Here is our cartoon
and poetic variation on Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol.
Hope you like it.
One person who would not be shopping for Christmas gifts was Ebenezer Scrooge, a rich banker with a heart of stone, quite indifferent to people's feelings. He not only didn’t buy Christmas gifts, he never brought anything for anyone. The sparrows who perched on his windowsill never got a crumb. He often foreclosed on loans not promptly paid, even a day after they were due. He was never heard to say “merry Christmas,” or "happy holidays" to anyone, not even his nephew, the only link to his beloved sister who died in childbirth. His nephew kept inviting him to parties just the same, but he never came! Too preoccupied wheeling, dealing, and sealing his fate, leading finally to anonymity. His motto, said with a shrug, was “holidays, humbug.”
While he didn’t have to worry about the millennium, Ebenezer Scrooge has plenty to worry about. The three spirits, Christmas past, present and future, are about to visit him, preceded by his deceased partner Jacob Marley, whose miserly gains have earned him lots of chains which he drags around. In life, like Scrooge, he never paid heed to others' needs. He has decided to drop in on Scrooge.
When Jacob Marley came in sight, once Scrooge recognized him, it really gave him a fright. But let’s go back to the scene where mean old Ebenezer Scrooge is leaving his favorite restaurant on Christmas eve where he’s had goose with stuffing and plum mousse. While he usually ate mutton, sometimes with a stewed turnip or carrot (never dessert), on this night he was a glutton. Bob Crachet, his clerk, was working late on Christmas eve to make up for his tardy start on the day. He had taken Tim for a ride on his shoulders so he could see the decorations and toys in the store windows. It was a tradition he had to make time for. That's why he was working late on Christmas eve, a fact that didn't disturb Scrooge, who didn't believe in Christmas. Despite his difficulty in enjoying anything, he felt satisfied with his dinner, and left a whole penny tip, instead of a half penny. (The Crachet family, on the other hand, were not planning a lavish Christmas dinner. Not on the meager wages Scrooge paid Bob Crachet, much of which was needed for Tiny Tim, whose crippled leg required expensive care from time to time. But they were cheerful despite their deprivations).
As Scrooge left the restaurant, a beggar approached him saying, “Please sir, I’m hungry, can you give me a half penny so I can buy a Christmas meal? You look like a man of means.”
“What would that buy," scoffed Scrooge. "Why don't you go to the poorhouse. Don’t bother me with your foolish appeal, I can’t feed the whole country,” Scrooge muttered, and then commanded, “Be off, and take those confounded bells with you. They foretell a headache."
He hurried home as fast as he could, jumped into bed, pulling the covers over his head. But the sound of the bells were still in his ears. He fell into a fitful sleep and dreamed the goose he ate was hitting him over the head with a drumstick that turned into Tiny Tim’s crutch.
one cranky banker,” the goose said. “How could you ignore Tiny Tim?
“How can you say I did that?” said Scrooge. “I gave him a half penny for his Christmas stocking.”
“The record shows,” said the goose, “that it didn’t even fill the toe.”
The goose continued to berate him in a voice quite gruff, when Scrooge, putting his hands over his ears cried, “Stop, I’ve had enough of this silly stuff.” Suddenly he realized the goose had turned into his old partner Jacob Marley. But Scrooge was so wound up he kept yelling “Stop.”
“I can’t stop,” said Jacob sadly, “I have to keep walking around,” he sighed “that’s my fate. It’s too late for me to stop anything,” he groaned. “It’s more than I can bear, pulling all these chains everywhere.”
“Why can’t we just visit a while and talk about old times?” asked Scrooge, who was so lonesome, he would even settle for Marley’s company.
“I wish I could,” said Marley with a moan in his quivering voice, “but hear the chimes, I fear I’ve already outstayed my time. I must walk constantly to and fro, dragging these chains to show I know how mean I was in life.” He sighed, and it sounded like a wind whistling down an icy ravine .
“That wasn’t meanness, that was business,” said Scrooge.
“Alas, I found that’s not so,” said Marley. “Lack of charity is a sin. And greed is blind. No matter how much money you accumulate, you learn too late, it will not bring you peace of mind. When they take the tally, it’s too late to rally.” He shook his head
“Who needs peace,” said Scrooge. "Making money I have found, is what makes the world go round. No point talking to you anymore, it’s just a bore. As you leave, please close the door.”
