Thursday, December 31, 2009


So, the past couple years, I set up resolutions for the coming year. And then the next year, I'd see what was done, and what wasn't, and what I'd try to work on for the next year.

Forget that!

Let's see what I plan to do next year...

There's something that's come up. With some careful saving (because my bills are quite reduced), this could be the year I'll finally attend an Oz convention.

Something I'm considering is to sell the podcasts on CD with bonus audio that I won't release online. While, yes, you could download and burn the podcasts to a CD yourself (I did not copy protect the mp3 files, and in my opinion, you're free to use them as you wish, except claiming them as your own), I'm looking into ways I can generate some revenue for hosting the podcast and other ventures I might have. The podcast currently costs $5 a month to host, and the web domain for the website (read on, dear reader!) will cost $9 a year. All in all, if I wanted this to pay for itself, I'd need to generate $69 a year somehow. While, yes, that is very affordable, it would be nice to be able to pay for this without out-of-pocket expenses.

Believe me, I fully intend to keep costs low on any merchandise I'd produce. (Does $7 for a CD sound reasonable?)

Very recently, I finally got a server for the new website I've been conceiving. Considering how easy the Ozmatron is to use for reading the Oz books, I am considering omitting any books that are on that site. I considered possibly designing some custom editions, putting them on for purchase or downloading as PDF, but then I considered that I already have enough to do.

Something else I considered for funding is possibly producing a DVD of one of the Oz silent films. If you're subscribed to my Ozian YouTube channel, you may know which one I'm talking about. As the footage is public domain, and the music I used was royalty-free (I even checked), I would have no legal issues producing it. To add additional value, I'm considering doing alternate audio tracks, so we could have a simple music score track, one with narration, and an audio commentary. And these DVDs, I could sell for as little as $8. (There is also another silent Oz movie I'd like to give this DVD treatment to, but it would involve some agreements.)

Now that I've said some of my intentions for the future, I'd like to hear your thoughts and opinions. Is there something you think I should be doing that I'm not already? Or anything. I'm open to your comments.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas! (2009 Santa Claus index)

Well, here it is Christmas day. I hope you've enjoyed our blogs about how Santa Claus was handled by the Royal Historians, and if you didn't get to read them, here is an index of all the blogs.

The stories
Little Bun Rabbit
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (Jared's blog) (Sam's blog)
A Kidnapped Santa Claus
How the Woggle-Bug and His Friends Visited Santa Claus (Podcast)
The Curious Cruise of Captain Santa
The Magic Sled

The Adaptations of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
The 1985 Rankin-Bass version (Jared's blog) (Sam's blog)
The 1992 graphic novel by Mike Ploog
The 1994 anime version
The 1996 video The Oz Kids: Who Stole Santa?
The 2000 animated version from Glen Hill (Jared's blog) (Sam's blog)

And here's an index to the blogs I've written in previous years:
A Holiday Tradition
The Tradition Is Shared!
Santa Talks
Ranking of Fairies?
More On Santa And The Immortals

A Universal Santa Claus

It's Christmas Day, and I have just finished watching the 2000 Universal animated musical of L. Frank Baum's "the Life and adventures of Santa Claus" - so Sony's "Lion of Oz" wasn't the only adaptation of a Baum/Oz book to be animusicalised.

This movie has yet to be released onto official DVD, but this film runs for 1 hr 15 mins, and spends its time well with the adaptation.

Since this is a more current adaptation, it is a more cartoonish approach, but also has a few changes from the book (I will try not to sound like I'm comparing it to the 1985 Rankin/Bass stop-motion version):
* It is (again) narrated by the Great Ak (voiced by Hal Holbrook - sounds familiar somehow) and in the beginning intro he mentions "before televison" - I liked the various panning shots of the beautiful Forest of Burzee.
* There is no Queen Zurline of the Fairies. Instead, Necile (Dixie Carter . . . who?) has two other nymph friends.
* the Pixie Wisk is a new character to join in on the adventure (I thought it was Whisk, and I prefer it with 'h') who can change his form (often into an Awgwa)and sometimes reminded me a bit of Yacko the Animaniac.
* the Baby is at first named Necileclaus/NecileClaus - an extension of the book's Neclaus.
* Just like Rankin/Bass version, Claus' life growing up in Burzee is thrown through a musical montage/
* Blinkie the kitten is introduced at the same time Claus wakes up to his new home - and is adorable.
* the Lord's daughter, Bessie Blithesome, is renamed Natalie and voiced by Kathy Sourcie (remember her? She's Lil from the "Rugrats" series, Narissa in W.I.T.C.H., the Weird Sisters from "Gargoyles" and many others!). I like how from her first introduction during Ak's guide her character is shown clearly, developed and is willing to help Claus with his gifts, even if it means giving up her "friend" that Claus gave her so long ago.
* the Knook Peter is renamed Will.
* Santa Claus is voiced by Robby Benson as a young man (Disney's Beast/Prince from "Beauty and the Beast" - didn't recognise him at first!) and by Jim Cummings as the white-bearded version (Darkwing Duck, Shocker from 90s "Spider-man: Animated Series", most of all Disney's bad guy Pete, and Many others!)
* The Awgwas/Awgawas are rock-like creatures with red eyes - and even have the ability to move through rocks. This wasn't too bad, but it did bring to mind the Rock Fairies known as the Nomes more - one scene even has a possible tribute to Disney's "Return to Oz" by having the King and his shorter, fat, dumb, comic relief "sidekick" (they're named Wagif and Mogorb) show their faces through a rocky wall, as did the Nome messenger (Pons Maar) through Claymation. Though I did like that.
* the best part is how some time of the movie shows young man Claus interacting with the people of the village, getting to known them and they him (I especially like how a big village man sees Claus make friends with Ethan the crippled boy - originally named Weekum - and prove how strong he really is, leading me to believe that he would trust Ethan to help with some work eventually).

