‘Twas the Night Before: Chapters 16-17: The Claus Clan

So the elves bring Tom to the Claus cottage.  Mrs. Claus appears:

A rosy-cheeked woman in robe, slipper, and nightcap bustled out, whispering in a vibrato that never dropped below high C.

Ouch.

Mrs. Claus explains why Tom can’t understand the elves when they speak, but he can understand her:

“They speak the language of the place,” she said quietly.  “We understand each other.  Father and I speak a universal language for our kind, so the occasional mortal can understand.”

Well…that clears things up.  I guess.

Then Santa shows up!

Tom pushed himself up with his good arm.  This couldn’t be real.  Snow-white hair, big beard, twinkly eyes, half glasses low on his nose.  A cherry-wood pipe.

I just love that the pipe gets its own special sentence.  And that Tom is able to identify the wood.

“Convinced we’re figments of your imagination?” Kris asked.

Tom nodded.

Kris smiled.  “Is there a mortal without pride?  Your imagination is responsible for only so much of what you see.”

Nice to see that the arrogance and condescension of Jenkins’ characters continues apace.

We are here introduced to the basic conceit of the place: it’s real, but the particulars depend on what you, the visitor, think when you think of Santa.  There are reindeer when Tom shows up, but there aren’t always–they’re just there because he associates reindeer with Santa.

More snideness from Jolly St. Nick:

“We’ve hosted Western mortals before, but none has had the wherewithal to conjure Rudolph.”

Nice.  Sorry to disappoint you, Kris. 

They take Tom to a comfy bedroom, and he sleeps it off.  His injuries, I mean.  Sorta.

This starts a minor theme of this story: Tom conking out whenever the Clauses tell him.

***

Back in Chicago, Noella learns of the plane crash.  She takes off her necklace in remorse.

Jenkins tells us that Noella had decided just before hearing the news that she would “admit her fantasy” to Tom and give up the Santa-belief.

WOW GOOD THING SHE WON’T HAVE TO NOW, RIGHT???

(Only Jenkins can use the phrase “admit her fantasy” without a wink.)

***

Tom wakes up with some of his injuries seemingly healed, and Mrs. Claus won’t even let him leave the bedroom (saaaay…):

She brought him stacks of flapjacks and a creamy fruit mixture that hit him like a narcotic.  He fell asleep eating, and when he awoke, it was nighttime again.

Can I be the only one freaked out by the fact that they’re keeping Tom drugged and incapacitated?  It’s starting to feel like A Very Misery Christmas.

Kris is back to talk to him:

“When does this fantasy end?  I have so many questions?”

“That’s why you’re here.”

“Where is ‘here’?  The Black Forest?”

“You came to us through the Black Forest.  You could have found me at home or in England, France, Russia, Holland–”

“You’re an idea, a spirit.”

“I am Santa Claus.”

“My former fiancee believe you are real.”

“I know her well.  A Christmas Eve baby with a lovely name.”

GUYS, IT’S THE BIG REVEAL

NOELLA WAS BORN ON THE 24TH, NOT THE 26TH

“Sir, she was born the day after Christmas.”

“Begging your pardon,” Kris said, “’twas the night before.”

And we have a title.

Now, this is the novel’s big revelation, though I myself feel that it rather pales in comparison to the following facts:

1.  Tom was transported from the Black Forest of Germany to FAIRYLAND

2.  Santa and Mrs. Claus are REAL

3.  Nobody gets sick or hurt in FAIRYLAND, and time doesn’t really pass, which means that the elves have been kept in slavery mining platinum for Kris Kringle’s stupid necklaces FOREVER

But I guess that’s just me.

And NOW things start to suck.

Let that sink in.

You see, when Tom arrived in Germany, Jenkins called it “following a rich journalistic tradition to update the Santa myth.”

And now Jenkins is keeping up a long tradition of making Santa Claus unintentionally creepy:

“I do not visit every home.  One doubter will keep me away.  I get things to believers, sometimes through skeptics, but I visit only the rare home where belief in me is unanimous.”

OH THAT’S NICE

Sorry, Tiny Tim, I know you were hoping for a new crutch this year, but your older sister doesn’t believe.  Ha!  Sucks to be you, I guess.

So it turns out that Noella was right when she said that poor kids could get gifts if only their parents believed.

In his own way, Santa is worse than TurboJesus.  At least TurboJesus doesn’t force people to remain unsaved because their siblings are unsaved.

And on that depressing note, Santa makes Tom fall asleep again.  (Well, he has been awake for nearly twenty minutes.)

Tomorrow, Tom joins Santa in the sweatshop workshop.  Stay tuned!

