Iceland is a marvelous and magical place. Aside from being on my bucket list of places I want to spend some quality time, the tiny Nordic island nation has also provided us with the Sugarcubes, Sigur Rós, the most confusing parts of Die Another Day (probably one of the worst James Bond flicks, IMHO), and, in 2010, the terrifying erruption of Eyjafjallajökull which basically shut down air travel in Europe for several weeks.
Over half of the population believes in elves, trolls and the Huldufolk, and the Christmas Season is the time of year most bounteous with mystique. You have your garden variety “Yule Lads” (jolasveniar) with names like Window-Peeper, Sausage-Swiper, Doorway-Sniffer and Stubby. These thirteen gents terrorize Icelandic children during the last thirteen nights before Christmas Eve and are the children of the mountain trolls Grýla and Leppalúði. If this wasn’t terrifying enough, Grýla also has a cat: Jólakötturinn.
I stumbled upon Jólakötturinn, or the Yule Cat, in my search for a name for the lovely little monster of a black kitten that joined my household a few months ago. As I have often provided my pets with unusual and culturally recherché monikers, I wanted something suitable for the mischievous little monster. Jólakötturinn did not make the cut, and I finally settled on Killakee, but that did not prevent me from doing some digging into just what the Yule Cat was all about.
Basically put, the Yule Cat is one part flesh-eating monster (or, as I like to call it: cat), one part grinch and one giant part Tim Gunn.
Jólakötturinn’s job is to terrorize Icelandic towns and make sure that you have received new clothing for Christmas. If you have not received new clothing, Jólakötturinn may eat you. In some of the nicer, TV Christmas Special and all-around fluffy versions, Jólakötturinn simply steals your presents. I know cats, though and there is no way in hell the Yule Beast is stealing your presents when the option to munch is on the table. I’d like to also think that Jólakötturinn judges people based on what they put out to show off. Put out those JNCO jeans and you are most decidedly going to wake up in the jaws of a giant and ferocious Judgey McJugdgerson.
Aside from Björk’s wonderfully outrageous costumes, I don’t have a lot of exposure to fashionable Icelandic attire. I can imagine a lot of black and dark colors, but that might just me trying to push Ingmar Bergman further west. It would be quite helpful if Jólakötturinn had a fashion blog so the citizenry might prepare themselves for what is to come. I can just imagine it: “Plaids and stripes and houndstooth? Tsk-tsk, this human is definitely going to leave a bad taste in my mouth. I might just have to chew on an Alexander McQueen scarf to make it to the next village.”
Fashion police in cat form is horribly terrifying. My cats may judge me for the tacky things I wear, but at least they aren’t mandated with chewing my legs off if they are unhappy with my lack of couture. There is also the entire socioeconomic issue that Jólakötturinn presents. Too poor to buy something new for Christmas? Oh well, you’re cat food.
If Jólakötturinn decides he wants to venture to the States this Christmas season, then I guess I’m basically hosed. If he doesn’t dig on tacky Star Wars sweaters, then I’ve got nothing.