near to where Noori was she forgot all about that, his eyes met hers and it was love at first sight for both of them.

It was a very strange thing for a king to fall in love with a poor fisherman’s daughter, but many people in the village weren’t surprised when they learned it was Noori that the King had fallen in love with. She was quite beautiful and had a face that people said shined bright like the full moon. She had been given the name Noori, which means ‘bright light’, in honor of her unusual beauty.


Depiction of King Jam Tamachi for the famous folktale and legend Noori Jam Tamachi. Not too long after the first meeting of Noori and the King came something even more unusual though, the King asked her to marry him. This was pretty much unheard of because the culture there was very obsessed with status, and someone with the status of royalty would never mix with someone who lived in a poor fishing village. Until now.

Noori was deeply in love and accepted the King’s marriage proposal happily, though when it came time to go she looked back at her beloved fishing village and felt sadness at having to leave. But she knew it had to be done, her new life and home was ahead of her in the royal palace.

Now in most tales this is where the story stops and everybody celebrates a (mostly) happy ending. The poor fisherman’s daughter becomes a queen and lives happily ever after in a golden palace right? But this wasn’t the case for Noori.


Picture depicting Noori Jam Tamachi alone in the palace thinking about the six queens plotting against her.The King may have looked beyond Noori’s status as a fisherman’s daughter but when she arrived at the palace she found out that most people there could not do the same, or just plain chose not to.

And she had a big problem: the other queens. There were 6 of them and they burned with hatred for her, their new favorite thing to do soon became trying to poison the mind of the King against “that simple girl from the fishing village”.

Mostly the King ignored the hateful rumors that the 6 queens tried to pass on to him but there was one particular rumor that they said so many times it actually started to make him worry. What if Noori wasn’t the person he thought she was?

For months the queens had been whispering about how Noori was constantly stealing jewels from various rooms of the palace and giving them to her brother when he visited, so that he could sneak the jewels back to the fishing village.

In fact the King had heard from other more trusted people that she had often been seen secretly handing a box to her brother as he was leaving the palace. The King knew that these people wouldn’t lie to him, so it was with a heavy heart that he decided to finally see with his own eyes what was happening.


Picture depicting King Jam Tamachi jumping out at Noori and her brother while they were holding a wooden box.Imagine Noori’s surprise when the King and his guards jumped out of the shadows as she was handing a small wooden box to her brother!

The King demanded that she instead hand the box to one of his guards, and he looked so betrayed while he said this that it stung her heart. Before she could say a word he walked over to the box and lifted the lid to see just how many precious jewels she had tried to steal from the palace this time. You’ll never guess what he saw in the box…

It was nothing but a few fish bones and bread crumbs.

“What is this?” he said in complete surprise. Noori saw that it was a happy kind of surprise though, because he smiled as he said it and turned to her.

Noori explained to the King that she was afraid if she got used to the kind of food that was served in the palace she’d stop being able to enjoy the kind of food that she grew up eating in the village. So she asked her mother to send a bit of fish and village bread along with her brother each time he visited. She had been trying to keep this from the King because she didn’t want to seem ungrateful for all the lavish food he provided.

Well after this the King never listened to another rumor from the 6 queens again, no matter how hard they tried to convince him.

Seeing that Noori longed for the village by the lake he agreed to go with her and visit it as often as possible, Picture of a boat on Kenjhar Lake that goes to Noori Jam Tamachi's tomb memorial in Pakistan.and through his great love for her he started to appreciate beauty of the lake and the little village as she did.


It probably won’t surprise you to hear that over the years Noori became very famous and well-loved by the people of her country, she was an unusually humble and kind queen that never forgot what really mattered in life. And even now many generations later people still enjoy talking about Queen Noori and the love story of Noori Jam Tamachi.

After she died the King had her buried in a white tomb in the middle of that same lake where they first met. And when you climb up to the tomb you get a spectacular view of the shimmering blue lake that Noori loved so much all through her life.

A picture of Noori Jam Tamachi's tomb in the middle of Kenjhar Lake.The lake is called Kenjhar Lake and every day hundreds of people go there to pay their respects to Noori and celebrate the kind of love that she and the King had for each other.

Some people will take pictures, some will pray, and some people have even been known to sprinkle rose petals over the monument. One thing is for sure though: they will all talk about the remarkable story of Noori, the fisherman’s daughter who married a king.

(Big thanks to Qaseem Ahmad for providing 2 of the photos for this post. Thank you!)

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The Peasant In Heaven

Once upon a time a poor pious peasant died and arrived before the gates of heaven. At the same time a very wealthy man arrived at the gates and waited to get in as well.A painting of a peasant wearing a brown hat and jacket.

Eventually Saint Peter came along with the key and opened the door, letting in the wealthy man but apparently not seeing the peasant. He closed the doors before the peasant could get inside.

The peasant stood outside the gates and heard how the wealthy man was received in heaven with all kinds of rejoicing and music and singing. At length all became quiet again and Saint Peter came and opened the gate of heaven so the peasant could finally go in.

The peasant expected that they would make music and sing when he went in also but all remained quiet. He was received with great affection it is true, and the angels did come to meet him, but no one sang.

The peasant asked Saint Peter how it was that they did not sing for him as they had done when the rich man went in, and said that it seemed to him there in heaven things were done with just as much partiality as on earth.

Then said Saint Peter:

“By no means, thou art just as dear to us as anyone else and wilt enjoy every heavenly delight that the rich man enjoys.

But poor fellows like thee come to heaven every day, however… a rich man like this does not come more than once in a hundred years!”