What I Didn't Like:
* Why is 'Ryls' pronounced as "Reels", how did the people know of Claus' toys being stolen and WHAT was the necessity of adding an extra 'a' in Awgwas? (that I never noticed till Jared said so, I just thought that's how they were said)
* Most of the character designs and animation. Necile and the Wood Nymphs have wings like butterflies and costumes like fairies did not sit well with me. The Knooks are more like dwarves or gnomes, sometimes with accents - much too cartoonish. The Winged approach applies to Ak is well, but has more colour than before - at least he has Eagle-like feathered wings instead of the fluttery kind. Baum wrote "Wonderful Wizard of Oz" CLEARLY not to be connected with the winged fairy tales of Grimm, etc.
* It was a bit hard to tell whether Claus was a teenager or not - must have been the baggy sleeves - before leaving as a young man. His age is not as specific here.
* Quite a few times the animation wasn't to my liking (or approval). Good characters or Bad characters, it happened quite a bit here and there. I know I shouldn't expect perfection, but I don't like to be distracted by bits of sloppiness or parts lacking on solid body of fluid movement, and occasionally useless movements of the body/face.
* the King of the Awgawas was more simple cartoonish evil and not really wicked enough to me, unlike the stop-motion version.
* Shiegra pronounced "Sheegra" and credited as "Sheigra" (unless that's a typo), and doesn't look lionESS enough.
* I was never particularly keen on that scene where Claus' sculpture of Shiegra frightens the little brother and sister.
* Santa Claus having a white beard when the Awgwas attempt to stop him giving toys to the children - his beard could have been coloured, a cross between his youthful dark hair and elderly white strands.
* Santa Claus' song of his first sleigh ride - he is clearly a Voice Actor and Not a Singer. A few shots were repeated during the non-singing part, his face was animated too joyful, and the selection of shots used during those magical sleigh ride scenes could have been a bit more organised.
* Santa Claus delivers toys during the snowy winter, foot or flight of sleigh, and half the time he doesn't wear gloves? And didn't anyone on the team notice how his lower lip was incorrectly white instead of flesh-coloured (even for a cartoon)?

Don't think that despite my "criticism" I dislike this film, I do like it. I'm just, unfortunately, a perfectionist on some things, and wish this had been done better. Maybe if it had been a theatrical feature, the animation would be better.

If there was to be a new (live-action non musical) adaptation of Baum's "Life and Adventures of Santa Claus", I'd like some scenes with the human friends Claus has made to help him with making toys.

Hope you liked my Christmas Blogs, and have a Happy New Year:

And here's my Christmas video for Youtube (just wish I had taken out the 5 frames of Tyron about to turn around):

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Woggle-Bug Book is back!

A companion to the recently-released Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz, this rare tale of the Woggle-Bug by the original Royal Historian, L. Frank Baum himself is now finally available in full color glory. This large-format (roughly 9"x12") book contains all the original pages in photo-reproduction, including objectionable material that was considered acceptable at the time. This was done in an effort to preserve its historical relevance.

The tale tells of how the Woggle-Bug, continuing his adventures in America, gets his eye caught by a dress of Wagnerian plaid, and follows his many misadventures as he tries to obtain the garment. The text is unedited, and all the images from the original book have been restored to their original glory, removing the yellowing brought by the ravages of time.

To top it off, the book includes an informative introduction and insightful afterword by Oz scholars Jared Davis and Ruth Berman, respectively; as well as rare or never-before-seen additional images, including two work-in-progress pages. Easy-to-read, and a handsome volume, this book belongs in every Oz-scholar's collection! Visit the Pumpernickel Pickle Oz-shop to order your copy now. Available in hardcover and paperback. Please note: each book is manufactured at the time of order, and can take 2 to 3 weeks to arrive.

A Bonus Podcast!

For a special extra Christmas item, I'm sharing the raw audio of Mike Conway reading "How The Woggle-Bug And His Friends Visited Santa Claus."

When the project was originally conceived, I just wanted a simple reading. When multiple people volunteered, the idea of having multiple voices arose. Mike Conway was the first who volunteered, and instead of just narrating, he read the entire story, performing voices for each of the characters. Even though I had decided he could voice Santa Claus, I lowered the pitch in the edited version.

So you all can enjoy the story as Mike originally read it, I've decided to share this. Use the link above to go to the podcast site, or use the below player:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Santa Claus in Stop-Motion

(This Blog was made while listening to the 2 Royal Christmas Podcasts of Oz on Wednesday December 23, 2009)

I have just finished watching the 1985 stop-motion Rankin/Bass film of "the Life and Adventures of Santa Claus".

It runs for 50 minutes, and in that running time it conveys the story well without feeling too long or even rushed. Although I prefer stories in chronological order, I do like how Ak's recalling of finding "the babe" to the Immortals blends in with that same retelling to the Nymphs. I like how Shiegra the lioness stays alive with Claus as she does live in the Forest of Burzee, automatically (to me) making her immortal, and Tingler the Sound Imp is a lovable character who always gets his languages mixed up but always manages to answer properly in the end.

What I like best about this adaptation is the depiction of the Awgwas. They are monstrous beasts with hairy bodies, sometimes with horns and fangs and claws, some parts in armour - one moster funny enough looks like a "Wild Thing"! Not that it's relevant aside from the time, but the partially-hairy King Awgwa reminds me of Grizzlor from "She-Ra".
I don't mind how the Immortals are depicted, Ak has the best portrayal with moose-like horns, a white robe with cape and a long hard nose. And his voice is so fitting too. Necile and the other nymphs are fairy-like with antennas out of their heads and little wings and short costumes, but since this is a first adaptation of the story (if not, one of the earliest), I'm not fussed.