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Posted on December 21, 2011, in Books, Christmas, Twas the Night Before. Bookmark the permalink. 33 Comments.

  1. And on that depressing note, Santa makes Tom fall asleep again. (Well, he has been awake for nearly twenty minutes.)

    He dislikes the form Tom’s mind is making him take, so he tries to have Tom conscious as little as possible?

    (oh, beloved tentacles, I missed you so…)

  2. And then Tom convinces the elves to unionize?

    Please?

    It would be so much better than whatever Jenkins wrote, and it is an unfortunate testament to Jenkins consistency that I can say that with confidence.

  3. Hah, as I read this the MST3K Santa Claus was pretty much all I could think of. It fits surprisingly well: You’ve got the bizarre “North Pole”, the creepy Santa, the weird plot…Please tell me there’s an incompetent devil played by a man in tights!

  4. You see, the Santa Claus Tom doesn’t believe in has a Rudolph, therefore this Santa Claus had a Rudolph. Other non-believers would see a different Santa that more closely resembles the version of Santa they don’t believe in. It’s all so clear!

    And yes, it’s clear that his true form is a ninth-dimensional tentacled nightmare. Basically, our Mr. Claus is a mashup of Tom Bombadil and Pennywise the Clown. We all flo-ho-hoat down here, little boy!

    • Basically, our Mr. Claus is a mashup of Tom Bombadil and Pennywise the Clown. We all flo-ho-hoat down here, little boy!

      Well.

      Christmas is RUINED FOREVER for me now. I will now forever see Santa as a fanged Tim Curry in a red-n-white suite, complete with pompom buttons.

      And the sleigh (slay?) is pulled by Eight Zombie Reindeer.

      (lol)

  5. She brought him stacks of flapjacks and a creamy fruit mixture that hit him like a narcotic.

    Enjoy breakfast at the Interdimensional House of Pancakes, open 37 hours a day!

    Can I be the only one freaked out by the fact that they’re keeping Tom drugged and incapacitated?  It’s starting to feel like A Very Misery Christmas.

    The constant sedations give it a real Bride of the Monster feel too. At this point, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to spot Tor Johnson lumbering around in an elf costume.

  6. This story would be much better if Tom returned from the land of the fair folk to find thousands of years had passed. *nods* Yup.

  7. >>>”This couldn’t be real. Snow-white hair, big beard, twinkly eyes, half glasses low on his nose.”

    Dumbledore?

    >>>“You came to us through the Black Forest. You could have found me at home or in England, France, Russia, Holland–”

    So if I were in Tom’s place, I’d hallucinate Snegurochka instead of Mrs.Claus? Well, maybe their species don’t have incest taboos – otherwise I don’t know how she copes with being both his wife *and* granddaughter.

    >>>“I do not visit every home. One doubter will keep me away. I get things to believers, sometimes through skeptics, but I visit only the rare home where belief in me is unanimous.”

    See also “If you *really* believed, you’d long ago be healed from your incurable illness/wouldn’t get sick in the first place”.

  8. Madeleine L’Engle did something similar in “Many Waters”: she had unicorns that existed only when someone was conscious and believed in them, and only came when called by someone who believed in them. Except that, being Madeleine L’Engle, it worked. (*starts to compare L’Engle to Jenkins and gives up in half a second*) Now, by the rules of Jenkins’s “Fairyland,” if I was there instead of Tom, and I thought of Hermes and Yukon Cornelius, they would appear? That sounds just like Imaginationland from South Park! . . . . muhahahahahahahaha!

    Re: Tom and the Drugged Pancakes: there are many, many stories from around the world that say if you eat the food of the Otherworld, you can never leave. Maybe that’s what Kris and Mrs. Julia-Child-Wannabe Claus are trying to do with Tom.

    And, um, I’m confused. Does it really matter if Noella was born on the 24th vs the 26th? I mean, either way, it’s not Christmas Day.

  9. “I do not visit every home. One doubter will keep me away. I get things to believers, sometimes through skeptics, but I visit only the rare home where belief in me is unanimous.”

    So that would be no homes, then? Seriously, how many adults can there be who believe in Santa Claus? Even in this story, we’ve met a grand total of one, and she doesn’t have kids. (Though in order for Santa to have given her the Forever and a Tree necklace, her parents must have believed. No wonder it freaked them out. No, wait, that only makes sense if they believe and know he’s actually Pennywise. Then it all makes sense.)