“I just go through them,” said Marley, “that’s the only advantage of being a ghost. Anyhow, it’s yourself you deceive, I’m glad to leave, you’re not much of a host.”
“Humph,” said Scrooge, "I didn’t send you an invitation.”
“I realize that,” said Marley, “but I’ve served the ration alloted to me to try and save you."
"From what?" said Scrooge. "Foolish spending?"
"From my fate," said Marley. "Repent, it's not too late."
"Bah humbug," said Scrooge.
"Repent, it's later than you think," said Marley, as he slowly disappeared from sight, “or you’ll be like me, dragging chains constantly.”
“I ate too much goose,” sighed Scrooge. “Or perhaps it was the stuffing that started all these delusions. But I've had enough.”
Just then, the sound of bells came back, replacing the clanging of Marley’s chains. A strange white light filtered through the gloom of the room. Out of it emerged another ghost, a jolly round one with a garland of holly leaves and berries around its head. He kept getting closer and closer and the bells kept getting louder and louder. A voice was chanting, "delusions cause confusions."
"Are you another illusion?" asked Scrooge.
“I am the spirit of Christmas past,” said the jolly rotund figure.
“As long as I have to entertain spirits, you're an improvement on Marley," said Scrooge, relieved to have Marley gone. "What are your intentions? I've already had dinner, are you hungry, looking for a handout, is that what this is all about?"
“Foolish questions,” said the spirit. “Sometimes you wonder why a mortal who would ask them would expect a sane reply.”
"Why then would you be here?" asked Scrooge, "I don't believe in you."
"But even so," said the spirit, "I'm a jolly part of your life, as our trip will show."
"What trip?" said Scrooge, "are we going somewhere?"
"Oops," said the spirit, "did I forget to mention, but if you could read my mind, you would know that was my intention.”
“I doubt it," said scrooge. "Where would we be going at this time of night, if I may ask. Is this a task I must fulfill, I’m an old man, I don’t want to go anywhere. I need my rest.” But to tell the truth, Ebenezer did not feel sure of himself at all anymore, and wondered what was in store.
“What is best for you, is what I have in view," said the spirit. "We’re going north and south and east and west and won’t rest until we find it.”
“Find what?” asked Scrooge. “Is this a riddle?"
“More like a challenge,” said the spirit. “We have to go back and find a Christmas past where joys seemed to last.”
“Nothing lasts,” said Scrooge, “except money."
"My job, as a spirit of the happy past, is to bring it back and find some scene where you were cast as a person with a dream to see if it has kept its gleam."
"Seems to me," said Scrooge, "that the only thing that gleams is gold."
"I know," said the spirit, "it's for what your youth and dreams were sold. We must now fly through the night sky and apply all our ESP to find some place you used to be, where plans were fun, and fun was free."
“Why would I want to do that,” asked Scrooge. A chilling wind was blowing through the open window. He was getting rather worried about how things were going and shivered. “I’m rich now, and have my own creed. There’s nothing in the past I need. I'm happy as a king. I don't need anyone or anything."
“That’s a matter of opinion,” said the spirit. "If there's one small regret, some little joy you didn't forget, in a place now lost in time, you might find you'll lose the blindfold on your eyes."
"That would surprise me," said Scrooge, "but I guess I have no choice."
"Well don't delay," said the spirit, "I don't have long to stay." For a moment the spirit lost his cheerful demeanor. "This is a very difficult place to find. We must keep the thought, happy past, in our mind."
And they swished out into the night, the spirits arm wrapped around Scrooge, who shivered and shook in his nightcap and gown, but was calmed by the spirit's voice; almost beguiled, like a frightened child.
Soon the chilly air and night sky disappeared and they reached the warmth of a festive holiday party. “At last," said the spirit, "we found a reasonably good place that seems quite filled with song and grace. It’s a start, but you must play the part of an observer to see if you still have a heart."
“I do, I do,” said Scrooge as he perceived a wonderful feeling of well being he had not felt for many years. “I know this place," he said with elation to the spirit. "I feel a glow just being here, I recognize so many things I had forgotten. This place needs fixing up, I’ll have it done and pay for it, it is a disgrace to have such a nice place falling apart." But Fezzywig, his old boss didn’t seem to care, his jolly spirit was everywhere greeting the office workers, slapping their backs and dancing an Irish jig.