Since this feature is under an hour, there are many moments from the book that are shortened, combined or abandoned.
* the rich lord's daughter from the book, Bessie Blithesome, is unnamed and an extra. She doesn't appear other than dining at the table as a little girl during the sequence where Ak shows Claus the world. She does not visit Claus, but while making the toys he does say that he will give the toy to her, whether she is rich or poor, for all children need toys.
* the little black kitten Blinkie is described by Claus in passing how it came to live with them - Necile's gift in teaching them to live together.
* the hanging Stockings (for drying) are put together with Claus making his first trip down the Chimney.
* Unlike the book, this film does help show what age Claus is throughout the years. He is a teenager (of sorts) when he leaves Burzee, and from then (through a good-looking bearded 20s/30s man) till like 45 is him helping the children with more reading, making friends and toys, along with the conflict of the Awgwas. After delivering toys for 15 years, he is granted Immortality (and ends the film) at 60.
* Peter the Knook is unpleased at the reindeer being late at dawn (even by a minute), but he does not appear to have woken up Claus, and he is easily persuaded by the others (not Ak) to allow the reindeer to be used "for the children", but it is he who determines the date.

The songs featured here are few, but fun and memorable. They fit the story, are sometimes touching, and do not sound out of place or unnecessary.

I like stop-motion animation. It may be much harder to make one character and background than it is in hand-drawn animation, but I believe it is a perfect connection between the traditional hand-drawn animation and the live-action, and certainly much more physical and real than CGI, of which you cannot do anything other than save on the computer and/or print images. With hand-drawn animation you can still see the sheets of which you've used to make the film.

I was able to watch this film thanks to Jared Davis, who did a home-made DVD rip for me as well as the other animated film. Noting the remastered picture, I would like to get the official DVD soon.

My next blog will be on Universal's hand-drawn / digitally-painted animated musical from 2000.

Till then . . . !

New Podcasts!

Yes, so today saw the premiere of two podcasts. One is very overdue, where Shawn Maldonado and Nathan DeHoff and I discuss illustrations from The Lost Princess of Oz. It was recorded in September, and because a move happened inbetween and I guess I had some other commitments, it didn't get finished until last Friday.

Also finished on Friday is a new podcast that ties in with my recent blogs, it's a reading of "How The Woggle-Bug And His Friends Visted Santa Claus," where I managed to get some other people to record the narration and dialogue, then I spliced it together to sound like a complete reading, also mixing in some Christmas music. (Sadly, my headset has died since the previous podcast, so I had to record my introduction and outro using my old microphone. The difference in audio quality there is noticeable.)

You can click those links to go to the podcast site, or use the player down below:

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 . . . !

Little Bun Rabbit

There was one other L. Frank Baum story that dealt with Santa Claus. Although it is the last I'll be looking at this year, it was surprisingly one of Baum's first children's stories. The last chapter of "Mother Goose in Prose" was based on the verse "Little Bun Rabbit":

"Oh, Little Bun Rabbit, so soft and shy,
Say, what do you see with your big, round eye?"
"On Christmas we rabbits," says Bunny so shy,
"Keep watch to see Santa go galloping by."

The story opens with a little girl named Dorothy who lives on a farm.

Yep, I know what you're thinking.

It's not completely clear if Baum ever intended this Dorothy to be the same Dorothy we love from the Oz books. With a bit of a stretch of the imagination, she could be. She lives with her mother on the farm and all the animals have learned not to be afraid of her because she is so gentle. One could argue that this could be our Dorothy Gale living on the farm with her mother, sometime after Mr. Gale died, and somehow, Dorothy's mother died later on. Dorothy's ability to talk with the animals could be summed up with how she says she is able to talk with Toto: they just understand each other.

Whether or not "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" was the further adventures of this Dorothy we shall never know for certain, but when Baum reprinted the story in "L. Frank Baum's Juvenile Speaker" in 1910, the girl's name was changed to Doris. So, it seems Baum did not want these two Dorothys confused with each other. (Bit of a side note, the Juvenile Speaker was later re-issued as "Baum's Own Book For Children," then material from that book was produced into six small picture books called The Snuggle Tales in 1916 and 1917, and these books were reissued as "Oz-Man Tales" in 1920.)

Dorothy meets a little rabbit, and asks him the question posed in the verse. The rabbit replies with the answer in the verse as well, then, at Dorothy's behest, tells about he met Santa and got to visit his castle. "A Kidnapped Santa Claus" also mentions that Santa lives in a castle, but in "Little Bun Rabbit," the castle is on a hill, not in a valley. We are told that Mother Hubbard keeps house for Santa, and is his only assistant. The Rabbit tells Dorothy how Santa used him as a pattern to make toy rabbits and put a squeak inside, and how Santa loaned him a magic collar so no harm would come to him while he journeyed home.

I'm doubting this story can easily be reconciled with the Santa Claus we met in Baum's 1902 mythos, which Baum created later. Santa has no helpers (which he didn't have until after he became immortal in the later book), and he lives with Mother Hubbard. Odd. Also, the Rabbit is able to run home by itself from Santa's home, which if we assume Santa would have been in Laughing Valley and the farm was in Kansas or anywhere in America, there would have been large bodies of water to cross, and even if the magic collar made the Rabbit able to travel over water, that's still a very lengthy journey.

All the same, it's fascinating to see how Baum tackled Santa Claus before he wrote his biography.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Kids, Meet Santa ClOZ

Often overlooked, the Oz Kids video "Who Stole Santa?" is based on "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus." In the United States, the series was only released to VHS tapes, while in some other countries, it was aired on television.

The story opens with the Oz Kids looking forward to Christmas, Neddie (Dorothy's son) asking to hear the story of Santa. Dorothy tells her children and her friends an abbreviated version of Santa Claus' life story from Baum's book, omitting the Awgwas, Shiegra, Claus' helpers, and Ak plays a smaller role in Claus' life. Queen Zurline grants Claus immortality.

As the kids head to bed, over in the Laughing Valley, Santa's helpers discover he has been kidnapped by the Awgwas, beings who want people to be miserable because they are. Sneaking into the Awgwa's ice cave, Boris (the Cowardly Lion's son) is the first to find Santa Claus, and the other kids manage to rescue them from the Awgwa's mountain. Outrunning and outwitting the Awgwas, the kids find themselves and Santa being chased on an ice floe, stranding the Awgwas on the ice. Santa Claus and the kids offer the Awgwas rescue, but when they turn against them, the Awgwas are sent over the falls.

