So you’re not feeling very Christmas-y? You have the winter storm blues? Maybe you’ve got the Holiday shopping humbug?
Well, snap out of it! You’ve only got twelve days left! You have got to get out there and get those Holiday sale items! Those lines at the post office won’t get any shorter you know! You can’t leave the Christmas cookie baking until the last minute (I’ve only got one batch done. One! That will last, like, one minute at my house on Christmas Eve). Hey! I just now realized we’re in the Twelve Days of Christmas end run. Every body get their partridge and pear tree ready.
But, seriously, it’s really easy to fall into the doldrums this time of year. There’s so much to do on top of the regular weekly work. Sometimes the money is even tighter than the time frame. Sometimes the money is not even there at all. Sometimes we build up such high expectations that reality has no chance of success. And sometimes, as we rush about on busy Holiday business, we forget to take time to enjoy the season with the children in our lives; the children who deserve to enjoy our love and attention.
This week I have two short Holiday stories that book lovers of all ages can enjoy.
A Kidnapped Santa Claus
Our first story is a short story from author Lyman Frank Baum. Frank was born in Chittenango, New York on May 15, 1856. He was the seventh of nine children. He grew up on his “parents’ expansive estate, Roselawn”. He always had an interest in writing. When he was still young, his father bought him a cheap printing press and he and his younger brother Henry started The Roselawn Home Journal.
When he was seventeen, Frank started a second journal to reflect a new interest: The Stamp Collector. At age twenty, he had a new interest, Hamburg Chickens and the breeding of fancy poultry, and a new journal, The Poultry Record. Frank also loved the theater and when he was twenty-four, his father built him his own theater in Richburg, New York. Frank gathered together an acting troupe and wrote plays and songs for them to perform. It wasn’t long, though, before the theater caught fire during a production and burned down. All known copies of Frank’s plays and songs burned with the theater.
L. Frank Baum married Maud Gage, daughter of a famous feminist activist, in 1882 and they had four sons. In 1888, they moved to Dakota territory to open a store. The store went bust and Frank turned to editing a local newspaper. But the newspaper went bust, also, so Frank and his family moved back east, to Chicago, and Frank became a reporter. He also worked as a door-to-door salesman to make ends meet.
In 1897, Frank published a moderately successful book, Mother Goose in Prose. Father Goose, His Book followed in 1899 and was the best-selling children’s book of that year. But Frank had his big break in 1900, when he published his most famous work: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It earned “much critical acclaim and financial success” and was the best-selling children’s book for two years straight. Frank went on to write thirteen more novels based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, “nine other fantasy novels, and a host of other works (55 novels in total, plus four “lost” novels, 83 short stories, over 200 poems, an unknown number of scripts, and many miscellaneous writings).”
Frank was not satisfied. He wanted to bring The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to the stage. In 1902, Frank produced a musical stage version that ran on Broadway for 293 successful performances and also toured the United States. But the stage version had many changes (which may actually have been against Frank’s wishes) that would seem really strange to modern readers: instead of Toto the Dog there was Imogene the Cow, instead of Dorothy getting sucked into a cyclone, there were Tryxie Tryfle the waitress and Pastoria the streetcar operator, and the Wicked Witch of the West was completely eliminated.
Over the years, Frank continued to pursue his love of the theater but he was not always successful. He also continued to write and had several pseudonyms for his non-Oz works. But he still was not completely satisfied. He had his eye on another venue for his adventures in Oz: movies. Frank and his family moved to Hollywood. In 1914, Frank started his own film production company, The Oz Film Manufacturing Company, and served as its president, screenwriter, and producer. Some of his films included early appearances from future greats Harold Lloyd and Hal Roach.
Five years later, Frank suffered a stroke and died. His final mystifying words were “Now we can cross the Shifting Sands.” His final Oz book, Glinda of Oz, was published a year after his death although several other authors went on to write more adventures in the Land of Oz. And in 1939, MGM brought Oz to Technicolor life with its wonderful musical adaptation: The Wizard of Oz starring Judy Garland.
Frank wrote many other magical stories besides his Oz books. In 1902, the same year he brought Oz to Broadway, Frank wrote The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. This story tells the adventures of a little lost mortal baby that is found and raised in the Forest of Burzee by immortal creatures. Neclaus (meaning “Necile’s Little One” after one of his caretakers) plays with and learns from the little creatures of the woods.
