(Another month, another hiatus, I know. But I wanted something out by Christmas, so here it is. I’ll get back on schedule soon, I promise!!)
A Christmas Carol more or less invented the modern idea of Christmas, at least in the English-speaking world. I’m not making this up– after the Jacobians were deposed during the English Civil War, the Puritans took over England, and the Puritans hated Christmas. Between its Pagan roots and associations with the Catholic church, it wasn’t exactly the most popular holiday. It was the American writer and essayist Washington Irving who kicked off the Christmas revival by detailing the Christmas traditions of rural England, as they hadn’t really had Christmas in any of the major metropolitan areas. A Christmas Carol took these new ideas and traditions, and brought a Puritan main character to understanding why these traditions and why Christmas can be a force for good.
It’s also one of the most adapted Christmas stories of all time– either tied with or just edging out It’s A Wonderful Life. Everyone from Jim Carry to George C. Scott to Barbie have played variations of Ebenezer Scrooge to… varying effects. Here are some that are worth looking at.
5. Mickey’s Christmas Carol
This one you might have seen, but it’s worth checking out again if you haven’t, and it’s a great way to introduce your kids to the story. Scrooge McDuck, of course, plays the miserly Ebeneezer Scrooge, with his nephew Donald as Scrooge’s nephew Fred and Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchet. And they are playing these characters– much the same as in the next movie. The animation is beautiful, as one expects from the Mouse. The one thing I would say about how it adapts the story is that it just barely pulls its punches– because these are the classic Disney characters, they can only be so frightening. Goofy as Jacob Marley, for instance, doesn’t hit the same notes as in other adaptations. But it’s a great introduction to the story for younger kids who’ve never heard it before.
4. The Muppet Christmas Carol
Similar to Mickey’s Christmas Carol, this is the Muppet’s take on the story. Michael Caine plays Scrooge surprisingly straight for a movie where the Great Gonzo plays Charles Dickens, and the movie progresses just about how you’d expect. Kermit and the Muppet Rats play Scrooge’s workers, Statler and Waldorf play the former partners Jacob and Robert Marley (think about it for a minute), there are a few very well done musical sequences– and then the Ghost of Christmas Past shows up. Three new Muppets were created for this film to play the ghosts, and they are very effective, particularly the Ghost of Christmas Future. My family watches this one every year, and it’s always a great sit.
3. A Klingon Christmas Carol
“You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.”
One of the many works translated into Klingon, including The Epic of Gilgamesh, Tao Te Ching, and, of course, Hamlet, A Klingon Christmas Carol takes the Charles Dickens story and not only translates the dialogue, but the culture of Victorian England into the culture of the Klingon Empire. One of the more notable examples are the Ghost of Christmas Present’s Ignorance and Want become Corruption and Apathy. SQuja’ (the Klingon’s Scrooge) is not learning about the true meaning of Christmas this time, but how his actions have been dishonorable. It’s a fun show, especially if you’re into Star Trek.
2. A Christmas Carol (1999)
Speaking of Star Trek, Patrick Stewart starred in an adaptation of A Christmas Carol. It’s the most conventional adaptation on this list, and does its utmost to try and be completely faithful to the text– to the point that it includes things that most adaptations leave out, like the Ghost of Christmas Present taking Scrooge to see Christmas around the world. The dialogue is completely lifted from the book, as is to be expected. The stand out here is of course Patrick Stewart’s performance– this was made after he did some highly acclaimed stage readings, where he was the only one on stage and had to carry the whole thing.
1. An American Christmas Carol
Like A Klingon Christmas Carol, this is a full cultural translation of the story. Most adaptations place the story when it was written– in Victorian London. Not so with this one, instead placing the story in 1930’s New England. Our Scrooge this time is Benedict Slade and yes, he is played by The Fonz. He does a fair job, playing Slade in almost every scene, even when he’s younger (he wears makeup to make him look older). What’s interesting is how well the story translates to the setting– the New England area was settled by Puritans, and they weren’t exactly fond of Christmas either. The Puritans of the New England colonies outlawed any displays of Christmas spirit. It’s probably the best place to translate the story to an American audience.
No matter what you celebrate, Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and I will try to have something out by New Years. Hopefully.