Santa Claus later appears in the Oz Kids video "Christmas in Oz," where he arrives in a big bubble, a reference to his departure in "The Road To Oz."

Overall, I'm just going to say the Oz Kids videos are entertaining and should enjoy a second life on DVD or streaming video.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Japanese Claus?

There was also another adaptation of Baum's story of Santa Claus, this time, it was expanded into an anime television series in Japan. Called Shounen Santa no daibôken it aired in 1994.

While I'd love to go over this adaptation and see how it was derived from the book, the sad thing is it was never released to home video, and Oz fans and Baum enthusiasts have yet to find anyone who may have recorded it to video cassette.

A bit of hope to finally see this series arose this year when someone uploaded the opening and closing credits to YouTube:

A new CG-animated adaptation is expected in 2010. We'll see how that one turns out.

Santa Claus Y2K

The year 2000 brought another adaptation of Baum's Santa Claus mythos. This time, it was fully animated with traditional animation, and released direct-to-video, though Cartoon Network showed it on television for a few years.

The movie is narrated by Ak, who introduces the Forest of Burzee, the Immortal people (ryls, knooks, wood nymphs), and then we go to the celebration of Spring in Burzee, where Necile presents Ak with the first nectar. Ak's tasting predicts that the year will be very significant, and there will be a new source of joy.

That night, Ak tells the wood nymphs of the sufferings of humanity, and tells them of how he found a baby outside of Burzee. Realizing it had a strange life force, he left it in the keeping of Shiegra the lioness, and ordered that the baby should not be harmed. Necile takes interest and goes to see the baby. Taking it with her, Shiegra warns Necile that she should not try to hide the baby from Ak and tell him. While Ak seems to be upset that one of his laws was broken, he allows Necile to keep the baby.

As Necile and the wood nymphs care for the baby, they are joined by the pixie Wisk, who has just escaped from some Awgawas. (No, not a typo, there's an extra "a" here.) Noticing the baby, he asks of the name. At first, the baby is named Claus, then Neciloclaus, but Wisk, finding that hard to pronounce, suggests the name Nicholas. (This is based on a footnote in the book that explains that Claus' longer name Neclaus was often mistaken as Nicholas.)

As Nicholas grows up, he realizes he is different from the other residents of Burzee, and finally, Ak takes him on a trip to see humanity, giving him a sash that makes him invisible. Claus feels compassion for the children, and decides he will move out of Burzee so he can help humanity. His visits to befriend children are successful in making them happy.

When winter comes, Nicholas cannot make his visits. He hears a cry for help, and finds Ethan, a crippled boy he befriended, who wanted to bring him a "leaning stick," or a crutch. As Ethan recovers from the cold, Wisk notices a piece of firewood that bears a resemblance to the cat Blinkie, so Nicholas carves it into a wooden cat as a return gift for Ethan. Noticing how much Ethan likes it, Nicholas makes more wooden cats to give to children. Soon, Nicholas' range of toys expand to wooden animals, dolls based on Necile, and more. (However, an incident where a carved image of the late Shiegra scares children teaches him to only make toys of gentle animals.) When a rich girl named Natalie visits, Necile advises Nicholas that even rich children need happiness.

The happiness Nicholas brings angers the Awgawas, so they try to kidnap him and send him to a far-off jungle, but the Ryls there are able to send him home. Nicholas, in his older age, cannot travel during winter, and borrows reindeer from the Knooks and uses them to make deliveries by night. But when he returns late, he is forced to travel by foot again, but he is attacked by Awgawas who steal his toys. When an adult Natalie visits, she is attacked by Awgawas who scare her horse and almost injures her. She gives Nicholas her first toy, asking him to pass it on to another needy child.

Touched by Natalie's goodwill and angered by the attack of the Awgawas, Nicholas goes to Ak and tells him that he needs the reindeer to make deliveries. Will Knook agrees that Nicholas can use the reindeer one night a year, and Ak suggests Christmas Eve as the night. While Nicholas and Wisk go to make more toys, Ak and the Ryls and Knooks prepare to fight the Awgawas. Using their magic powers, they defeat the Awgawas and their allies, and then the wood-nymphs look for the stolen toys. They find them and bring them to Nicholas, so he can make his first Christmas Eve deliveries.

However, Nicholas grows even older, and Wisk is concerned about how much longer he will live. Going to talk with Necile, he sees the Angel of Death coming for Nicholas. However, it seems Ak foresaw Wisk's request and has the Immortals gather and they vote to make Nicholas immortal. Ak and Necile give the Mantle of Immortality to Nicholas just as the Angel of Death is about to take him. (Seemingly, this also affects Blinkie.) Feeling reinvigorated, Nicholas gets back to making toys and continues his work as usual.

This version has recieved a lot of flack since it debuted. Some compare it unfavorably with the Rankin-Bass version, though the obscurity of that adaptation seems to make it unlikely that it was in the minds of the creators of this one. Others tend to point out where it strayed from the book, especially changing Claus to Nicholas, and adding an extra "a" to the Awgwas. To be sure, there are some rather thematic changes from the book. There, Claus knows that the Immortals would prefer that mortals do not know of them, but Nicholas tells children of them quite freely. In the Rankin-Bass adaptation, Claus is aware that Ak is fighting the Awgwas, while in the book, Baum notes that he was making toys at the time, but is told the Awgwas perished. Here, Necile tells Ak that Nicholas shouldn't know, and Ak says it is best that he doesn't know of the Immortal's powers, though it is odd that he wouldn't know, since he grew up with them. Nicholas just assumes that Ak and Necile reasoned with the Awgawas. Also, many names are changed from the book: Ethan was originally Weekum, Flossie and Glossie the reindeer are now Mistletoe and Holly. In both the book and the Rankin-Bass adaptation, Claus is aware of the Mantle of Immortality, while here, Nicholas has no idea why he is living on, and he doesn't seem to care.

