Sunday, December 11, 2011
The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus: Review
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by Frank L. Baum (most widely known for his Oz books) gives us the story of Santa Claus from his earliest days with the fairies and nymphs of the forest through his transformation into the yearly Christmas Eve visitor who brings toys for the children. It tells how the human baby was discovered by Ak, the Master Woodsman, and given his protection and then he was adopted by Necile, the nymph. The boy was named Claus ("little one") and grew up enjoying the protection of the immortals (Nymphs, Ryls, Knooks, and Fairies--those who care for the forests, waters, plants and animals). Once he is old enough to be told that there are others like him, he realizes that he would like to spend his life making other children as happy as he has been with his guardians. He learns to make toys and gives them to the children who have nothing, but soon decides that all children (even those that are rich and seem to be well-cared for) should benefit from his goodness. We also learn how he came to use chimneys and reindeer and finally, why he now makes one trip a year on Christmas Eve.
What struck me about this very interesting story of Santa Claus is how much the movie Santa Claus Is Coming to Town must have built on Baum's work (without, as far as I can tell crediting him). The parallels are quite striking: Forest animals protect him; Elves rather than a nymph take in the orphaned child; the scenes showing him learning to make toys; there is the Burgermeister who doesn't want the children to receive toys (in the book it's just a few nobles who won't allow Claus to give toys to their children); the Burgermeister takes the toys and burns them=the Awgwas in the book who steal the toys and hide them in the mountains; in the book the reindeer grow strong on special food so they can run swiftly and leap to the rooftops and in the movie they eat magic corn that allows them to fly; and so on. I'm sure the movie rearranged things as they did to play down the very pagan connections in Baum's work.
This is a quite lovely history of Santa Claus. And the illustrations are wonderful. If I had read it as child, I'm sure I would have rated it higher. As it is--three stars.