Friday, December 25, 2015

Three Short Christmas Tales



A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

…for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself.

What do I need to say about Dickens’ marvelous classic? Surely you already know the tale. It’s a wonderful, and short read. Because it is so short, most film renditions are quite complete and pretty faithful. I believe I heard or read somewhere that no story has been adapted into film more than A Christmas Carol. There are so many versions I like: Patrick Stewart, Scrooge McDuck, George C. Scott. Who is your favorite Scrooge?

A few years ago, my wife and I went to a live performance at Historic Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. The theater itself, though such a tragic historic site, is worth a visit, but go if you are able to a performance of A Christmas Carol, which is performed every year.

A few excerpts that I found particularly poignant:

“Man,” said the Ghost, “if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered what the surplus is, and where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! To hear the insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust!”

This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

If you have not discovered the brilliant short stories of O. Henry – well you must simply return your least favored Christmas gift and buy yourself a collection. (By the way, aren’t we book lovers just so easy to shop for?)

O. Henry’s most famous short story is The Gift of the Magi. A charming tale of sacrificial love. I could not hope to sum it up better than the author did himself.

The magi, as you know, were wise men – wonderfully wise men – who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. Being wise, their gifts were no doubt wise ones, possibly bearing the privilege of exchange in case of duplication. And here I have lamely related to you the uneventful chronicle of two foolish children in a flat who most unwisely sacrificed for each other the greatest treasures of their house. But in a last word to the wise of these days let it be said that of all who give gifts these two were the wisest. Of all who give and receive gifts, such as they are wisest. Everywhere they are wisest. They are the magi.

Speaking of the Magi…

The Story of the Other Wise Man by Henry VanDyke

The best for last. The title is the synopsis. VanDyke says about the story…I have never felt as if it were my own. It was a gift. It was sent to me; and it seemed as if I knew the Giver, though His name was not spoken.

Of the hero of the tale, Artaban, VanDyke writes …there are some kinds of failure that are better than success.

And

In all this populous and intricate world of anguish, though he found none to worship, he found many to help.

A friend, with whom I shared this story called it a luminous gem.

That’s about right.

Merry Christmas!
 
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4 comments:

  1. I really should read more classic Christmas stories by people other than Dickens! But I thought I'd get through the Dickens ones first. Gift of the Magi is probably where I'll head when I'm done with Dickens. :)

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    1. Gift of the Magi is very short...3-4 pages depending on font, and O Henry is brilliant.

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  2. My two favorite Scrooges are Patrick Stewart and Michael Caine :-) I try to alternate which one I watch every year so they don't get stale!

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