Like the Rankin-Bass adaptation, Nicholas has an immortal helper. Rankin-Bass created the sound imp Tingler and also made Shiegra immortal, in this, he has Wisk, who is one of Claus' helpers from the end of the book. (Neither includes all three helpers.) Also, this version has songs, but much less than Rankin-Bass' adaptation. Necile sings "In The World To Come" over a montage of Nicholas growing from baby to young man, and there is another song sequence, "Building A House," as the ryls, knooks, and wood nymphs build a house for Nicholas. Finally, Santa Claus sings a song called "Santa's First Annual Christmas Sleigh Ride" as he makes his first annual Christmas ... well, that sums it up. Most of the music is very Celtic-inspired, and works very well.

I've always been one to be open to multiple adaptations, and as we've seen, changing story elements for an adaptation isn't exactly a bad thing. (Remember Ploog's graphic novel.) I enjoy this adaptation, despite its changes.

Sadly, the movie is no longer available new. It was never released on DVD, and seeing as it was only a couple years after that format began to pick up, I thought it was surprising that a DVD was not simulataneously released with the VHS. It is not aired on television, so only video captures that people have shared online remain the only way outside of VHS for people to see this excellent adaptation of Baum's tale.

EDIT: 12/2011 - It is now on DVD!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ora E Sempre...

Born in our present state
Never were babies we
Live where no mortal has lived
With a nobility
Yet none humanity
We have no children or kin
Ora e sempre
Today and Forever
For ages and ages to come
'Till the last trumpet sounds
To the first cracking of Doom!

I can see the scene now. It's 1985, and the family's sitting down to watch the new Rankin-Bass special The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus. It's the folks who gave us Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and The Little Drummer Boy, and it's based on a story by the author of The Wizard of Oz? Well, there was that Return to Oz movie earlier this year, but this is about Santa Claus, so of course it's going to be sweet.

The special starts and we see Santa flying across the sky, singing about bringing toys to children, then we see the title and hear a voice say "In all this world, there is nothing so beautiful as a happy child." Then, we go to the Forest of Burzee, an age ago? And there's this little guy running around announcing the arrival of the Immortals? Isn't this about Santa Claus? Who's this guy with antlers on his head? And why is he saying that tonight will be Santa Claus' last sleigh ride?

Yeah, I'll bet a lot of families were confused.

So, the story begins with Ak calling the Immortals to decide if they will give Claus the Mantle of Immortality. To lay out his request, he tells them of the life of Claus, how he had found Claus as a baby outside of Burzee, how Necile decided to adopt Claus, how he had exposed Claus to humanity, and how Claus decided to help humanity and moved to the Laughing Valley of Hohaho (where it is always winter in this version). He goes on to tell how Claus invented toys and befriended children, how the Awgwas tried to stop Claus before Ak intervened and destroyed them, and of Claus' journeys with the reindeer.

So, the story does stay very close to the book, with some changes. Tingler (a sound imp and a new character) and Shiegra accompany Claus to Laughing Valley, and Shiegra does not die. The Christmas Tree is not Baum's symbol of charity, but a memorial to Claus.

In addition, there are songs, including the song of the Immortals (typed above), the catchy "Big Surprise" sung by children at seeing the first toy cat, "A Child" sung by Necile upon seeing Claus, "Babe in the Woods" sung by the Wood Nymphs as Claus grows from baby to young man, and songs by Santa Claus which are directly from the book.

The stop-motion animation is perfect. Of course, it is Rankin-Bass, so we do have characters with oversized heads, but it's charming in its own way. The voice acting is excellent as well, and all the voices fit their characters well, when the target audience is considered.

This is worth checking out, however, it is only aired during a low-viewing period on ABC Family and edited down to half an hour. It was available on VHS, but went out of print before that format died. I managed to get a copy and do a VHS to DV transfer, but I was delighted to discover it has finally been officially released to DVD. (Click here to buy it!)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ploog's Claus

1992 brought a graphic novel adaptation of Baum's The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus by Michael Ploog, who had previously had a brush with Baum in doing concept artwork for Disney's Return to Oz. (I would love to interview this guy on my podcast...)

***Major spoilers***

Opening the book, even those familiar with Baum's book will know they are in for some surprises. The Master Woodsman Ark (Ark? Yep...) leads a procession of Immortals to the mountain of the Gnome King, to beg that Santa Claus, who is unconscious with them, be made immortal. The Gnome King is upset that the Immortals have dealt with a mortal, when he has forbidden all Immortals to deal with mortals. Ark explains how they came to be involved with Claus.

The story goes into flashback, narrated by Ark. He is walking to the Forest of Burzee when he finds human footprints, and in a hollow log, an abandoned baby. He leaves it in the care of the lioness Shiegra, ordering her not to harm the baby. Ark continues into Burzee, where it is revealed that soon Zurline will give her throne as Queen of the Wood Nymphs to Necile. (A little confusingly, only two Nymphs are shown at a time, almost leading one to think there are only two: Necile and Zurline. However, more careful examination shows there are indeed more.) During the ceremony and party, Ark tells of his finding of the baby. Necile sneaks out and takes the baby back to Burzee with her. All the Ryls, Knooks, and even Ark object to this defiance of the Gnome King's law, but eventually, they decide to let Necile raise the baby in Burzee.

While Ark says he will consult with the Gnome King, he is struck by the idea that perhaps the baby, who Necile names Claus, will help the Immortals understand mortals. Claus grows up in Burzee, and is soon given a pet by Pogan the Knook: a little monkey named Toy. Soon, Ark takes Claus to see humanity. On the journey back, they are attacked by the Awgwas, who are led by Swine. Claus use's Ark's axe to chop off Swine's tail, and this makes them stop.