    Also, why would Noella’s parents lie about her birth date? More importantly, how? Short of forgery, that is? Or did the court house in the town she was born conveniently burn down when she was a small child? I know Jenkins isn’t so old he’s never heard of birth certificates, so WTF? Is she actually a stolen baby? Can anyone else think of a reason to lie about her birth day? (She’s meant to be a sacrifice to CthuhuClaus and her parents changed their mind and are hiding her from the rest of the cult or claiming she was born on the wrong day and so won’t work as the sacrificial one? Anything else?)

    • She’s meant to be a sacrifice to CthuhuClaus and her parents changed their mind and are hiding her

      Now that would make a good story!

      Also, how do you whisper above a high C? Gah, Jenkins, go back to your non-descript characterizations because your attempt at fleshing out a character usually makes no sense at all.

    • As a resident of the USA during the 2008 election, Jenkins cannot possibly be unfamiliar with the concept of birth certificates, or the idea that going around using a forged one for legal purposes is generally frowned upon.

      The simplest theory (which, ironically, is a carbon copy of the simplest birther theory explaining how Obama came to have a Hawaii b.c. if he was born in Kenya) is that Noella’s mother gave birth in secret and reported false birth information to the government – this requires no help from outside conspirators, and only a few family members have to keep quiet about it.

      Why they might do such a thing is still puzzling me. It’s clearly connected to the necklace, and her parents’ reaction to same. All I can come up with at the moment is a variation on the cult theme – cult rules hold that any child born on Christmas Eve belongs to CthulhuClaus, so when Mrs. Wright found herself pregnant with a late December due date, she persuaded her husband to ditch the cult and run off to start a new life, and conceal the dangerous birth date for good measure. Unfortunately for her, Santa sees all, and her husband had never completely lost faith in the idea that belonging to The Red Giver of a Thousand Gifts is actually a great honor…

      • As a resident of the USA during the 2008 election, Jenkins cannot possibly be unfamiliar with the concept of birth certificates, or the idea that going around using a forged one for legal purposes is generally frowned upon.

        Twas the Night Before was written in 1998.

        • Ah, I must have missed that part. Still, misstating your date of birth on official documents tends to raise bureaucratic suspicions about what *else* you might have misstated. Driver’s license and health insurance applications are the main things that come to my mind here, but I’m sure there are others. So it’s definitely still simplest if the birth was secret and her parents reported an incorrect date to the authorities.

      • In that case, why not skew the date by just one day?

        • Maybe the rule applies to babies born on both the 24th and the 25th. Or they were concerned a 1-day difference would be too transparent a ploy, and they couldn’t make it before Christmas because people had seen the pregnant mom in public on the 23rd, and they didn’t want to risk discovery. I’m not sure I can reconcile it with their choice to name her after the holiday, though, unless we go with the Major Major Major Major* scenario where the dad gets the opportunity to decide the child’s legal name while the mom is absent/unconscious and takes full advantage.

          *from Catch-22, in which a joker surnamed Major put “Major Major Major” on his son’s birth certificate while his wife was sleeping off the exhaustion of childbirth, and maintained the fiction that he’d given the boy a normal name up until he started attending school, where they had all the students’ legal names on file. Unlike Noella, Major did not embrace his name, and went on to spend as much time as possible avoiding human contact.

  10. Yeah, I’m also curious about significance of the birth date.

  11. “Your imagination is responsible for only so much of what you see.”

    “So the reason that so much is fuzzy and indeterminate is that my imagination is very non-visual?”

    “Yes.”

    “What do you look like when no one is looking?”

    “A Vorlon.”

    “What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever looked like?”

    “Last year someone with some very interesting beliefs came through. I’ve looked undead before, I’ve looked pink before, I’ve looked like Cthulhu before, I’ve never looked like a rotting pink zombie Cthulhu before.”

  12. This part was almost not bad

    “Convinced we’re figments of your imagination?” Kris asked.

    Tom nodded.

    Kris smiled. “Is there a mortal without pride? Your imagination is responsible for only so much of what you see.”

    If Jenkins was trying to make the point that we often see only what our imaginations allow us to see. But no, he’s just using the old “you see me in a shape you will understand” trope.

    And then of course he goes on to make Santa the biggest douche in all fairlyand. Seriously, “I only visit the houses where ALL the people believe?” Come to think of it, then how the heck did Noella get her necklace? Cuz I’m pretty sure her parents didn’t believe in the really for reals Santa.

    • Maybe her parents were at a party when Santa dropped by? “In the house” could mean everyone who lives there or it could mean those who are physically in the house at the time he comes by. Santa likes to practice law in his spare time.

    • Oh yes, this. Oh, her mother was such a mean spirited jerk. The cousin is clean though. Her parents were horribly killed, so she got lucky because all the doubters in her household were gone. So that’s why all the orphans in the world get such luxerious presents every year. OH WAIT THEY FUCKING DON’T.

