Giljagaur arrives on Dec 13. His name means “Gully Oaf.” He is usually portrayed with gray hair and wearing very plain colored clothes. As his name implies, he hides in the gullies and ditches and canyons near farmsteads. Then, after the cows have been milked, he sneaks into the barn and skims the rich cream from the top of the milk buckets. He hides again and, after morning milking, sneaks back for another creamy snack.

Sometimes his job is very easy to do, especially if you have young dairymaids and handsome warriors and lots of Viking hormones on hand. Giljagaur waits till the flirting gets started, the young people get distracted, and then he runs in and steals the cream.

Giljagaur - Icelandic Yule Lads (December 13th)


He also has a fondness for cows, too. And he speaks bovinese, so he and Búkolla here are swapping some stories. Icelandic cows are a special breed, unchanged since the Vikings brought them to the island. They are quite small and can live in mountainous areas, but they are sweet natured and provide a lot of good quality milk. They also come in an amazing variety of colors, and some even have brindle stripes!

Vikings rarely drank milk. They used it for baking and to make other products that kept well in storage, like cheese, sour milk (tastes like buttermilk) and a thick low-fat curd called “skyr.” They also used the whey from cheesemaking as a way to preserve meat products, a tradition that continues to this day in Iceland. The resulting “pickled” meats were an unpleasant grey in color, but they kept well, tasted quite all right, and were nutritious. The whey itself actually has a taste similar to white wine.

The people of Berk managed to always keep a few cows on hand, but they had to hide them in caves and canyons and then make a difficult trek twice a day to milk them. Now, the dragons know to leave cows alone (a few dragons even like cheese as a treat), so once again Giljagaur can raid the stables.

So, keep your fresh cream locked away and make sure that the dairy personnel who work between Dec 13 and 26 are not the kind to be easily impressed by a well turned out pair of biceps.


Giljagaur var annar,
með gráa hausinn sinn.
– Hann skreið ofan úr gili
og skaust í fjósið inn.

Hann faldi sig í básunum
og froðunni stal,
meðan fjósakonan átti
við fjósamanninn tal.


Gully Imp was the second,
With his grey old head.
He crept down from the mountain,
and into the cow shed.

He hid in the stables
– And stole the froth,
While the milkmaid chatted
Up the stable boy.

Berglind, Iceland24
December 2015