Part 1 out of 2
The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
by L. Frank Baum
2. The Child of the Forest
3. The Adoption
5. The Master Woodsman
6. Claus Discovers Humanity
7. Claus Leaves the Forest
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
1. The Mantle of Immortality
2. When the World Grew Old
3. The Deputies of Santa Claus
Have you heard of the great Forest of Burzee? Nurse used to sing of
it when I was a child. She sang of the big tree-trunks, standing
close together, with their roots intertwining below the earth and
their branches intertwining above it; of their rough coating of bark
and queer, gnarled limbs; of the bushy foliage that roofed the entire
forest, save where the sunbeams found a path through which to touch
the ground in little spots and to cast weird and curious shadows over
the mosses, the lichens and the drifts of dried leaves.
The Forest of Burzee is mighty and grand and awesome to those who
steal beneath its shade. Coming from the sunlit meadows into its
mazes it seems at first gloomy, then pleasant, and afterward filled
with never-ending delights.
For hundreds of years it has flourished in all its magnificence, the
silence 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
the beginning with Fairies, Knooks, Ryls and Nymphs. As long as the
Forest stands it will be a home, a refuge and a playground to these
sweet immortals, 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 it
mentioned, there lived within the great Forest of Burzee a wood-nymph
named Necile. She was closely related to the mighty Queen Zurline,
and her home was beneath the shade of a widespreading oak. Once every
year, on Budding Day, when the trees put forth their new buds, Necile
held the Golden Chalice of Ak to the lips of the Queen, who drank
therefrom to the prosperity of the Forest. So you see she was a nymph
of some importance, and, moreover, it is said she was highly regarded
because of her beauty and grace.
When she was created she could not have told; Queen Zurline could not
have told; the great Ak himself could not have told. It was long ago
when the world was new and nymphs were needed to guard the forests
and to minister to the wants of the young trees. Then, on some day
not remembered, Necile sprang into being; radiant, lovely, straight
and slim as the sapling she was created to guard.
Her hair was the color that lines a chestnut-bur; her eyes were blue
in the sunlight and purple in the shade; her cheeks bloomed with the
faint pink that edges the clouds at sunset; her lips were full red,
pouting and sweet. For costume she adopted oak-leaf green; all the
wood-nymphs dress in that color and know no other so desirable. Her
dainty feet were sandal-clad, while her head remained bare of covering
other than her silken tresses.
Necile's duties were few and simple. She kept hurtful weeds from
growing beneath her trees and sapping the earth-food required by her
charges. She frightened away the Gadgols, who took evil delight in
flying against the tree-trunks and wounding them so that they drooped
and died from the poisonous contact. In dry seasons she carried
water from the brooks and pools and moistened the roots of her
That was in the beginning. The weeds had now learned to avoid the
forests where wood-nymphs dwelt; the loathsome Gadgols no longer dared
come nigh; the trees had become old and sturdy and could bear the
drought better than when fresh-sprouted. So Necile's duties were
lessened, and time grew laggard, while succeeding years became more
tiresome and uneventful than the nymph's joyous spirit loved.
Truly the forest-dwellers did not lack amusement. Each full moon they
danced in the Royal Circle of the Queen. There were also the Feast of
Nuts, the Jubilee of Autumn Tintings, the solemn ceremony of Leaf
Shedding and the revelry of Budding Day. But these periods of
enjoyment were far apart, and left many weary hours between.
That a wood-nymph should grow discontented was not thought of by
Necile'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
had no patience with her condition, and longed to do something of real
interest and to pass her days in ways hitherto undreamed of by forest
nymphs. The Law of the Forest alone restrained her from going forth
in search of adventure.
While this mood lay heavy upon pretty Necile it chanced that the great
Ak visited the Forest of Burzee and allowed the wood-nymphs as was
their wont--to lie at his feet and listen to the words of wisdom that
fell from his lips. Ak is the Master Woodsman of the world; he sees
everything, and knows more than the sons of men.
That night he held the Queen's hand, for he loved the nymphs as a
father loves his children; and Necile lay at his feet with many of her
sisters 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 the
sorrow and misery that fall to the lot of those poor mortals who
inhabit the open spaces of the earth. They are not of our race, it is
true, yet compassion well befits beings so fairly favored as
ourselves. Often as I pass by the dwelling of some suffering mortal I
am tempted to stop and banish the poor thing's misery. Yet suffering,
in moderation, is the natural lot of mortals, and it is not our place
to interfere with the laws of Nature."
