Monday, December 21, 2009

Baum's Santa Claus, Sam's Take

This is the second time I have read L. Frank Baum's "the Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" book, thanks to Jared, and I too will devote a blog to each of the adaptations done based on this book, only 3 because that is all I have seen. Upon rereading the book this time, I did not read the Introduction and/or Afterword, just the story itself. Aside from "Queen Zixi of Ix; the Story of the Magic Cloak" and "Animal Fairy-Tales", this is the only Non-Oz book by L. Frank Baum I have read.

I like this book; I had only read this once before, back when Jared first sent it to me last year (2008), and reading it a second time the story is (a bit) better than I remember.

I like how the book is divided into the 3-Act structure: Youth (Beginning; Set-Up), Manhood (Middle; Conflict) and Old Age (End;Resolution). And many of the chapters are short too, like a page or so, which makes for faster reading and a quicker passing through the book. I enjoy reading, but not if it's long, slow and uninteresting. I think it may be the lack of detail in describing characters that makes me think this, reminding me of C. S Lewis and his Chronicles of Narnia.

I like how Baum writes this story of Santa Claus as if it's a true magic story of 'Jolly Old Saint Nicholas' and how he came to be, despite not being in the North Pole with Elves for workers and such. This one seems more real and less cartoony than the other.

Aside from a few small scans on the internet, I have not seen the original hardcover book with all the original illustrations, so I'm curious as to how the characters were drawn when Baum first wrote this. The paperback Jared sent me does have illustrations but they are only the ones that begin and end the chapters (the black-and-white ones) as well as the 3-act full-page plates (also in b&w), so I have to rely heavily on my own imagination. I can have an idea from the brief illustrations by John R Neill in "the Road to Oz" and by Eric Shanower for the Christmas Cards in the "Adventures in Oz" deluxe hardcover collection edition, but still it doesn't always help much.
The characters I am particularly interested in are the wicked Awgwas. Like the original Wicked Witch of the West from 1900, Baum does not go into much detail about how the Awgwas look, though the one illustration I have for reference is like that of a cave man's head. The only other illustration of the Awgwas I have seen are by Michael Hague (he too did "Wizard of Oz" one time, during the 80s?) and there he did the Awgwas as ragged creatures with skinny arms and legs with long fingers, pointy ears and noses and toes . . . like imps or "traditional" goblins. How I find the Awgwas depicted in other adaptations I will go into in later blogs.

Despite the lack of illustrations and occasional detail, I still like this book, and will probably like it more in coming years.

I do wish there was another adaptation of this book, this time in Live-Action, again faithfully following the book like the previous films I have seen, but not a musical, except for the one or few songs played during the End Credits inspired by the similar ones from the book. For this adaptation I don't think I know or love the story well enough to be the director, but maybe I would try a bit of concept art, definitely write the story, some parts of the script with a few ideas, some I would definitely like to be used but others with a bit more discussion:
* Instead of Ak recalling how he protects the baby from Shiegra and leaves him in her care, this would be seen in chronological order instead of flashback - in some film-making terms, this would be known as "B, A, C, D Storytelling". Maybe Necile could have her part slightly magnified in this bit.
* The name 'Neclaus' would be used at first for the babe, until years pass and in the outside World the people would misinterpret his name 'Neclaus' as 'Nicholas'.
* Ak would advise Neclaus to hold onto his hand firmly (like Dorothy played by Fairuza Balk and Princess Mombi/Nurse Wilson in "Return to Oz" 80s style) during the guide across the world, and here the wicked acts and influence of the Awgwas would be witnessed and learned. During this guide . . . . a possible glimpse at the Gale farm pre-Cyclone to Oz?
* When the Awgwas have captured Santa Claus while he was on duty, the Immortals learn of this and then make their War against the vile creatures in an attempt to (successfully) rescue their friend, as well as the stolen toys.
* And it would definitely help the film if this movie had some artistic detail, both in the moments described and barely described, like patterns on clothing, material, etc.

That's as far as I can talk about the book, having just finished reading it after 3 or 4 days, so I will see the two cartoon adaptations - both thanks to Jared Davis in ripping onto DVD and sending to me in the past months - in the coming days before Christmas Day to make my Blogs on them.

Tell then . . . !


Eric said...

If you want to take a look at what the original, first edition of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus looks like, it's available online at I will add that this is the first edition, which doesn't use the "Youth," "Manhood," and "Old Age" labels, nor does it have the marginal illustrations of the second edition.

Nathan said...

I think the problem with showing the Gale farm that early in the story is that this part took place in the distant past, presumably before Europeans had settled in America. I seem to recall hearing that the Ploog graphic novel contained specific references to the Emerald City and the Scarecrow, but I haven't actually read that.

Jared said...

Yeah, Nathan. The Deadly Desert, the Wizard, the Emerald City, and the Scarecrow all get mentioned.