Ark explains that the Awgwas spread "demon seed" to mankind to make them do evil. It is because of this that Claus decides he must take part in humanity somehow. He moves to the Laughing Valley, where the Immortals build him a home. As it is winter, he waits until Spring, and takes to making small images of the nymphs and animals as gifts for his friends in Burzee. He makes one of Toy that works like a jumping jack. But when he finds a lost child in the snow, he gives the toy Toy to the child, and the child is so pleased, Claus brings a large load of toys and food back to the child's home. He begins to give out the other toy and even decides, when approached by a baron, that even rich children need toys as much as poor ones. This upsets the Awgwas, for now the children are promising to be good.

The wood elves (who are mentioned to have just finished working in the Emerald City) are offered to help Claus make his toys for the children. To go faster, Shosta the deer pulls a sleigh of toys to children in a nearby village. However, when Claus attempts another journey, the Awgwas attack and steal the toys. When Claus is not swayed, he makes another, but returns to find the toys and Toy stolen, and his home burned down.

Ark tries to reason with the Awgwas, but they defy him, so war is declared. Ark, Claus, and the Immortals manage to cut the leaders of the opposing armies from their respective armies. Claus himself dispatches Swine, leaving the Awgwas without a leader. The Wood Nymphs and Pogan find Toy with the toys, but sadly, it seems the little monkey has starved to death. Toy is buried in Laughing Valley, a Christmas tree as his memorial. Claus decides to go back to Burzee.

Finally, Claus returns to the Laughing Valley, building a better workshop, and soon refines his travel plans. One delivery, he arrives late at night and uses chimneys to deliver the toys, which makes the people call him a Saint at his determination, giving him the title Santa Claus. Deciding this may be the best way to work, Pogan lets Claus use more deer (Clement C. Moore's eight), and the Wind Demon allows them to use a wind to fly on, limiting Claus to deliver one night on Christmas Eve.

After many years, the Angel of Death appears, and the Elves beg that it lets Claus live the few more days he is allotted. This brings the Immortals to the Gnome King.

Ark convinces the Gnome King that mankind can do good, but they are mighty, and need someone to keep them respectful of the Immortals. The Gnome King is convinced that, if made immortal, Santa Claus could be the one they need.

Honestly, though Ploog loosely adapted Baum's book, it wasn't a case where I'd find the purist in me throwing the book into a corner. Rather, in cases like this, it feels respectful to the source to change the story so. The story is organic, so it can change and grow into a story that will work in another medium. And really, most of the book's story and it's alterations does feel like Baum's story.

And this week, we'll look at some other adaptations of the tale.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Snow's Magic Sled

Just the year before he died, Jack Snow published a Christmas story in a magazine called "Inside AHS." Snow is mainly remembered for his two Oz novels The Magical Mimics in Oz and The Shaggy Man of Oz, as well as Who's Who In Oz. It is rumored that he had a third Oz story in the works. However, he wrote a wide variety of tales, some rather horrific and disturbing, and some very whimsical.

Such a tale is The Magic Sled, originally published in Inside AHS, it was most recently made available in Oz-Story #5 in 1999 with illustrations by Eric Shanower.

In the story, a little boy named Bobby gets a sled for his birthday, which happens to fall on Christmas Eve. That night, he is visited by Santa Claus, who tells him that the sled is magical, being made with wood from a tree in the Forest of Burzee. Santa Claus must take the sled back, but he gives Bobby a ride on it. Tying it to the back of the sleigh, Bobby flies through the sky with Santa Claus. Finally, he must return home, so Santa Claus cuts the cord, promising that Bobby will find a replacement sled just like the magic one. Bobby lands and awakens in his bed on a snowy Christmas morning.

The story has to be one of the most beautifully done stories I've ever read, and even better, it seems to tie in with Baum's Santa Claus mythos. Or does it? While Santa Claus mentions the Forest of Burzee, he has eight reindeer, while in The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, he has ten. In addition, Snow names six of the eight reindeer: Dancer, Prancer, Donner, Blitzen, Comet, and Vixen, names from The Night Before Christmas. Perhaps the other two are Flossie and Glossie, or Dasher and Cupid. We could guess that Santa has had to change out deer since he started making his annual Christmas deliveries, but that doesn't explain why he decided he needed two less reindeer.

Another idea is that it is very possible that Bobby's journey is just a dream he had. He goes to sleep, then awakes when he sees Santa Claus, and when he leaves the sleigh, he ends up in his bed. This makes me think it is a dream, and thus may explain why some of the details about the Santa Claus mythos (either from Moore or Baum) are a little mixed. Story-wise, that is. I believe I read that Snow had to sell off a lot of his Oz and Baum collection, so I wouldn't be surprised if he hadn't read Baum's Santa Claus tale in awhile.

All the same, I think this story has been largely overlooked and should be a true Christmas classic, just like it deserves to be.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Thompson's Claus

In 1926, Ruth Plumly Thompson published The Curious Cruise of Captain Santa. About half the size of one of her Oz books, it was illustrated by the wonderful John R. Neill.

Whether or not Thompson was aware of Baum's The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus is no issue, as Thompson did not tie her take on Santa Claus to Oz at all. Santa lives at the North Pole, with a boy he took in named Jimmy Christmas, a penguin named Penny (never mind that penguins live in the South Pole), the brownies who make the toys, and they have a friend at Snowshoe Mountain, Huggerumbo, a polar bear.

Santa builds a ship called the Chimneypot and with Hugger, Jim, and Penny, sets sail to tropical islands to find new Christmas presents, and they even go beyond the sunset, where there are live toys.

And honestly, that's the plot.

I just want to say that I don't feel this book should be counted in the same continuity as the Oz books. Thompson doesn't mention Oz, and her Santa is very different from Baum's Claus. Thompson's Santa is lively, spontaneous, and a little light-headed. Baum's Claus is wise, solemn, and quiet. While both Santa and Claus are fun to read about and both are excellent characters, I think Baum's Claus is the Santa Claus for Oz, as Baum, who created Oz, directly tied his version with Oz. Thompson never did, although John R. Neill had a barrel-bird (who help Santa load the Chimneypot) appear in Lucky Bucky in Oz. Whether barrel-birds also exist in Oz or somehow it crossed over is for individual readers to decide.

