The Yule Cat – Jólakötturinn

We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post. Learn more here

It’s Christmas time and with Christmas comes great Christmas stories! There are all sorts of Christmas stories told all around the world, and one of the most interesting is from Iceland and involves Jólakötturinn  – literally, ‘The Yule Cat’. The Yule Cat was a large and prowling creature, monstrous, who prowled around the Icelandic countryside during the night, looking for those without new raiment so he could devour them!

The story goes that if you are unable to receive as a gift a new piece of clothing before Christmas Eve, you will be visited that night by the Yule Cat who will eat you alive! Possibly a bit too scary for the kids, the modern telling of the Yule Cat has him eating your Christmas Dinner instead.

Farmers would use the story of the Yule Cat to intimidate their workers into working harder to get all of the sheep sheared before the Holiday, telling them that if they got the work done, the farmer would gift each of them a new item of clothing so the Yule Cat would leave them be.

An Icelandic poet wrote a poem in 1932 about the Yule Cat, appropriately titled “Jólakötturinn”. I have it here in both English and Icelandic for you:

[su_box title=”Jólakötturinn ” box_color=”#7f9e78″][su_row][su_column size=”1/2″]

Þið kannist við jólaköttinn,
– sá köttur var gríðarstór.
Fólk vissi ekki hvaðan hann kom
eða hvert hann fór.

Hann glennti upp glyrnurnar sínar,
glóandi báðar tvær.
– Það var ekki heiglum hent
að horfa í þær.

Kamparnir beittir sem broddar,
upp úr bakinu kryppa há,
– og klærnar á loðinni löpp
var ljótt að sjá.

Hann veifaði stélinu sterka,
hann stökk og hann klóraði og blés,
– og var ýmist uppi í dal
eða úti um nes.

Hann sveimaði, soltinn og grimmur,
í sárköldum jólasnæ,
og vakti í hjörtunum hroll
á hverjum bæ.

Ef mjálmað var aumlega úti
var ólukkan samstundir vís
Allir vissu´, að hann veiddi menn
en vildi ekki mýs.

Hann lagðist á fátæka fólkið,
sem fékk enga nýja spjör
fyrir jólin – og baslaði og bjó
við bágust kjör.

Frá því tók hann ætíð í einu
allan þess jólamat,
og át það svo oftast nær sjálft,
ef hann gat.[/su_column] [su_column size=”1/2″]

Þvi var það að konurnar kepptust
við kamba og vefstól og rokk,
og prjónuðu litfagran lepp
eða lítinn sokk.

Því kötturinn mátti ekki koma
og krækja í börnin smá
– Þau urðu að fá sína flík
þeim fullorðnu hjá.

Og er kveikt var á jólakvöldið
og kötturinn gægðist inn,
stóðu börnin bísperrt og rjóð,
með böggulinn sinn.

Sum höfðu fengið svuntu
og sum höfðu fengið skó,
eða eitthvað, sem þótti þarft,
– en það var nóg.

Því kisa mátti engan eta,
sem einhverja flíkina hlaut. –
Hún hvæsti þá heldur ljót
og hljóp á braut.

Hvort enn er hún til veit ég ekki,
– en aum yrði hennar för,
ef allir eignuðust næst
einhverja spjör.

Þið hafið nú kannski í huga
að hjálpa, ef þörf verður á.
– Máske enn finnist einhver börn
sem ekkert fá.

Máske, að leitin að þeim sem líða
af ljós-skorti heims um ból,
gefi ykkur góðan dag
og gleðileg jól.[/su_column][/su_row][/su_box]

[su_box title=”The Yule Cat” box_color=”#9d1d31″][su_row][su_column size=”1/2″]

You’ve heard of the Christmas cat,
that cat was monstrously huge.
People knew not where he came
or where he went.

He opened his eyes wide,
they both were glowing.
It was not for the cowards
to look into them.

Whiskers sharp as needles,
the tall curve of its bent back,
and claws in the hairy paws
was awful to look upon.

He waved his strong tail,
he leaped and he scratched and hissed,
and was either up in the valley
or out in the headland.

He roamed, famished and savage,
in the ice-cold Christmas snow
and woke fear in everyone’s hearts
in every town.

If there was a pitiful meow outside
the bad luck was immediately certain.

Everyone knew that he hunted humans
and did not want mice.

He aimed for the poor people,
who received no new garment
for Christmas – and toiled and lived
in miserable conditions.

From them he got his feeding
for his Christmas dinner,
and ate them usually
if he could.[/su_column] [su_column size=”1/2″]

That was why the women fought
with comb and loom and spinning wheel,
and knitted colourful patches
or little socks.

For the cat could not arrive
and eat the little children
they would receive their items
with the grown-ups.

And when the candles were lit for Christmas eve
and the cat peeped in,
the children stood proud and ruddy
with their parcels.

Some had received mittens
and some had received shoes,
or something, that they were in need of
but that was all it took.

For the cat could not eat anyone,
who some garment received.
She hissed then rather awfully
and ran away.

Whether she still exists I do not know,
but her travel would become miserable,
if everyone was given
some item of clothing.

You may have it now in your mind
to help, when it’s needed.

Maybe there still are children
that receive nothing at all.
Maybe the search of those who live
in dark homes,
gives you a good day
and a merry Christmas[/su_column][/su_row][/su_box]

And of course this post wouldn’t be complete without pictures of our own little Yule Cat, Gabby!

These pictures are from the very first Christmas we had little Gabbers. At first she was scared of fires in the fireplace because they made popping noises, but she learned that they were full of warm and for the next month or two we would find her curled up in front of the fire place during the day, and snuggled between us at night.

We no longer live there, and our current home doesn’t have a fireplace, but she still finds the warmest spots to snuggle up during these cold months.

We hope you guys have a blessed and wonderful Christmas! We’ll be back with a Christmas Selfie Sunday, and a few posts next week on water fountain maintenance and litter boxes. Until then, subscribe to Gabby on YouTube as we’re going to try to get daily vlogs up!

What do you think?