"Nevertheless," said the fair Queen, nodding her golden head at the
Master Woodsman, "it would not be a vain guess that Ak has often
assisted these hapless mortals."
"Sometimes," he replied, "when they are very young--'children,' the
mortals call them--I have stopped to rescue them from misery. The men
and women I dare not interfere with; they must bear the burdens Nature
has imposed upon them. But the helpless infants, the innocent
children of men, have a right to be happy until they become full-grown
and able to bear the trials of humanity. So I feel I am justified in
assisting them. Not long ago--a year, maybe--I found four poor
children huddled in a wooden hut, slowly freezing to death. Their
parents had gone to a neighboring village for food, and had left a
fire to warm their little ones while they were absent. But a storm
arose and drifted the snow in their path, so they were long on the
road. Meantime the fire went out and 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 breathe
upon it until the fire blazed again and warmed the little room where
the children lay. Then they ceased shivering and fell asleep until
their 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
a whisper: "I, too, am glad!"
"And this very night," continued Ak, "as I came to the edge of Burzee I
heard a feeble cry, which I judged came from a human infant. I looked
about me and found, close to the forest, a helpless babe, lying quite
naked upon the grasses and wailing piteously. Not far away, screened
by the forest, crouched Shiegra, the lioness, intent upon devouring
the infant 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 commanded
Shiegra to lie close to the babe, and to give it her milk to quiet its
hunger. And I told her to send word throughout the forest, to all
beasts and reptiles, that the child should not be harmed."
"I am glad you did thus," said the good Queen again, in a tone of
relief; 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 she
reached the edge of mighty Burzee, when she paused to gaze curiously
about her. Never until now had she ventured so far, for the Law of
the Forest had placed the nymphs in its inmost depths.
Necile knew she was breaking the Law, but the thought did not give
pause to her dainty feet. She had decided to see with her own eyes
this infant Ak had told of, for she had never yet beheld a child of
man. All the immortals are full-grown; there are no children among
them. Peering through the trees Necile saw the child lying on the
grass. But now it was sweetly sleeping, having been comforted by the
milk drawn from Shiegra. It was not old enough to know what peril
means; if it did not feel hunger it was content.
Softly the nymph stole to the side of the babe and knelt upon the
sward, her long robe of rose leaf color spreading about her like a
gossamer cloud. Her lovely countenance expressed curiosity and
surprise, but, most of all, a tender, womanly pity. The babe was
newborn, chubby and pink. It was entirely helpless. While the nymph
gazed the infant opened its eyes, smiled upon her, and stretched out
two dimpled arms. In another instant Necile had caught it to her
breast and was hurrying with it through the forest paths.
3. The Adoption
The Master Woodsman suddenly rose, with knitted brows. "There is a
strange presence in the Forest," he declared. Then the Queen and her
nymphs turned and saw standing before them Necile, with the sleeping
infant clasped tightly in her arms and a defiant look in her deep
And thus for a moment they remained, the nymphs filled with surprise
and consternation, but the brow of the Master Woodsman gradually
clearing as he gazed intently upon the beautiful immortal who had
wilfully broken the Law. Then the great Ak, to the wonder of all,
laid his hand softly on Necile's flowing locks and kissed her on her
"For the first time within my knowledge," said he, gently, "a nymph
has defied me and my laws; yet in my heart can I find no word of
chiding. What is your desire, Necile?"
"Let me keep the child!" she answered, beginning to tremble and
falling on her knees in supplication.
"Here, in the Forest of Burzee, where the human race has never yet
penetrated?" questioned Ak.
"Here, in the Forest of Burzee," replied the nymph, boldly. "It is my
home, and I am weary for lack of occupation. Let me care for the
babe! See how weak and helpless it is. Surely it can not harm Burzee
nor the Master Woodsman of the World!"
"But the Law, child, the Law!" cried Ak, sternly.
"The Law is made by the Master Woodsman," returned Necile; "if he bids
me care for the babe he himself has saved from death, who in all the
world dare oppose me?" Queen Zurline, who had listened intently
to this conversation, clapped her pretty hands gleefully at the
"You are fairly trapped, O Ak!" she exclaimed, laughing. "Now, I pray
you, give heed to Necile's petition."