But all the same, I did enjoy Thompson's book, and can suggest that Oz fans would enjoy it. It's available in an inexpensive paperback from the International Wizard of Oz Club.

Next time, Jack Snow's short Santa story.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

A Kidnapped Santa Claus

1904 brought two short stories by L. Frank Baum that featured the return of his take on Santa Claus. Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz featured a story in which the visitors make toys of themselves and bring them to the Laughing Valley, but we'll get into that one later...

The other story was printed in The Delineator, and is much more commonly known, printed in many anthologies of short Christmas stories. The edition I've been reading it in the past three years is the International Wizard of Oz Club's The Collected Short Stories of L. Frank Baum. (It's also been included in The Complete Life & Adventures of Santa Claus, containing that book and this story, but I don't own that.)

The story tells how Claus' deliveries of toys greatly reduces the success of the Daemons of the Caves. Their Caves are purely metaphorical, and it's easy to see what each Daemon and their Cave represents by the name. There is the Daemon of Selfishness, the Daemon of Envy, the Daemon of Hatred, the Daemon of Malice, and the Daemon of Repentance. Simply, they make children do bad deeds by leading them through their caves. But at the end, they can repent and make good for the misdeed.

The Daemons try to get Claus to give into them, but he remains steadfast and true to the end. So, they try a different approach and kidnap him as he goes out on his Christmas Eve deliveries. Kilter, Nuter, and Wisk, Claus' assistants, finish the deliveries without him, with minimal errors that are later corrected.

Meanwhile, the Daemons take delight in their mischief, and they put Santa in the Cave of Repentance, while the others go to their Caves to await children. Claus and the Daemon of Repentance talk for a bit, the discussion quickly leading to the Daemon letting Claus escape, as he has done no wrong, and the mischief the Daemons did is done, so there is no point in keeping Claus there, and the Daemon of Repentance has himself repented of his part of the misdeed.

As Claus walks home, he comes across an army consisting of his assistants and his friends from the Forest of Burzee, ready to fight the Daemons, but he tells them to let the Daemons be.
"It is useless to pursue the Daemons," said Santa Claus to the army. "They have their place in the world, and can never be destroyed. But that is a great pity, nevertheless," he continued musingly.
And we are assured that the Daemons learned not to attempt to dissuade Santa again.

While this is a fun, easy reading story, it feels more like it's already been told. The Awgwas in The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus kidnapped Claus twice and both times, he was rescued. An army of Immortals did get involved in removing the threat from Claus' life.

All the same, it's interesting that Baum kept revisiting Santa Claus, and revealed that even after he was made an Immortal, he still had trouble.

Now, next time, we'll begin looking at some stories about Santa Claus that were not by L. Frank Baum.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Santa Claus 2009

L. Frank Baum's The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus. If you're into Baum's interconnected fantasy world that centered on Oz, this book is always a treat. As usual, I've re-read around Christmastime, but unusually this year, I re-read it again afterward.

Here, the author of the Oz books drops his usual storytelling and creates a myth for Santa Claus, and by connecting it to Oz later, reveals the hierarchy of Immortal beings who could also exist in Oz.

There be spoilers ahead!

The book opens by introducing the Forest of Burzee, which Baum would use in later novels and short stories. (And by association, all of these would be connected to Oz.) Maps of Oz show it to be just across the Deadly Desert from the Quadling Country, so perhaps Glinda is familiar with some of the Immortals there?

Now, we begin meeting the Immortals: we have the nymphs, who care for trees, Ryls, who care for plants, especially flowers, then the Knooks who care for animals.

We focus on one nymph in particular: Necile. Having the responsibility of caring for certain trees in Burzee has grown tiresome for her, as her trees are now strong and need little protection. Now that she has little to do, Necile begins to long for something new to do.

The Great Ak, Master Woodsman of the World, visits Burzee for Budding Day and tells the nymphs about the lives of humans. He tells them how neglected children are and mentions he had found a baby just outside of Burzee. Leaving it with Shiegra the lioness, he commanded that no animal harm it.

Necile is fascinated by the story and goes to see the baby. She feels compassion for it and brings it back to Burzee with her. Ak eventually decides to let Necile care for the baby, who she names Claus, meaning "Little One."

Baum created with Ak and Necile and the Nymph Queen Zurline (not to be confused with Lurline) almost like gods from mythology, except now, they actually have compassion for mankind. Instead of interfering and causing pain for mankind, they help when they choose to (Ak tells about how he started a small bonfire to keep some freezing children warm until their parents returned home).

Claus' life in Burzee is related briefly, until he gets to be a responsible age. Then Ak takes him on a journey around the world so he can see his own kind first hand. Claus feels compassion for children and mankind in general, and the deepest conversation in all of Baum's fantasies ensues:
"Then why, if man must perish, is he born?" demanded the boy.

"Everything perishes except the world itself and its keepers," answered Ak. "But while life lasts everything on earth has its use. The wise seek ways to be helpful to the world, for the helpful ones are sure to live again."
After this journey, Claus determines to bring happiness to children. All the Immortals pledge their aid to him, and Ak guides him to the Laughing Valley, where he decides to make his home. However, being a friend of the Immortals has its benefits, for while Claus sleeps, they build him a home from logs he collected, and bring him food when he needs it so he can focus on what he has determined to do.

Claus visits nearby towns and plays with children. The joy he brings to children brings joy to their parents.

However, winter prevents Claus from making more visits, so he spends it at home with his cat, Blinkie. To pass the time, Claus begins whittling at a piece of wood and it ends up turning into an image of Blinkie.