Ebenezer saw the tree he had once decorated with candles and strings of popcorn standing right where it used to be, and next to it was he. “Golly,” he said, “could that be me, so young and carefree?”
“Yes,” said the spirit, “before greed replaced every need.” Scrooge looked sad, and then he saw Anne, his sweetheart, just as if they had never parted. A tear filled each eye. “How did I ever let you go,” he cried.
He tried to touch her hand, but the spirit stopped him, saying “she’s not really there you know.”
“Please spirit,” said Scrooge, “say that’s not so.”
The spirit sighed, “time has shown, her children now have grown, in fact her children now have children, you know you lost her long ago.”
“Is there anything I can do to change the way it came out,” Scrooge asked.
“Of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, it might have been,” the spirit said.
“Well,” said Scrooge, “Anne’s life has been enjoyed, it’s just my life that has a void.” He put his head down on the spirits shoulder and sobbed.
“It’s true,” said the spirit, “you’ve been robbed. But when the night is through, I hope you’ll see a better you.”
Having said that, the spirit vanished and was replaced by the spirit of Christmas Present.
"Please spirit, come back," called out Scrooge. "I believe in you now, I really do." But the spirit had vanished. Scrooge sighed and complied with the new spirit's request. The things he saw changed him a lot, you can guess. Things he did as recently as yesterday he could view. The beggar returned, and he heard his nephew sighing and saying, "poor uncle Scrooge. Will he go to his grave never knowing we loved him." Scrooge yearned for a chance to change that above all.
"I will," he promised himself. "I will go to Fred's party and join in the fun with everyone. I'll sing my favorite carols I forgot about all these years." Tears again filled his eyes. "If only I can get out of this and return to reality. To be free to be a happy me." But he was not going to get off so easy.
The last spirit of the future was the worst, cruel and indifferent as to the shadows of coming events. Scrooge was frantic as he saw thieves forcing open his strong box filled with hoarded treasures. "Stop," he called out, but no one heard him. He saw his drapes ripped off the walls, his house ransacked. But what filled him with despair was Tiny Tim's empty chair. For the first time in many years he felt an ache and a longing in his heart. A desire to be part of the Crachets' life. "Please come back Tiny Tim," he said, "I'll take care of you, I'll find someone who can make you walk again. But he realized he was alone, and his words were only an echo of his feelings, all the people he encountered were just phantoms of the future.
"Please spirit," he cried out, "are these things that must be, or can I cancel what I see." He well understood the spirit's answer, he would have to rearrange his life. It depended on Scrooge, and if he could change. He begged the spirit to spare him if he promised to faithfully change and be charitable and good. The spirit said he could.
Scrooge was as good as his word, and never again thought people’s problems
were absurd. According to the plan observed the holidays with more
charity than any man, giving willingly his share and indulging every little
whim of the Crachet family, especially Tiny Tim, who became the center
of his pride, and they were often seen strolling, smiling, side by side.
He gave greed the gate, and avoided Jacob Marley’s fate.
NOTES: Charles Dickens' famous book, A
Christmas Carol, which made it first appearance in 1843, has probably
been adopted into more works (including plays and movies) than any other
piece of literature. Even Walt Disney had a "Scrooge McDuck," and
scores of cartoons, movies and plays have made use of Dickens' famous characters;
Marley, Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the ghosts that visit Scrooge on Christmas
Dickens' wrote dozens of novels, essays and short stories, and many, like the Christmas Carol, are still very popular. Dickens' work, which includes David Copperfield, Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities were all written during a period known as the Victorian era (when Queen Victoria was on the throne in England). For those who were not in the privileged class, it was not an easy time. It was common for children as young as 5 to begin working, many in dangerous hard jobs in textile mills, as chimney sweeps or servants. Most children never went to school, and not many children or adults could read. Charles Dickens' himself worked in a factory as a child when his father was arrested for being in debt. Three years after his forced factory labor, Dickens' decides to become a journalist, and in 1829 worked as a free-lance reporter.
Dickens' books reflect the time he lived in, but his facts came with fantasy, mystery and a touch of magic.
© and ® 1999 by Pauline Comanor