It seems that a lot of world mythology surrounding winter holidays had sort of a back door intention of making kids behave.
If you don’t behave, someone’s going to leave you coal. Or steal you. Or eat you.
Gryla is a similar myth, this time centering in Iceland. She was a not entirely pleasant creature-it’s said that she was a giantess who lived in the mountain caves with her husband and the Yule Cat (more on the Yule Cat later). She had a particular taste for misbehaving-child stew, and parents would warn their children that if they didn’t behave and sleep she would steal them away for dinner. Gryla was an incredibly ugly creature possessing both hooves and tails (yes, multiple tails). It’s a common theme.
Gryla’s reputation became so strong that unlike a lot of the folk figures that appear near Christmas, in the 1700s there was an attempt to ban her legally. Was this move about the story scaring children, or was it more about the control of historic folklore-it wouldn’t be the first time. Either way the story has lasted until now, though Gryla and her cat may not be the most readily recognized Christmas baddie; Krampus probably still has her beat (heh).