Bringing the Yule Boys into my Home
November 29, 2018
The following is a guest post by author, Gay Strandemo.
This is an article describing my adventure with the Yule Boys.
Growing up in a Nordic-American family in northern Minnesota gave me a love of the Yule season, which was celebrated with gusto. Both of my parents worked, so daycare consisted of my grandparents, who lived in an apartment above their business -- a men's clothing store. My grandfather was artistic and drew beautifully, and encouraged me to draw, so from a young age I did.
I work as a librarian, but I've always had an art project going as well. For a time I acted at a local experimental theater in Madison, Wis., and for a while I had a band that performed music I wrote and sang. While working at the public library, I also wrote and directed a series of plays for children each summer for the local school system and later at my public library every year for over a decade. These plays were usually based on international folktales -- always an interest of mine. It was when I was writing a play based on Scandinavian folktales that I came upon the story of the Yule boys and was captivated enough by the notion of these mischievous Jolasveinarnir to start the tradition of the Boys' visit to my own young children. Later, we began having holiday parties for friends and family to celebrate the Yule Boys' return every season. We've done this for many years -- it's always a great time!
While visiting the American-Scandinavian Foundation's building in New York City during December 2017, I overheard a gift shop worker respond to a phone inquiry by saying, "Thirteen what? No, no, we haven't any such thing like that here." That was when I figured that the story of the Yule Boys must be told, so that everyone can have fun celebrating them.
I hadn't drawn anything in ages, so, feeling trepidation, I first asked my husband and artist sister if they were interested in illustrating my written story. They were helpful, but ultimately, I realized that I had the strongest inspiration and motivation to tell this particular story. I set out for the fantastic art store, Artist & Craftsman Supply in Madison, Wisconsin, where I loaded up on every supply imaginable for bringing my vision to paper.
Once I began drawing -- I loved the task as I had as a child-- it felt as though the Yule Boys themselves were directing my choices for each of their profiles!
I've never been to Iceland, so I had to later amend a few details of my final drawings -- for instance, laying more snow, and darkening the skies to consider the time of year. One thing I did on purpose was creating the look of the Yule Boys to resemble teenage boys rather than old men -- it was just how I had always pictured them, so I went with that image.
I connected with Sunna Furstenau of the Icelandic Roots organization. She and Icelandic Roots Library intern Þordís Edda Guðjónsdóttir went over my text and corrected a few Icelandic spelling and grammar errors to make the text accurate and authentic. I was so grateful for their help. Sunna also was kind enough to show me how we were related through several Icelandic family connections that I did not know.
It has been a fun learning experience for my husband, the self-publisher of "The Yule Boys," and myself. We decided to go that route in order to really own the interpretation ourselves, and it has been a rewarding decision.
Gay is IR #I204687. If you are a supporting member of Icelandic Roots, you can find your relationships to Gay in the IR Database. Let her know if you are a close cousin!