The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus eBook: Page1

L. Frank Baum (1996)




  Produced by Dennis Amundson

  The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

  by

  L. Frank Baum

  Contents

  YOUTH

  1. Burzee 2. The Child of the Forest 3. The Adoption 4. Claus 5. The Master Woodsman 6. Claus Discovers Humanity 7. Claus Leaves the Forest

  MANHOOD

  1. The Laughing Valley 2. How Claus Made the First Toy 3. How the Ryls Colored the Toys 4. How Little Mayrie Became Frightened 5. How Bessie Blithesome Came to the Laughing Valley 6. The Wickedness of the Awgwas 7. The Great Battle Between Good and Evil 8. The First Journey with the Reindeer 9. "Santa Claus!" 10. Christmas Eve 11. How the First Stockings Were Hung by the Chimneys 12. The First Christmas Tree

  OLD AGE

  1. The Mantle of Immortality 2. When the World Grew Old 3. The Deputies of Santa Claus

  YOUTH

  1. Burzee

  Have you heard of the great Forest of Burzee? Nurse used to sing of itwhen I was a child. She sang of the big tree-trunks, standing closetogether, with their roots intertwining below the earth and theirbranches intertwining above it; of their rough coating of bark andqueer, gnarled limbs; of the bushy foliage that roofed the entireforest, save where the sunbeams found a path through which to touch theground in little spots and to cast weird and curious shadows over themosses, the lichens and the drifts of dried leaves.

  The Forest of Burzee is mighty and grand and awesome to those who stealbeneath its shade. Coming from the sunlit meadows into its mazes itseems at first gloomy, then pleasant, and afterward filled withnever-ending delights.

  For hundreds of years it has flourished in all its magnificence, thesilence of its inclosure unbroken save by the chirp of busy chipmunks,the growl of wild beasts and the songs of birds.

  Yet Burzee has its inhabitants--for all this. Nature peopled it in thebeginning with Fairies, Knooks, Ryls and Nymphs. As long as the Foreststands it will be a home, a refuge and a playground to these sweetimmortals, who revel undisturbed in its depths.

  Civilization has never yet reached Burzee. Will it ever, I wonder?

  2. The Child of the Forest

  Once, so long ago our great-grandfathers could scarcely have heard itmentioned, there lived within the great Forest of Burzee a wood-nymphnamed Necile. She was closely related to the mighty Queen Zurline, andher home was beneath the shade of a widespreading oak. Once everyyear, on Budding Day, when the trees put forth their new buds, Necileheld the Golden Chalice of Ak to the lips of the Queen, who dranktherefrom to the prosperity of the Forest. So you see she was a nymphof some importance, and, moreover, it is said she was highly regardedbecause of her beauty and grace.

  When she was created she could not have told; Queen Zurline could nothave told; the great Ak himself could not have told. It was long agowhen the world was new and nymphs were needed to guard the forests andto minister to the wants of the young trees. Then, on some day notremembered, Necile sprang into being; radiant, lovely, straight andslim as the sapling she was created to guard.

  Her hair was the color that lines a chestnut-bur; her eyes were blue inthe sunlight and purple in the shade; her cheeks bloomed with the faintpink that edges the clouds at sunset; her lips were full red, poutingand sweet. For costume she adopted oak-leaf green; all the wood-nymphsdress in that color and know no other so desirable. Her dainty feetwere sandal-clad, while her head remained bare of covering other thanher silken tresses.

  Necile's duties were few and simple. She kept hurtful weeds fromgrowing beneath her trees and sapping the earth-food required by hercharges. She frightened away the Gadgols, who took evil delight inflying against the tree-trunks and wounding them so that they droopedand died from the poisonous contact. In dry seasons she carried waterfrom the brooks and pools and moistened the roots of her thirstydependents.

  That was in the beginning. The weeds had now learned to avoid theforests where wood-nymphs dwelt; the loathsome Gadgols no longer daredcome nigh; the trees had become old and sturdy and could bear thedrought better than when fresh-sprouted. So Necile's duties werelessened, and time grew laggard, while succeeding years became moretiresome and uneventful than the nymph's joyous spirit loved.

  Truly the forest-dwellers did not lack amusement. Each full moon theydanced in the Royal Circle of the Queen. There were also the Feast ofNuts, the Jubilee of Autumn Tintings, the solemn ceremony of LeafShedding and the revelry of Budding Day. But these periods ofenjoyment were far apart, and left many weary hours between.