The Woodsman, as was his habit when in thought, stroked his grizzled
beard slowly. Then he said:
"She shall keep the babe, and I will give it my protection. But I
warn you all that as this is the first time I have relaxed the Law, so
shall it be the last time. Never more, to the end of the World, shall
a mortal be adopted by an immortal. Otherwise would we abandon our
happy existence for one of trouble and anxiety. Good night, my nymphs!"
Then Ak was gone from their midst, and Necile hurried away to her
bower to rejoice over her new-found treasure.
Another day found Necile's bower the most popular place in the Forest.
The nymphs clustered around her and the child that lay asleep in her
lap, with expressions of curiosity and delight. Nor were they wanting
in praises for the great Ak's kindness in allowing Necile to keep the
babe and to care for it. Even the Queen came to peer into the
innocent childish face and to hold a helpless, chubby fist in her own
"What shall we call him, Necile?" she asked, smiling. "He must have a
name, you know."
"Let him be called Claus," answered Necile, "for that means
'a little one.'"
"Rather let him be called Neclaus,"** returned the Queen, "for that
will mean 'Necile's little one.'"
The nymphs clapped their hands in delight, and Neclaus became the
infant's name, although Necile loved best to call him Claus, and in
afterdays many of her sisters followed her example.
Necile gathered the softest moss in all the forest for Claus to lie
upon, and she made his bed in her own bower. Of food the infant had
no lack. The nymphs searched the forest for bell-udders, which grow
upon the goa-tree and when opened are found to be filled with sweet
milk. And the soft-eyed does willingly gave a share of their milk to
support the little stranger, while Shiegra, the lioness, often crept
stealthily into Necile's bower and purred softly as she lay beside the
babe and fed it.
So the little one flourished and grew big and sturdy day by day, while
Necile taught him to speak and to walk and to play.
His thoughts and words were sweet and gentle, for the nymphs knew no
evil and their hearts were pure and loving. He became the pet of the
forest, for Ak's decree had forbidden beast or reptile to molest him,
and he walked fearlessly wherever his will guided him.
Presently the news reached the other immortals that the nymphs of
Burzee had adopted a human infant, and that the act had been
sanctioned by the great Ak. Therefore many of them came to visit the
little stranger, looking upon him with much interest. First the Ryls,
who are first cousins to the wood-nymphs, although so differently
formed. For the Ryls are required to watch over the flowers and
plants, as the nymphs watch over the forest trees. They search the
wide world for the food required by the roots of the flowering plants,
while the brilliant colors possessed by the full-blown flowers are due
to the dyes placed in the soil by the Ryls, which are drawn through
the little veins in the roots and the body of the plants, as they
reach maturity. The Ryls are a busy people, for their flowers bloom
and fade continually, but they are merry and light-hearted and are
very popular with the other immortals.
Next came the Knooks, whose duty it is to watch over the beasts of the
world, both gentle and wild. The Knooks have a hard time of it, since
many of the beasts are ungovernable and rebel against restraint. But
they know how to manage them, after all, and you will find that
certain laws of the Knooks are obeyed by even the most ferocious
animals. Their anxieties make the Knooks look old and worn and
crooked, and their natures are a bit rough from associating with wild
creatures continually; yet they are most useful to humanity and to the
world in general, as their laws are the only laws the forest beasts
recognize except those of the Master Woodsman.
Then there were the Fairies, the guardians of mankind, who were much
interested in the adoption of Claus because their own laws forbade
them to become familiar with their human charges. There are instances
on record where the Fairies have shown themselves to human beings, and
have even conversed with them; but they are supposed to guard the
lives of mankind unseen and unknown, and if they favor some people
more than others it is because these have won such distinction fairly,
as the Fairies are very just and impartial. But the idea of adopting
a child of men had never occurred to them because it was in every way
opposed to their laws; so their curiosity was intense to behold the
little stranger adopted by Necile and her sister nymphs.
Claus looked upon the immortals who thronged around him with fearless
eyes and smiling lips. He rode laughingly upon the shoulders of the
merry Ryls; he mischievously pulled the gray beards of the low-browed
Knooks; he rested his curly head confidently upon the dainty bosom of
the Fairy Queen herself. And the Ryls loved the sound of his laughter;
the Knooks loved his courage; the Fairies loved his innocence.