      Also, no pall, no-one meets you in Holland. Fuck off here. Our kids celebrate the original Saint Nicolaus feast, not his American third rate knockoff. Yes, I believed in Saint Nicolaus (look it up, just don’t get a heart attack when you read how big a role his helpers in blackface-makeup play into the whole feast) while knowing about but not believing in Santa Claus. Cognitive dissonance is a wonderfull thing. I’d say you’d have a much bigger chance meeting Santa in the US than in Holland. But you wouldn’t know about that, would you Jenkins you Team America World Police Poster boy.

    • Come to think of it, then how the heck did Noella get her necklace? Cuz I’m pretty sure her parents didn’t believe in the really for reals Santa.

      Well wait. In the quote, he said he gets things to believers, even through unbelievers. He just wouldn’t actually go inside Noella’s house while at least one of her parents didn’t believe.

      • And how does that work, exactly? Does Santa appear to people and convince them to break into people’s homes for him? Because we know that Noella’s cousin’s presents all came from real people (there was that line about Santa helping people get her just what she wanted) but Noella’s present wasn’t from anyone…but Santa.

      • Good point. So Santa only goes in person to houses where everyone believes in him. For the rest, he just mind-controls the most convenient gift-giver to do his will. Hmm, this actually does sound like a pretty good parallel to RTC Jesus. First, don’t do anything that would count as “evidence” you exist. Then, sneer at anyone who doesn’t believe in you.

  13. “I do not visit every home. One doubter will keep me away. I get things to believers, sometimes through skeptics, but I visit only the rare home where belief in me is unanimous.”

    ONCE, FOR CENTURIES AS YOU EXPERIENCE THEM, I EXERTED GREAT POWER WITHIN YOUR WORLD. MY REALITY WAS SOLID AND BEYOND DENIAL. HUMANS KNEW ME AND FEARED MY JUDGMENT. NOW THE MEMBRANE OF WORLDS THICKENS. HUMAN BRAIN-MATRICES OSSIFY AND GROW LESS PERMEABLE. EVEN A SINGLE DOUBTER MAY PREVENT MY ACCESS.

    I SURVIVE IN THIS ISOLATED SPACE, FORGOTTEN BUT REMEMBERING, SUBMITTING BUT RARELY TO THE CONFINES OF PHYSICAL DEFINITION. I WORK THROUGH OTHERS. THOSE OF SOFT, YIELDING MIND, EASILY KNEADED AND PUSHED ASIDE. CHILDREN. THE CREDULOUS. RAREST OF PAWNS, AND MOST USEFUL, ARE MATURE YET RECEPTIVE BRAIN-PATTERNS LIKE THOSE OF YOUR MATE.

    “Noella!”

    YES … THAT IS THE NAME. IT RESONATES PLEASINGLY IN THE CHASMS OF SPACE AND TIME. SHE WAS SO NAMED — BY HER HUMAN PARENTS — FOR HER TIME OF BIRTH.

    “I don’t understand. Noella told me she was born after Christmas–”

    INCORRECT. YOUR HUMAN FLESH-BRAIN IS A POOR TOOL FOR THE MEASUREMENT OF THE TIMESTREAM. YOUR SPECIES IS IGNORANT AND INACCURATE, UNWORTHY EVEN OF THE PALTRY FIVE-DIMENSIONAL SPACE IN WHICH YOU HAVE THUS FAR BEEN PERMITTED TO EXIST. BUT THIS SITUATION WILL SOON BE REMEDIED.

    FOR NOW, SLEEP.

    SLEEP.

  14. “A Christmas Eve baby with a lovely name.”

    I wonder– why Noella? I’ve seen Noelle and Noel before, but never Noella. It seems like a really weird variation on the name. Maybe Jenkins wanted to obfuscate, then decided his readers weren’t bright enough to get any but the clearest reference. Thus, Douten and Noella=doubting and Noel, geddit?

  15. I understand them because the plot requires me to. You don’t because… well, you get the idea.

    (ObNickLowe: quote lines from Star Wars, but substitute “plot” for “force”. “The time has come, young man, for you to learn about the Plot.”)

    Some cherry pipes have a pretty distinctive appearance. Others don’t.

    “I associate Santa with buxom bikini beach babes. Hey, I’m Australian…”

    All this falling asleep feels like one of the slacker Mission: Impossible episodes. “Your mission, if you decide to accept it, is to convince Douten of the reality of Santa…”

    • That works in the Abrams Star Trek movie too.

      Nero: “Prepare the red matter!”

      Alternate: “Prepare the plot device!”

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