Shortly afterward, Claus hears a cry for help outside, and finds a young boy in the snow. He brings him home and nurses him back to health. The boy, Weekum, wants to play with Blinkie, but Blinkie isn't a playful cat. So Claus lets him play with the wooden cat, and then lets him keep it. Seeing how much Weekum liked the cat, Claus decides to make more for children everywhere. The Ryls, when they visit, decide to give Claus paint to color the wooden cats with.

The toy cats become popular with the children, and Claus makes more. Shiegra the lioness visits in her old age (a reminder that Baum drops that mortal beings do grow old and die), and Claus carves a special image of her, looking fierce and proud. When he tries to give this to two children, they are scared and run, so he resolves only to make toys of friendly animals. Later, when a rich lord's daughter visits him, he realizes that even children in rich families were no happier than the poor, so he makes a doll of clay based on Necile for her. This gives Claus more toys to make, and the children become happier.

By protecting and aiding Claus, the Immortals have made him almost one of them. It is now Claus who will visibly assist mankind.

Now, Baum gives us the antagonists, which he states he wishes he could overlook. The Awgwas, cruel beings that are not immortal, and cannot be seen by humans, but they can influence them to do wrong. Claus' work with the children breaks their hold over them, and the Awgwas are not happy at all.

The Awgwas start interfering with Claus, and send him to a distant country. However, using the secret words of the Ryls, he is transported back home. He is kidnapped again and hidden in the mountains of the Awgwas (which are not depicted on any map, but I'd imagine them being a bit south of the Laughing Valley, near the shore; I later thought that maybe now certain Jackdaws make their home there), but again the fairies rescue him. So, they attack Claus when he attempts to visit children and steal the toys. Finally, Claus stays at home and makes toys and fills his shelves with them, but when the shelves are full, Claus becomes sad and visits Ak.

Ak tells the Awgwas to leave Claus alone, but they refuse, so Ak declares war. The Nymphs, Ryls, Knooks, and Fairies join Ak against the Awgwas, the Three-Eyed Giants of Tatary, Asiatic Dragons, Black Demons, and Goozzle-Goblins. Despite Ak's army being outnumbered, they win, because it is a law that the powers of Evil cannot withstand Good. Thus, Ak is happy to assure Claus (and likewise, Baum his readers) that Awgwas are dead and are no longer to be feared.

Once again, Claus is unable to visit children during winter, but when he notices how easily Flossie and Glossie the deer can walk over frozen snow, he sends them to ask Will Knook for permission to draw a sledge so they might carry Claus to homes of children. Peter agrees, only if the delivery is made at night and the deer return to the forest by day. On his journey, Claus finds doors locked, so he uses chimneys to enter.

When people find the toys, they call Claus a saint, which is how "Santa" became prefixed to his name. (Santa Claus, by Baum, means "Saint of Little One.") Will Knook, however, notices that his deer were exactly one minute late in returning, so Claus begs Ak that the deer not be punished. The Nymphs, Ryls, and Fairies offer gifts to any deer that will assist Claus if Will and the King of the Knooks will allow the deer to continue to assist Claus. They agree, on condition that Claus makes one annual trip, and they set it on Christmas Eve.

Claus attempts to make more toys in time for Christmas Eve, but cannot make many, but fortunately, the Fairies find the toys the Awgwas stole and bring them to Claus so he can distribute them.

In building his new sledge, Claus trades with the Gnome King (whether or not he is the same Nome King of Ozma of Oz is a matter of debate) for runners and strings of bells for the deer. The Fairies get candies and fruits to fill stockings with and to decorate Christmas trees with (both traditions get set up in the story).

And here, Baum did his first crossover. The Fairies bring the candy from Phunnyland, which Baum later re-wrote into the Valley of Mo. (Or maybe, in the terms of the fictional world, they changed their name.) When Oz became linked with Baum's version of Santa Claus (in Queer Visitors from the Marvelous Land of Oz and The Road to Oz), so did Mo. (So was Queen Zixi of Ix.)

Claus continues his work for many years, until he ages and tires, and one day, he goes to lie down, and the Immortals realize he is about to die. Quickly calling all the Immortals, Ak proposes that Claus be given the Mantle of Immortality, which will make him Immortal. After a short conversation, all the Immortals agree, and they use the Mantle to drive the Spirit of Death away from him forever.

As Claus lives on, the world changes, and he finds chimneys have changed. Confused by stove chimneys, he brings along his three Immortal assistants, Kilter, Nuter, and Wisk, who'd been helping him make toys. They help him get into the homes of everyone, and soon, Santa must deputize every parent to help him.
So, to lighten his task, which was fast becoming very difficult indeed, old Santa decided to ask the parents to assist him.

"Get your Christmas trees all ready for my coming," he said to them; "and then I shall be able to leave the presents without loss of time, and you can put them on the trees when I am gone."

And to others he said: "See that the children's stockings are hung up in readiness for my coming, and then I can fill them as quick as a wink."

And often, when parents were kind and good-natured, Santa Claus would simply fling down his package of gifts and leave the fathers and mothers to fill the stockings after he had darted away in his sledge.

"I will make all loving parents my deputies!" cried the jolly old fellow, "and they shall help me do my work. For in this way I shall save many precious minutes and few children need be neglected for lack of time to visit them."
There are increasingly more children, but Santa doesn't mind as long as he has help.
"In all this world there is nothing so beautiful as a happy child," says good old Santa Claus...

Some critics have pointed out that for the titular character, Claus doesn't do much. Admittedly, this is true. It is the life of someone who took on a mighty task and how he accomplished it, and who assisted him. Rather than write thrilling adventures for Santa, Baum chose instead to build a mythology around the character and the symbols connected with him. Baum's pseudonymous work shows he was capable of thrilling adventures, but he decided to go for a quieter tale that felt magical.

And in the end, it works. Aside from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz, it is probably the most often-adapted book by Baum. There's been a television special, an anime television series, two animated movies on video, a graphic novel, and even this year an abridgement with new illustrations.

Baum made Santa Claus his own character, a kind man who took delight in pleasing children, a description that best fits this wonderful character, and the man who wrote the biography.