The boy made friends of them all, and learned to know their laws
intimately. No forest flower was trampled beneath his feet, lest the
friendly Ryls should be grieved. He never interfered with the beasts
of the forest, lest his friends the Knooks should become angry. The
Fairies he loved dearly, but, knowing nothing of mankind, he could not
understand that he was the only one of his race admitted to friendly
intercourse with them.
Indeed, Claus came to consider that he alone, of all the forest
people, had no like nor fellow. To him the forest was the world.
He had no idea that millions of toiling, striving human
And he was happy and content.
** Some people have spelled this name Nicklaus and others Nicolas,
which is the reason that Santa Claus is still known in some lands
as St. Nicolas. But, of course, Neclaus is his right name, and
Claus the nickname given him by his adopted mother, the fair nymph
5. The Master Woodsman
Years pass swiftly in Burzee, for the nymphs have no need to regard
time in any way. Even centuries make no change in the dainty creatures;
ever and ever they remain the same, immortal and unchanging.
Claus, however, being mortal, grew to manhood day by day. Necile was
disturbed, presently, to find him too big to lie in her lap, and he
had a desire for other food than milk. His stout legs carried him far
into Burzee's heart, where he gathered supplies of nuts and berries,
as well as several sweet and wholesome roots, which suited his stomach
better than the belludders. He sought Necile's bower less frequently,
till finally it became his custom to return thither only to sleep.
The nymph, who had come to love him dearly, was puzzled to comprehend
the changed nature of her charge, and unconsciously altered her own
mode of life to conform to his whims. She followed him readily
through the forest paths, as did many of her sister nymphs, explaining
as they walked all the mysteries of the gigantic wood and the habits
and nature of the living things which dwelt beneath its shade.
The language of the beasts became clear to little Claus; but he
never could understand their sulky and morose tempers. Only the
squirrels, the mice and the rabbits seemed to possess cheerful and
merry natures; yet would the boy laugh when the panther growled, and
stroke the bear's glossy coat while the creature snarled and bared its
teeth menacingly. The growls and snarls were not for Claus, he well
knew, so what did they matter?
He could sing the songs of the bees, recite the poetry of the
wood-flowers and relate the history of every blinking owl in Burzee.
He helped the Ryls to feed their plants and the Knooks to keep order
among the animals. The little immortals regarded him as a privileged
person, being especially protected by Queen Zurline and her nymphs and
favored by the great Ak himself.
One day the Master Woodsman came back to the forest of Burzee. He had
visited, in turn, all his forests throughout the world, and they were
many and broad.
Not until he entered the glade where the Queen and her nymphs were
assembled to greet him did Ak remember the child he had permitted
Necile to adopt. Then he found, sitting familiarly in the circle of
lovely immortals, a broad-shouldered, stalwart youth, who, when erect,
stood fully as high as the shoulder of the Master himself.
Ak paused, silent and frowning, to bend his piercing gaze upon Claus.
The clear eyes met his own steadfastly, and the Woodsman gave a sigh
of relief as he marked their placid depths and read the youth's brave
and innocent heart. Nevertheless, as Ak sat beside the fair Queen, and
the golden chalice, filled with rare nectar, passed from lip to lip,
the Master Woodsman was strangely silent and reserved, and stroked his
beard many times with a thoughtful motion.
With morning he called Claus aside, in kindly fashion, saying:
"Bid good by, for a time, to Necile and her sisters; for you shall
accompany me on my journey through the world."
The venture pleased Claus, who knew well the honor of being companion
of the Master Woodsman of the world. But Necile wept for the first
time in her life, and clung to the boy's neck as if she could not bear
to let him go. The nymph who had mothered this sturdy youth was still
as dainty, as charming and beautiful as when she had dared to face Ak
with the babe clasped to her breast; nor was her love less great. Ak
beheld the two clinging together, seemingly as brother and sister to
one another, and again he wore his thoughtful look.
6. Claus Discovers Humanity
Taking Claus to a small clearing in the forest, the Master said:
"Place your hand upon my girdle and hold fast while we journey through
the air; for now shall we encircle the world and look upon many of the
haunts of those men from whom you are descended."
These words caused Claus to marvel, for until now he had thought himself
the only one of his kind upon the earth; yet in silence he grasped firmly
the girdle of the great Ak, his astonishment forbidding speech.