When Neclaus grows up, the immortals send him out to see the mortal world. The young Claus is upset by the brutality and hardship of the mortal world. Claus settles near the Forest of Burzee in the Laughing Valley of Hohaho and becomes known for his kindness to mortal children. Eventually, after many adventures, Neclaus becomes immortal and takes on four helpers: Wisk the Fairy, Peter the Knook, Kilter the Pixie, and Nuter the Ryl.
In 1904, two years after The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, Frank wrote another story about Neclaus: A Kidnapped Santa Claus. This short story is Christmas themed and shares the mythology of the original novel. In the story, Neclaus still lives in the Laughing Valley. Once a year, he delivers presents to the mortal children of the world aided by his little immortal helpers.
But there are five other creatures that are not too happy with Santa Claus’ fondness for children. The Five Daemons of the Caves live on negative emotions: Selfishness, Envy, Hatred, Malice, and (more ambiguous) Repentance. Santa Claus’ love and attention to little children means that the Daemons have fewer visitors to their dark Caves. The Daemons determine to eliminate Claus’ kind influence. First the Daemons try to tempt Santa Claus with their own negative vices but “Santa merely laughs at their clumsy efforts”. So the Daemons decide to get tough. They decide to kidnap Santa Claus.
Will the Daemons succeed with their nefarious plan?
Will Wisk, Peter, Kilter, and Nuter be able to help their jolly master?
Will the children of the world ever again enjoy a visit from Santa Claus?
You will have to read A Kidnapped Santa Claus to find out.
Fortunately for book lovers who are cramped for Holiday time, this is a very short story that can be read in much less than an hour. Despite its shortness, this story has been called “one of Baum’s most beautiful stories”. Santa is kidnapped and Christmas is imperiled but the story never descends into violence or dread. A Kidnapped Santa Claus is an easy read and can be read by adults or older children. Younger children can also enjoy the short story as read aloud by older readers.
The Luckiest Christmas Tree Ever
Our second Holiday story is a children’s picture book titled The Luckiest Christmas Tree Ever by Cathy Marks. This is a cute little story about Abby, the “snowy-white rabbit”, and Fizz the squirrel. The furry twosome are unhappy that one “scrawny little” Christmas tree is being over looked by Holiday shoppers. Even marked down to “Free”, the little tree still sits all alone. Finally, at midnight, Abby decides to take the little tree into the woods and decorate it with the help of her woodland friends. Fizz is not so sure the tree is worth the effort.
Will Abby and her friends be able to spruce up the scrawny little tree?
Who is the mysterious traveler who stops to see the little tree?
Will the little tree ever find a home of its own?
You will have to read The Luckiest Christmas Tree Ever to find out.
I actually could find out only very, very little about this little story or its author. Apparently, this story was part of a Skittles candy promotion in either 1993 or 1995. The book was given away, free, along with some Skittles products.
The author, Cathy Marks, is equally mysterious. She apparently wrote two other children’s books that were also product tie-ins: Plain and Peanut and the Missing Christmas Present was a 1993 children’s Christmas story that featured the Plain M&M and the Peanut M&M and Dance, Ballerina was a 1995 “Dear Barbie” picture book that featured the Barbie Doll.
There is an author named Cathy Marks Krpan who teaches Education and writes books about children and learning. But I could not discover if Cathy Marks and Cathy Marks Krpan are really the same person. Their writings give no clue either since their books are so different.
The Luckiest Christmas Tree Ever is a cute little story that only takes a few minutes to read. Young readers age seven or older will have no problems and younger children can easily follow along as it is read aloud to them. Every page has art work that is cute and colorful but rather simple with little details. Readers be warned: the art work did not turn out well when I downloaded the book in either Kindle or ePub form. If you, or your younger readers, want to look at the pictures, it is best to do it online at the Internet Archive.
Of course, the very best thing about these two little Christmas stories, A Kidnapped Santa Claus and The Luckiest Christmas Tree Ever, is that they are both FREE in the Public Domain.
A Kidnapped Santa Claus Links:
The Internet Archive has the Project Gutenberg version of A Kidnapped Santa Claus
Or go directly to Project Gutenberg where the story can be read online or downloaded.
Project Gutenberg also has the story as part of an audio book collection, Christmas Short Works Collection 2006 read by various. “A Kidnapped Santa Claus” is read by Judy Bieber and lasts just short of twenty-two minutes.