Monday, December 01, 2008

Santa Talks

Last year, I mentioned I had been discussing The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus with Matt Bloom. I also mentioned that maybe he'd let me share some of these chats. Well, he did, but I've waited until this Christmas to share them.

NOTE: These are edited versions of chat logs. Most of the editing has been done for clearer reading, and also to conceal parts of what was a private conversation, as well as keep a focus on the subject. My name is abbreviated as JD, Bloom's is JMB.

JD: Baum was more about telling stories than developing characters, wasn't he?
JMB: That's true, he was big on action, not detail. Well, in Oz, at least. There were other books he wrote where that was not true. Santa Claus comes to mind. It struck me as unusual for Baum.

Looking back, I wish I hadn't gone off a tangent about Baum's other "unusual work," but anyways, our chat was interrupted by a phone call to Bloom.

JD: I recently read a poorly researched article on "Life & Adventures of Santa Claus." Claimed it was Baum's least know book.
JMB: It isn't!
JD: I'd say that it's second to Oz.
JMB: Baum created the secular Santa, it's still known, if people realize it's Baum or not.

Unfortunately, I said something stupid again and went off in another direction.

JMB: I'm actually reading it (The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus) as we speak. Needed to borrow details in the course of my research, the story is referenced a few times. Haven't finished reading it through though.
JD: Definitely a point of Oz mythology...
JMB: I think so. I like to have my kids talk about Santa Claus as someone infallible.
JD: Any reference to the Great Ak in your book(s)?
JMB: Not yet, but I've got bits and pieces of Baumian lore all over the place.
JD: That'll be Oz-some. Some folks have called this one "pagan." Don't get why.
JMB: Really? You're kidding?
JD: Nope. Some people don't know Baum.
JMB: As a Jewish kid, this was the only implementation of Santa that made any sense.
JD: I think it makes better sense than say... "The Santa ClausE"
JMB: Good point. My mother hated this one too, same reason as Oz though. All the talk of nymphs and what not.

This topic went way off... We began discussing other Baum books, which led into other things. (Somehow, we even discussed religion...)

We did get back on how Baum affected the standard view of Santa...

JMB: There is no other single American author who has had the impact that Baum has, culturally. It's one of the things I think is very interesting about him, even the modern image of Santa Claus can be attributed to Baum.
JD: It's strange, though. Baum's Claus makes more sense, but the more common North Pole Santa is told of.
JMB: True, but the secular Santa would not exist, if not for Baum. North Pole or otherwise, he invented it. I mean sure, it's got other origins, too.
JD: But Baum was able to stabilize it.
JMB: Right. It's funny, I read an article from the 50's that called Baum and Lewis Carrol perverts of mythology, but only after praising Baum for ten paragraphs, that was just sort of the end.
JD: Weird.
JMB: It was weird, like the editor just sort of added it in
JD: And this was published?
JMB: Yeah!
JD: Sounds like poor journalism.
JMB: It's America, we invented it.
JD: America: The Great & Terrible... And We Mean TERRIBLE...
JMB: It's true. Home of everything bad and everything good.

Yes! We went into politics!

There was another rather fascinating bit about Oz and Afterlife, but I won't put it up yet as Bloom wants to use it in his books.

JD: Ever read of Baum's Daemons?
JMB: No, I haven't
JD: "A Kidnapped Santa Claus?"
JMB: Haven't read that in years, need to re-read
JD: I reread it earlier.
JMB: I wonder if Librivox has it
JD: I believe they do, and "Life & Adventures" as well.
JMB: That one I've read more recently, interesting note on that: it's one of the few baum books I've read that has nice long descriptions in it.
JD: I noticed. If you wanted Baum to do a grand myth, here it is.
JMB: I actually mention Baum's Santa a few times in my book, once with a brief biography.
JD: I noticed. Good mojo.

After that, I never used the term "mojo" again...

This next segment starts a little abruptly, but I couldn't include some of the ideas Bloom has going.

JMB: You can't really kill an immortal
JD: Beat the heck outta 'em, but they can't die.
JMB: Like fairies, they just keep coming back.
JD: You can't keep a good immortal down.
JMB: So true, especially an interesting one
JD: Wait... Oh, never mind.
JMB: ???
JD: Baum did make bad immortals.
JMB: Like all his other creatures, good and bad.
JD: The Awgwas, not immortal. Daemons of the Caves, definitely.
JMB: Well, they are demons, but I think Baumian demons can be killed.
JD: Not the ones in "A Kidnapped Santa Claus," Claus says so himself.
JMB: I haven't read that one yet
JMB: Man, what time is it?
JMB: Feels late! My clock is probably wrong.
JD: I thought it was earlier than that!