Then the vast forest of Burzee seemed to fall away from their feet,
and the youth found himself passing swiftly through the air at a
Ere long there were spires beneath them, while buildings of many
shapes and colors met their downward view. It was a city of men, and
Ak, pausing to descend, led Claus to its inclosure. Said the Master:
"So long as you hold fast to my girdle you will remain unseen by all
mankind, though seeing clearly yourself. To release your grasp will
be to separate yourself forever from me and your home in Burzee."
One of the first laws of the Forest is obedience, and Claus had no
thought of disobeying the Master's wish. He clung fast to the girdle
and remained invisible.
Thereafter with each moment passed in the city the youth's wonder
grew. He, who had supposed himself created differently from all
others, now found the earth swarming with creatures of his own kind.
"Indeed," said Ak, "the immortals are few; but the mortals are many."
Claus looked earnestly upon his fellows. There were sad faces, gay
and reckless faces, pleasant faces, anxious faces and kindly faces,
all mingled in puzzling disorder. Some worked at tedious tasks; some
strutted in impudent conceit; some were thoughtful and grave while
others seemed happy and content. Men of many natures were there, as
everywhere, and Claus found much to please him and much to make him sad.
But especially he noted the children--first curiously, then eagerly,
then lovingly. Ragged little ones rolled in the dust of the streets,
playing with scraps and pebbles. Other children, gaily dressed, were
propped upon cushions and fed with sugar-plums. Yet the children of
the rich were not happier than those playing with the dust and
pebbles, it seemed to Claus.
"Childhood is the time of man's greatest content," said Ak, following
the youth's thoughts. "'Tis during these years of innocent pleasure
that the little ones are most free from care."
"Tell me," said Claus, "why do not all these babies fare alike?"
"Because they are born in both cottage and palace," returned the
Master. "The difference in the wealth of the parents determines the
lot of the child. Some are carefully tended and clothed in silks and
dainty linen; others are neglected and covered with rags."
"Yet all seem equally fair and sweet," said Claus, thoughtfully.
"While they are babes--yes;" agreed Ak. "Their joy is in being alive,
and they do not stop to think. In after years the doom of mankind
overtakes them, and they find they must struggle and worry, work and
fret, to gain the wealth that is so dear to the hearts of men. Such
things are unknown in the Forest where you were reared." Claus was
silent a moment. Then he asked:
"Why was I reared in the forest, among those who are not of my race?"
Then Ak, in gentle voice, told him the story of his babyhood: how he
had been abandoned at the forest's edge and left a prey to wild
beasts, and how the loving nymph Necile had rescued him and brought
him to manhood under the protection of the immortals.
"Yet I am not of them," said Claus, musingly.
"You are not of them," returned the Woodsman. "The nymph who cared
for you as a mother seems now like a sister to you; by and by, when
you grow old and gray, she will seem like a daughter. Yet another
brief span and you will be but a memory, while she remains Necile."
"Then why, if man must perish, is he born?" demanded the boy.
"Everything perishes except the world itself and its keepers,"
answered Ak. "But while life lasts everything on earth has its use.
The wise seek ways to be helpful to the world, for the helpful ones
are sure to live again."
Much of this Claus failed to understand fully, but a longing seized
him to become helpful to his fellows, and he remained grave and
thoughtful while they resumed their journey.
They visited many dwellings of men in many parts of the world,
watching farmers toil in the fields, warriors dash into cruel fray,
and merchants exchange their goods for bits of white and yellow metal.
And everywhere the eyes of Claus sought out the children in love and
pity, for the thought of his own helpless babyhood was strong within
him and he yearned to give help to the innocent little ones of his
race even as he had been succored by the kindly nymph.
Day by day the Master Woodsman and his pupil traversed the earth, Ak
speaking but seldom to the youth who clung steadfastly to his girdle,
but guiding him into all places where he might become familiar with
the lives of human beings.
And at last they returned to the grand old Forest of Burzee, where the
Master set Claus down within the circle of nymphs, among whom the
pretty Necile anxiously awaited him.
The brow of the great Ak was now calm and peaceful; but the brow of
Claus had become lined with deep thought. Necile sighed at the change
in her foster-son, who until now had been ever joyous and smiling, and
the thought came to her that never again would the life of the boy be
the same as before this eventful journey with the Master.
