Hey, Tottenham Hotspur won a game! On the road! Against a top four rival! It was good, even if Spurs didn’t necessarily deserve that win over Wolverhampton.
But you’re not here for that.
We always think of Santa Clause as a “right jolly old elf,” a rotund, ruddy grandfatherly figure with a sack full of presents and the least efficient mode of transportation possible. But Father Christmas is based off of a Turkish saint, after going through a distinctly western European transformation over the centuries. And he doesn’t have a monopoly on weird figures that hang around kids at Christmastime.
I present to you the Yule Lads — Iceland’s coterie of 13 half-troll figures that come around every December. But these are not benign, jolly figures who say ho-ho-ho and leave presents in exchange for cookies and milk. This is Iceland, home of Vikings. The Yule Lads are malevolent, mischievous bastards who are there to scare the crap out of Icelandic kids — once a day, starting on December 12, kids are visited by one of the Yule Lads. And most of them are jerks. They are the descendants of trolls or goblins and come around just to play pranks and make the lives of Icelander families living hell during the most wonderful time of the year.
Some of you may be familiar with the tradition of kids leaving their shoes on the front porch stuffed with straw on Epiphany night for the Magi’s camels, who are on their way to visit the baby Jesus. Well, Iceland has one of these traditions too, but instead the shoes are there to keep the Yule Lads AWAY. Good kids get candy in their shoes. Bad kids get rotten potatoes. Apparently they used to be even more evil but the government banned families from scaring their kids about the Yule Lads in 1746. Now, they’re just tricksters.
The Yule Lads are the children of Grýla, who kidnaps and eats misbehaving children, and Leppalúði, who is apparently just a boring clod who doesn’t do much. Oh, and did we mention Jólakötturinn, the Christmas Cat who eats children who didn’t receive new clothes for the holidays?
Iceland is wild, man.
I’m not sure what it is in the Nordic psyche that invents a baker’s dozen of malefic Christmas gnomes that torment young kids, but it sure makes for a great player rating theme.
Here’s the list of all 13 Yule Lads, and our ratings of Tottenham Hotspur players from the Wolves match, to the theme of our (least) favorite Yule Lads. Right-click-open-in-new-tab for a better view. And then tag yourself in the comments. (I’m Bjúgnakrækir...)
5 stars: Ketkrókur (Meat-Hook)
Michael Caley noted in our writer’s room that out of all the Yule Lads, Ketkrókur is the most likely to be successful in his night-time shenanigans because he knows what he wants (meat) and has a solid and practical idea on how to get it (with a hook). We should all aspire to that kind of planning and dedication to one’s dreams. Ketkrókur, I salute you. With my meat-hook.
No Tottenham Hotspur players reached this level. Maybe they need a hook.
4.5 stars: Bjúgnakrækir (Sausage-Swiper)
Another Yule Lad with a solid plan for stealing food, he elevates himself because of the specific target of his attention — smoked sausages, which are DELICIOUS. This is a half-troll who is reaching for the stars... or at least with the stars reaching down for a sausage. I salute his dedication, and his refined palate.
Toby Alderweireld (Community - 7.1): Nothing fancy, just some really, really solid all-around defending from Toby today. Spurs’ defense was very good against a pretty formidable Wolves attack, and Toby was a big reason why.
Eric Dier (Community - 6.7): One of his best games since his return to the lineup under Mourinho. Was a big, solid body shielding the back line, and dinked a good look off the post in the first half.
Jan Vertonghen (Community - 7.6): I had Jan rated a tick or two lower in these ratings, but then he went and headed home the winner in extra time. That counts for a lot.
4 stars: Skyrgamur (Skyr-Gobbler)
The Skyr-Gobbler doesn’t do anything particularly nasty. Apparently, he doesn’t break rules or steal things or make a nuisance of himself — he just likes Icelandic yogurt. And why wouldn’t he? It’s good for you. Ya gotta respect that. Skyrgamur seems like a solid dude, and I’d totally hang out with him and watch Gylfi Sigurdsson highlights.
Paulo Gazzaniga (Community - 7.6): Distributed the ball well and made a couple of spectacular saves. The center backs ahead of him made sure he wasn’t tested as much as he could have been.