Yeah, we once decided we'd both head off to bed at 4:30 AM... You get two Baum nuts jawing away and time loses all importance... As long as we have coffee.

'Twas the day AFTER Christmas 2007, and we were Instant Messaging again...

JD: Hey, did you see this?
JMB: Ah, a solution to the age old quandary: how does a fat man climb down a chimney without getting stuck? He's quite thin.
JD: In this, he doesn't. He's neither fat, nor does he use the chimney.
JMB: He sort of did
JD: Must be something Ak taught him to do.
JMB: Yeah, that's probably the most developed Santa myth, and not just because I like Baum.
JD: Baum pwns all.
JMB: The North Pole Santa isn't very well thought out.
JD: Admittedly, you are correct.
JMB: Baum's vision actually makes sense, and it's far more mystical.
JD: There's dozens of variations on the mainstream Santa myth. Baum's is more straightforward.

We rather repeated what had been said before, but I did wind up leading the conversation this time. (And check that video link.)

JD: For some reason almost no one gets it [that Lurline and Zurline are seperate characters].
JMB: I know, and they try to combine them.
JD: I say, don't do it.
JMB: They're clearly different characters.
JD: In fact, Baum left two more types of fairies he never explored.
JMB: which ones?
JD: Well... Ak rules the nymphs, Baum explored that in "Life ... of Santa Claus."
"But in the center of the circle sat three others who possessed powers so great that all the Kings and Queens showed them reverence. These were Ak, the Master Woodsman of the World, who rules the forests and the orchards and the groves; and Kern, the Master Husbandman of the World, who rules the grain fields and the meadows and the gardens; and Bo, the Master Mariner of the World, who rules the seas and all the craft that float thereon. And all other immortals are more or less subject to these three."

So, what of Baum's other fairies, ruled by Kern and Bo? Although... Perhaps Bo rules the mermaids and the sea serpents as well.
JMB: Perhaps Kern is synonymous with "Father Sky," or Bo would be more likely, mythical roots of the name. Sky gods often had named starting with Bo or Ba.
JD: Huh... Interesting...
JMB: You know, I hate to say this...
JD: ???
JMB: ...but it would be easy to come up with an Ozite religion based on this stuff, if religion wasn't such a bad idea in Oz or for Oz.
JD: Nuts... Baum didn't want to mix Oz and religion.
JMB: It's hard to do it without religion.
JD: The most that ever happened was a church in Dainty China Country, and Cap'n Bill talking about God's forgotten blessings in "Magic."

And well, there we go... We touched on several subjects that might make excellent public discussions. Food for thought!


Oz RPG said...

Oddly enough, "Life & Adventures" is the only Baum book I own hardcopy of.

It is an entertaining read, but I was thrown off by the fact that Santa does little but make and distribute toys and occasionally mope about his current tribulation. Whenever some challenge arises, it is not overcome by Santa, but by his many fairy friends.

Jared said...

Admittedly, you are correct. Santa is one of Baum's passive heroes. He doesn't do much but make and distribute his toys and gifts. Perhaps this is Baum lightly satirizing folk heroes. This is what they're known for, but it's ALL they do.

Nathan said...

Someone should ask that person who said SANTA CLAUS was Baum's least-known book about, say, one of the Mary Louise books.

I think the reference to the book as "pagan" is because of all the nature spirits who show up in it. They never ask to be worshipped, though, and mostly stay out of the way, so I wouldn't say they could count as gods by the traditional definition. Maybe the Supreme Master could, but even he is presented as more of a Deistic concept of God, in that he doesn't seem to actively interfere in the world.

The Demon of Electricity shows up in THE MASTER KEY, and he suggests that most demons are good. The Daemons from "A Kidnapped Santa Claus" are bad ones, though, aside from Repentance.

As for immortals dying, what about how Nomes can be destroyed by eggs?

I'm pretty sure Baum's Santa is referred to as being fat in his old age, even though he seems to get lots of exercise and eat a healthy diet (his desire not to harm living things might mean he's a vegetarian, although this is never specifically stated). Maybe it's a glandular condition.

Lurline and Zurline are definitely different, but I think Lulea is probably the same as Lurline.

Boq Aru said...

In regards to religion, if I am correct about the metaphysics of Oz being based on Chinese fairy metaphysics, then there's plenty of religion in Oz and in Santa. The central principle of Chinese traditional religion is not a God nor gods but an inanimate underlying causitive principle of the universe. Nor do the Chinese pray to their fairy bureaucracy as to gods. They ring them up like on the telephone and complain when necessary. They have considerable affection for some of their fairy bureaucrats but they don't worship them.