7. Claus Leaves the Forest
When good Queen Zurline had touched the golden chalice with her fair
lips and it had passed around the circle in honor of the travelers'
return, the Master Woodsman of the World, who had not yet spoken,
turned his gaze frankly upon Claus and said:
The boy understood, and rose slowly to his feet beside Necile. Once
only his eyes passed around the familiar circle of nymphs, every one
of whom he remembered as a loving comrade; but tears came unbidden to
dim his sight, so he gazed thereafter steadfastly at the Master.
"I have been ignorant," said he, simply, "until the great Ak in his
kindness taught me who and what I am. You, who live so sweetly in
your forest bowers, ever fair and youthful and innocent, are no fit
comrades for a son of humanity. For I have looked upon man, finding
him doomed to live for a brief space upon earth, to toil for the
things he needs, to fade into old age, and then to pass away as the
leaves in autumn. Yet every man has his mission, which is to leave
the world better, in some way, than he found it. I am of the race of
men, and man's lot is my lot. For your tender care of the poor,
forsaken babe you adopted, as well as for your loving comradeship
during my boyhood, my heart will ever overflow with gratitude. My
foster-mother," here he stopped and kissed Necile's white forehead, "I
shall love and cherish while life lasts. But I must leave you, to
take my part in the endless struggle to which humanity is doomed, and
to live my life in my own way."
"What will you do?" asked the Queen, gravely.
"I must devote myself to the care of the children of mankind, and try
to make them happy," he answered. "Since your own tender care of a
babe brought to me happiness and strength, it is just and right that
I devote my life to the pleasure of other babes. Thus will the memory
of the loving nymph Necile be planted within the hearts of thousands
of my race for many years to come, and her kindly act be recounted in song
and in story while the world shall last. Have I spoken well, O Master?"
"You have spoken well," returned Ak, and rising to his feet he
continued: "Yet one thing must not be forgotten. Having been adopted
as the child of the Forest, and the playfellow of the nymphs, you have
gained a distinction which forever separates you from your kind.
Therefore, when you go forth into the world of men you shall retain
the protection of the Forest, and the powers you now enjoy will remain
with you to assist you in your labors. In any need you may call upon
the Nymphs, the Ryls, the Knooks and the Fairies, and they will serve
you gladly. I, the Master Woodsman of the World, have said it, and my
Word is the Law!"
Claus looked upon Ak with grateful eyes.
"This will make me mighty among men," he replied. "Protected by these
kind friends I may be able to make thousands of little children happy.
I will try very hard to do my duty, and I know the Forest people will
give me their sympathy and help."
"We will!" said the Fairy Queen, earnestly.
"We will!" cried the merry Ryls, laughing.
"We will!" shouted the crooked Knooks, scowling.
"We will!" exclaimed the sweet nymphs, proudly. But Necile said
nothing. She only folded Claus in her arms and kissed him tenderly.
"The world is big," continued the boy, turning again to his loyal
friends, "but men are everywhere. I shall begin my work near my
friends, so that if I meet with misfortune I can come to the Forest
for counsel or help."
With that he gave them all a loving look and turned away. There was
no need to say good by, by for him the sweet, wild life of the Forest
was over. He went forth bravely to meet his doom--the doom of the
race of man--the necessity to worry and work.
But Ak, who knew the boy's heart, was merciful and guided his steps.
Coming through Burzee to its eastern edge Claus reached the Laughing
Valley of Hohaho. On each side were rolling green hills, and a brook
wandered midway between them to wind afar off beyond the valley. At
his back was the grim Forest; at the far end of the valley a broad
plain. The eyes of the young man, which had until now reflected his
grave thoughts, became brighter as he stood silent, looking out upon
the Laughing Valley. Then on a sudden his eyes twinkled, as stars do
on a still night, and grew merry and wide.
For at his feet the cowslips and daisies smiled on him in friendly
regard; the breeze whistled gaily as it passed by and fluttered the
locks on his forehead; the brook laughed joyously as it leaped over
the pebbles and swept around the green curves of its banks; the bees
sang sweet songs as they flew from dandelion to daffodil; the beetles
chirruped happily in the long grass, and the sunbeams glinted
pleasantly over all the scene.
"Here," cried Claus, stretching out his arms as if to embrace the
Valley, "will I make my home!"
That was many, many years ago. It has been his home ever since. It
is his home now.
1. The Laughing Valley
When Claus came the Valley was empty save for the grass, the brook,
the wildflowers, the bees and the butterflies. If he would make his
home here and live after the fashion of men he must have a house.
