Kidnapped Santa Claus stories seem like inventions of our twisted times. But he first of this popular Christmas sub-genre was published in The Delineator magazine (1904). The author was Frank Baum. Yes, the inventive genius who brought us The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900) also put an edge on Christmas.
Since A Kidnapped Santa Claus first hit the press it has been adapted into all forms of entertainment including musicals, movies, animated films, television graphic novels and podcasts. Baum’s iconic story also inspired a host of works with a kidnapped Santa at their core. Two favorites are Tim Burton’s animated film The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Jean Van Leeuwen children’s book, The Great Christmas Kidnapping Caper (1975).
Of course there were stories that placed Christmas in jeopardy as a result of mistakes. In Goody Santa Claus On A Sleigh Ride a torn stocking nearly ruins Christmas for a child until Missus Claus saves the day. And there were always bad actors like Krampus and The Yule Lads who threatened to take Christmas from bad children. But A Kidnapped Santa Claus brought something new to Christmas lore.
Following are a few delectable morsels from Frank Baum’s trailblazing Christmas story, A Kidnapped Santa Claus.
First Baum Wrote Santa’s Biography
Before he kidnapped Santa, Baum published The Life And Adventures of Santa Claus in 1902. The Christmas hero’s image had been shifting for a few centuries, but began to crystallize with Clement Moore’s poem, The Night Before Christmas (1822). Expanding Moore’s vision, Baum made significant contributions to our Christmas mythology in a land as richly layered as Oz. He also gave Santa Claus a reason for his eternal commitment to goodness and cheer.
In Baum’s novel, a fairy named Necile raises an abandoned baby in the enchanted forest of Burzee. As an adult, Santa must leave the idyllic forest and soon experiences the brutalities of the human world, including war, child neglect and poverty. He moves to the Laughing Valley where he develops a reputation for kindness to children.
At one point Santa wonders if he must give gifts to rich and poor children alike.
“If I am to supply the rich children as well as the poor ones,” he thought, “I shall not have a spare moment in the whole year! But is it right I should give to the rich? Surely I must go to Necile and talk with her about this matter.”
Necile defers to the Fairy Queen.
“Necile is right,” declared the Queen; “for, whether it be rich or poor, a child’s longings for pretty playthings are but natural. Rich Bessie’s heart may suffer as much grief as poor Mayrie’s; she can be just as lonely and discontented, and just as gay and happy. I think, friend Claus, it is your duty to make all little ones glad, whether they chance to live in palaces or cottages.”
Santa Claus fulfills his destiny of spreading love, kindness and gifts with the help of fairies and other immortal creatures. Baum creates origin stories for many holiday traditions including stockings, toy making and Christmas Eve deliveries. Nearing the end of his life, Santa earns the gift of immortality so his good work can continue.
The Christmas That Nearly Wasn’t
Who Kidnapped Santa Claus? And why? These are the central questions of Baum’s short story that appeared in the December edition of The Delineator magazine in 1904.
In the story, Santa Claus is living happily in the Laughing Valley on the edge of the Forest of Buzee. His loyal assistants, Knooks, Ryls, a flock of pixies and fairies still help him year round. But trouble is underfoot.
His neighbors in the Caves of the Daemons are not so joyful. Envy, Selfishness, Hatred and Malice and Repentance receive few visits from children because they are preoccupied with Santa’s presents. To increase business, they first attempt to lure Santa into their evil caves. When that fails, they lasso him out of his sleigh on Christmas Eve and hold him hostage in their caves. When his assistants realize Santa has gone missing, they take over his deliveries. They make a few mistakes, but Christmas is saved.
The fairy queen of Burzee leads her army of magical creatures to rescue the Kidnapped Santa Claus. Meanwhile, Repentance releases their prisoner from captivity. Santa encounters the army coming for him, but convinces them to squelch their attack on the daemons.
Read A Kidnapped Santa Claus here.
Will Christmas Always Be In Jeopardy?
Lyman Frank Baum (May 15, 1856 May 6, 1919) remains one of Americas most read children’s authors. Baum wrote dozens of novels including 14 in his Wizard of Oz series. He also wrote numerous short stories and hundreds of poems.
Although he has been criticized for excessive optimism through rose-colored glasses, a closer look at his work reveals edgy layers. In her book L. Frank Baum, Creator of Oz: A Biography, author Katharine M. Rogers writes that A Kidnapped Santa Claus presents “a less rosy view” than his Christmas novel. Kidnapped Santa presents a world where bad actors will go to any length to tempt decent humans to give into their worst impulses. Although Santa Claus and his helpers prevail, evil awaits in the caves down the road.
Merry Christmas To All!