  That a wood-nymph should grow discontented was not thought of byNecile's sisters. It came upon her only after many years of brooding.But when once she had settled in her mind that life was irksome she hadno patience with her condition, and longed to do something of realinterest and to pass her days in ways hitherto undreamed of by forestnymphs. The Law of the Forest alone restrained her from going forth insearch of adventure.

  While this mood lay heavy upon pretty Necile it chanced that the greatAk visited the Forest of Burzee and allowed the wood-nymphs as wastheir wont--to lie at his feet and listen to the words of wisdom thatfell from his lips. Ak is the Master Woodsman of the world; he seeseverything, and knows more than the sons of men.

  That night he held the Queen's hand, for he loved the nymphs as afather loves his children; and Necile lay at his feet with many of hersisters and earnestly harkened as he spoke.

  "We live so happily, my fair ones, in our forest glades," said Ak,stroking his grizzled beard thoughtfully, "that we know nothing of thesorrow and misery that fall to the lot of those poor mortals whoinhabit the open spaces of the earth. They are not of our race, it istrue, yet compassion well befits beings so fairly favored as ourselves.Often as I pass by the dwelling of some suffering mortal I am temptedto stop and banish the poor thing's misery. Yet suffering, inmoderation, is the natural lot of mortals, and it is not our place tointerfere with the laws of Nature."

  "Nevertheless," said the fair Queen, nodding her golden head at theMaster Woodsman, "it would not be a vain guess that Ak has oftenassisted these hapless mortals."

  Ak smiled.

  "Sometimes," he replied, "when they are very young--'children,' themortals call them--I have stopped to rescue them from misery. The menand women I dare not interfere with; they must bear the burdens Naturehas imposed upon them. But the helpless infants, the innocent childrenof men, have a right to be happy until they become full-grown and ableto bear the trials of humanity. So I feel I am justified in assistingthem. Not long ago--a year, maybe--I found four poor children huddledin a wooden hut, slowly freezing to death. Their parents had gone to aneighboring village for food, and had left a fire to warm their littleones while they were absent. But a storm arose and drifted the snow intheir path, so they were long on the road. Meantime the fire went outand the frost crept into the bones of the waiting children."

  "Poor things!" murmured the Queen softly. "What did you do?"

  "I called Nelko, bidding him fetch wood from my forests and breatheupon it until the fire blazed again and warmed the little room wherethe children lay. Then they ceased shivering and fell asleep untiltheir parents came."

  "I am glad you did thus," said the good Queen, beaming upon the Master;and Necile, who had eagerly listened to every word, echoed in awhisper: "I, too, am glad!"

  "And this very night," continued Ak, "as I came to the edge of Burzee Iheard a feeble cry, which I judged came from a human infant. I lookedabout me and found, close to the forest, a helpless babe, lying quitenaked upon the grasses and wailing piteously. Not far away, screenedby the forest, crouched Shiegra, the lioness, int
ent upon devouring theinfant for her evening meal."

  "And what did you do, Ak?" asked the Queen, breathlessly.

  "Not much, being in a hurry to greet my nymphs. But I commandedShiegra to lie close to the babe, and to give it her milk to quiet itshunger. And I told her to send word throughout the forest, to allbeasts and reptiles, that the child should not be harmed."

  "I am glad you did thus," said the good Queen again, in a tone ofrelief; but this time Necile did not echo her words, for the nymph,filled with a strange resolve, had suddenly stolen away from the group.

  Swiftly her lithe form darted through the forest paths until shereached the edge of mighty Burzee, when she paused to gaze curiouslyabout her. Never until now had she ventured so far, for the Law of theForest had placed the nymphs in its inmost depths.

  Necile knew she was breaking the Law, but the thought did not givepause to her dainty feet. She had decided to see with her own eyesthis infant Ak had told of, for she had never yet beheld a child ofman. All the immortals are full-grown; there are no children amongthem. Peering through the trees Necile saw the child lying on thegrass. But now it was sweetly sleeping, having been comforted by themilk drawn from Shiegra. It was not old enough to know what perilmeans; if it did not feel hunger it was content.

  Softly the nymph stole to the side of the babe and knelt upon thesward, her long robe of rose leaf color spreading about her like agossamer cloud. Her lovely countenance expressed curiosity andsurprise, but, most of all, a tender, womanly pity. The babe wasnewborn, chubby and pink. It was entirely helpless. While the nymphgazed the infant opened its eyes, smiled upon her, and stretched outtwo dimpled arms. In another instant Necile had caught it to herbreast and was hurrying with it through the forest paths.