This puzzled him at first, but while he stood smiling in the sunshine
he suddenly found beside him old Nelko, the servant of the Master
Woodsman. Nelko bore an ax, strong and broad, with blade that gleamed
like burnished silver. This he placed in the young man's hand, then
disappeared without a word.
Claus understood, and turning to the Forest's edge he selected a
number of fallen tree-trunks, which he began to clear of their dead
branches. He would not cut into a living tree. His life among the
nymphs who guarded the Forest had taught him that a live tree is
sacred, being a created thing endowed with feeling. But with the dead
and fallen trees it was different. They had fulfilled their destiny,
as active members of the Forest community, and now it was fitting that
their remains should minister to the needs of man.
The ax bit deep into the logs at every stroke. It seemed to have a
force of its own, and Claus had but to swing and guide it.
When shadows began creeping over the green hills to lie in the Valley
overnight, the young man had chopped many logs into equal lengths and
proper shapes for building a house such as he had seen the poorer
classes of men inhabit. Then, resolving to await another day before
he tried to fit the logs together, Claus ate some of the sweet roots
he well knew how to find, drank deeply from the laughing brook, and
lay down to sleep on the grass, first seeking a spot where no flowers
grew, lest the weight of his body should crush them.
And while he slumbered and breathed in the perfume of the wondrous
Valley the Spirit of Happiness crept into his heart and drove out all
terror and care and misgivings. Never more would the face of Claus be
clouded with anxieties; never more would the trials of life weigh him
down as with a burden. The Laughing Valley had claimed him for its own.
Would that we all might live in that delightful place!--but then,
maybe, it would become overcrowded. For ages it had awaited a tenant.
Was it chance that led young Claus to make his home in this happy
vale? Or may we guess that his thoughtful friends, the immortals, had
directed his steps when he wandered away from Burzee to seek a home in
the great world?
Certain it is that while the moon peered over the hilltop and flooded
with its soft beams the body of the sleeping stranger, the Laughing
Valley was filled with the queer, crooked shapes of the friendly
Knooks. These people spoke no words, but worked with skill and
swiftness. The logs Claus had trimmed with his bright ax were carried
to a spot beside the brook and fitted one upon another, and during the
night a strong and roomy dwelling was built.
The birds came sweeping into the Valley at daybreak, and their songs,
so seldom heard in the deep wood, aroused the stranger. He rubbed the
web of sleep from his eyelids and looked around. The house met his gaze.
"I must thank the Knooks for this," said he, gratefully. Then he
walked to his dwelling and entered at the doorway. A large room faced
him, having a fireplace at the end and a table and bench in the
middle. Beside the fireplace was a cupboard. Another doorway was
beyond. Claus entered here, also, and saw a smaller room with a bed
against the wall and a stool set near a small stand. On the bed were
many layers of dried moss brought from the Forest.
"Indeed, it is a palace!" exclaimed the smiling Claus. "I must thank
the good Knooks again, for their knowledge of man's needs as well as
for their labors in my behalf."
He left his new home with a glad feeling that he was not quite alone
in the world, although he had chosen to abandon his Forest life.
Friendships are not easily broken, and the immortals are everywhere.
Upon reaching the brook he drank of the pure water, and then sat down
on the bank to laugh at the mischievous gambols of the ripples as they
pushed one another against rocks or crowded desperately to see which
should first reach the turn beyond. And as they raced away he
listened to the song they sang:
"Rushing, pushing, on we go!
Not a wave may gently flow--
All are too excited.
Ev'ry drop, delighted,
Turns to spray in merry play
As we tumble on our way!"
Next Claus searched for roots to eat, while the daffodils turned their
little eyes up to him laughingly and lisped their dainty song:
"Blooming fairly, growing rarely,
Never flowerets were so gay!
Perfume breathing, joy bequeathing,
As our colors we display."
It made Claus laugh to hear the little things voice their happiness as
they nodded gracefully on their stems. But another strain caught his
ear as the sunbeams fell gently across his face and whispered:
"Here is gladness, that our rays
Warm the valley through the days;
Here is happiness, to give
Comfort unto all who live!"
"Yes!" cried Claus in answer, "there is happiness and joy in all
things here. The Laughing Valley is a valley of peace and good-will."
He passed the day talking with the ants and beetles and exchanging
jokes with the light-hearted butterflies. And at night he lay on his
bed of soft moss and slept soundly.
