The Magi honored the Christ child with three gifts.
and in honor of the magi, I read three Christmas tales each December which are also my selections for A Literary Christmas hosted by In the Bookcase.
Christmas on Ganymede by Isaac Asimov
One of Jupiter’s moon, Ganymede has been, not so much colonized as industrialized, by Earth corporations which are harvesting the planet’s natural resources using the indigenous race of Ossies as labor (Ossies: so named for their resemblance to Ostriches) One of the earthmen, Olaf Johnson, innocently tells the Ossies of the Santa Claus legend, and the Ossies subsequently go on strike, until they are visited by Sannycaws. This will negatively impact the bottom line, so the corporate production supervisors, arrange for a reasonable facsimile, consisting of Olaf posing as Santa, a rudimentary flying sleigh, and another indigenous species, the spinyback – cross between an aardvark and stegosaurus – to perform as reindeer. It is intentionally, quite silly, and good clean fun, but not at all profound, as are my next two selections.
The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern
This short story is the basis for the classic film, It’s a Wonderful Life. Legendary director Frank Capra called The Greatest Gift
…the story I had been looking for all my life!
To be honest, the film is the better telling, simply because it contains more details of how one life touches so many others. But the STORY, and its marvelous message, that THE greatest gift, the gift of life…is all Stern’s. In reviewing classic literature, I often say, skip the movie, read the book, but in this case I say, LOVE the movie, then appreciate it better, by reading the book. (Also read the background, of the short story Stern couldn’t sell, and how it became the classic film.)
The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain by Charles Dickens
Goodness, this surprised me. After Dickens drew raves for his first three Christmas novellas, he created great expectations (pardon the pun) for more, his fourth and fifth were not so well received, but for me, The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain is perhaps the most poignant of all. To further add to my enjoyment, it was a perfect complement to The Greatest Gift, as the moral for both could be…be careful what you wish for.
The haunted man is Mr. Redlaw, a man everyone would say
…looked like a haunted man.
He sits long hours alone, pondering over…
things that might have been, and never were
Redlaw is indeed haunted by a specter twin of himself, who reminds him of all the sorrow of his life, and who eventually offers him the dreadful bargain.
“Hear what I offer! Forget the sorrow, wrong, and trouble you have known! Forget them!” He repeated.
Redlaw is suspicious of the seemingly evil smile, that presages the bargain, but reasons to himself…
All men and women have their sorrows, - most of them their wrongs; ingratitude, and sordid jealousy, and interest besetting all degrees of life. Who would not forget their sorrows and their wrongs?
The bargain is struck, but course all does not turn out as was hoped (much like George Bailey’s bargain in The Greatest Gift.)
He is not happier, once relieved of the burdens of sorrowful memory, if anything, he is more miserable…and makes those around him more miserable in the bargain.
I am tempted to leave it at that, and tempt you to read it, but I cannot omit this moment, when Redlaw, in the depths of despair, is admonished by a kind and gentle friend.
“I have no learning, and you have much,” said Milly; “I am not used to think, and you are always thinking. May I tell you why it seems to me a good thing for us, to remember wrong that has been done us?”
“That we may forgive it.”
~ The Wanderer
May you be blessed with
the spirit of the season, which is Peace,
the gladness of the season, which is Hope,
and the heart of the season, which is Love