3.5 stars: Stúfur (Stubby)
Stúfur is short, like dwarf-short, and goes around stealing pans so that he can eat the crust out of them. To me, this means that Stubby is a lover of pie. I can relate. Stubby is correct that the crust is almost always the best part of the pie. It’s also probably a pretty lucrative gig, since I’m sure there are plenty of children who don’t eat their pie crusts. Stubby will not want for options; pretty smart troll.
Dele (Community - 6.6): Created Spurs’ best chance of the game (Dier’s donk) but was on the whole rather quiet. Part of that was the nature of the match, with Spurs playing a lot more rear-guard action.
Lucas Moura (Community - 7.7): Absolutely smashed his goal in the early part of the match and did his fair share of defending, but was much less involved in the offense than expected.
Jose Mourinho (Community - ): Hey look, it’s our first overtly defensive Mourinho match! It worked this time — Spurs were overall solid and managed to steal a match on a set piece. It wasn’t always pretty at times, though.
3 stars: Þvörusleikir (Spoon-Licker)/Pottaskefill (Pot-Licker)/Askasleikir (Bowl-Licker)
If there’s an overriding theme of the Yule Lads with regards to their modi operandi, it’s licking things. Nearly 25% of the Lads are [thing]-lickers — pots, bowls, spoons. Which fine, it’s a thing, no judgement here. It’s just... a little weird, y’know? Presumably the Yule Lickers aren’t the brightest bulbs in the chandelier or they’d know how to get into the pantry, or the refrigerator to find where the real food is.
Moussa Sissoko (Community - 6.4): Lots of industry, lots of ball progression, but struggled going forward at times. Did his share of defense but was let down by his passing against Wolves at times. Not sure he was the right choice for this match, but wasn’t poor by any means.
Davinson Sanchez (Community - 6.1): Got turned around by Jota and struggled a bit at times when Wolves opted to attack down Spurs’ right flank, but also made a few good defensive stops, and Jota is a handful for anyone.
2.5 stars: Gluggagægir (Window-Peeper)
Wait, so there’s an ugly gnome-like wizened creature peepin’ in little kids’ windows and we’re supposed to believe that he’s just there looking to steal stuff? Not buying it. This guy’s an actual creep and I’m calling the cops.
Son Heung-Min (Community - 6.2): Strangely ineffective in a match that was very open; that normally is where a player like Sonny thrives. A couple of blocked shots but otherwise not much of an impact.
Harry Kane (Community - 6.6): Completely absent offensively until the very end of the match. Did a lot of unrecognized defensive work, but he’s in there to score goals and create chances and he did little of either.
2 stars — Stekkjastaur (Sheep-Cote Clod)
The description of Stekkjastaur is being overly generous and obtuse, but we all know what’s REALLY being implied here by the phrase “harasses sheep.” Thankfully he has a peg-leg and isn’t especially mobile — that implies that he’s also not especially successful, because it would be really difficult to explain that to the children. Hide yo kids, hide yo ewes. (And NO SCOTLAND JOKES.)
Serge Aurier (Community - 5.8): Predictably awful. Wayward with his passing, and got lost defensively on more than one occasion. You just don’t know whether you’re getting Good Serge or Bad Serge in any given match, and that inconsistency is why he’s so maddening of a player.
1.5 stars — Kertasníkir (Candle-Stealer)
Why candles? Because according to Icelandic lore, the candles in question were made from tallow, which is, I am told, technically edible. Why a Yule Lad would seek to steal and presumably eat fat-candles when there are lots of other, better things to steal and eat (like smoked sausages, or skyr, or... uh, bowls of garbage) are beyond my ken. Gross.
This category only exists to get in one more Yule Lad.
1 star: Hurðaskellir (Door-Slammer)
Most of the Yule Lads are governed by base instincts — food mostly, but also stealing stuff, primarily to get or trade for food. You can respect the hustle, if not the execution — a troll’s gotta eat. Not Hurðaskellir — he just slams doors in the middle of the night. That’s not cool. I mean, lick all the spoons you want, that’s gross, whatever, but midnight door-slamming? That’s just being a dick. Look, you woke the baby. F—king Hurðaskellir.
No Tottenham Hotspur players are as bad as Hurðaskellir. That jackass.
Jólakötturinn Memorial Non-Rating
Christian Eriksen, Juan Foyth, Harry Winks