Pretty much everybody has heard of Santa Claus. The story of the man who delivers presents to children across the world every year on Christmas Eve is one which most of us will have been told as children… but have you ever heard an origin story for Santa Claus? Have you ever wondered how somebody might find themselves living the life that he leads?
In The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, L. Frank Baum gives us a story that explains who Santa Claus is and why he does what he does. At the start of the book, Claus is just a baby and one who finds himself adopted by the immortals of the forest after being abandoned by his parents. How many other stories introduce you to Santa’s adoptive mother? Or explain how he became immortal? Or how he first met the reindeer? Or why he’s called Santa Claus?
What follows is a kind of epic fantasy adventure, with Santa Claus at its heart. At one point there’s a giant war between races, during which time various sentient beings are completed wiped out. It’s kind of crazy, but, also, I love it. There’s so much lore behind it, with so many immortal beings, gods and races across the Earth. At first, I thought that they’d probably been borrowed from folklore, but as it turns out, Baum invented every one of them, which only makes the story all the more impressive. It genuinely felt like something which was drawn from a complex string of folktales.
The book also amused me in the sense that while some chapters focus on the excessive bloodshed of war, or assassination attempts on Santa Claus’s life, others are about the invention of a new kind of toy, or the invention of the Christmas tree. The shift in tone from chapter to chapter meant I never knew what to expect when going into a new chapter – and no matter what happened, I always enjoyed myself.
So if you’re ever in the mood for a dark origin story for Santa Claus, then I heartily recommend this book. If you’re just looking for a bit of Christmas fun, you’ll probably like it too. I’d go so far as to say it contains my favourite depiction of Santa, simply because I’ve never seen the character taken quite so seriously before.