Then came the Fairies, merry but noiseless, bringing skillets and pots
and dishes and pans and all the tools necessary to prepare food and to
comfort a mortal. With these they filled cupboard and fireplace,
finally placing a stout suit of wool clothing on the stool by the bedside.
When Claus awoke he rubbed his eyes again, and laughed, and spoke
aloud his thanks to the Fairies and the Master Woodsman who had sent
them. With eager joy he examined all his new possessions, wondering
what some might be used for. But, in the days when he had clung to
the girdle of the great Ak and visited the cities of men, his eyes
had been quick to note all the manners and customs of the race to
which he belonged; so he guessed from the gifts brought by the
Fairies that the Master expected him hereafter to live in the fashion
of his fellow-creatures.
"Which means that I must plow the earth and plant corn," he reflected;
"so that when winter comes I shall have garnered food in plenty."
But, as he stood in the grassy Valley, he saw that to turn up the
earth in furrows would be to destroy hundreds of pretty, helpless
flowers, as well as thousands of the tender blades of grass. And this
he could not bear to do.
Therefore he stretched out his arms and uttered a peculiar whistle he
had learned in the Forest, afterward crying:
"Ryls of the Field Flowers--come to me!"
Instantly a dozen of the queer little Ryls were squatting upon the
ground before him, and they nodded to him in cheerful greeting.
Claus gazed upon them earnestly.
"Your brothers of the Forest," he said, "I have known and loved many
years. I shall love you, also, when we have become friends. To me
the laws of the Ryls, whether those of the Forest or of the field, are
sacred. I have never wilfully destroyed one of the flowers you tend
so carefully; but I must plant grain to use for food during the cold
winter, and how am I to do this without killing the little creatures
that sing to me so prettily of their fragrant blossoms?"
The Yellow Ryl, he who tends the buttercups, made answer:
"Fret not, friend Claus. The great Ak has spoken to us of you. There
is better work for you in life than to labor for food, and though, not
being of the Forest, Ak has no command over us, nevertheless are we
glad to favor one he loves. Live, therefore, to do the good work you
are resolved to undertake. We, the Field Ryls, will attend to your
After this speech the Ryls were no longer to be seen, and Claus drove
from his mind the thought of tilling the earth.
When next he wandered back to his dwelling a bowl of fresh milk stood
upon the table; bread was in the cupboard and sweet honey filled a
dish beside it. A pretty basket of rosy apples and new-plucked grapes
was also awaiting him. He called out "Thanks, my friends!" to the
invisible Ryls, and straightway began to eat of the food.
Thereafter, when hungry, he had but to look into the cupboard to find
goodly supplies brought by the kindly Ryls. And the Knooks cut and
stacked much wood for his fireplace. And the Fairies brought him warm
blankets and clothing.
So began his life in the Laughing Valley, with the favor and
friendship of the immortals to minister to his every want.
2. How Claus Made the First Toy
Truly our Claus had wisdom, for his good fortune but strengthened his
resolve to befriend the little ones of his own race. He knew his plan
was approved by the immortals, else they would not have favored him
So he began at once to make acquaintance with mankind. He walked
through the Valley to the plain beyond, and crossed the plain in many
directions to reach the abodes of men. These stood singly or in
groups of dwellings called villages, and in nearly all the houses,
whether big or little, Claus found children.
The youngsters soon came to know his merry, laughing face and the kind
glance of his bright eyes; and the parents, while they regarded the
young man with some scorn for loving children more than their elders,
were content that the girls and boys had found a playfellow who seemed
willing to amuse them.
So the children romped and played games with Claus, and the boys rode
upon his shoulders, and the girls nestled in his strong arms, and the
babies clung fondly to his knees. Wherever the young man chanced to
be, the sound of childish laughter followed him; and to understand
this better you must know that children were much neglected in those
days and received little attention from their parents, so that it
became to them a marvel that so goodly a man as Claus devoted his time
to making them happy. And those who knew him were, you may be sure,
very happy indeed. The sad faces of the poor and abused grew bright
for once; the cripple smiled despite his misfortune; the ailing ones
hushed their moans and the grieved ones their cries when their merry
friend came nigh to comfort them.
Only at the beautiful palace of the Lord of Lerd and at the frowning
castle of the Baron Braun was Claus refused admittance. There were
children at both places; but the servants at the palace shut the door
in the young stranger's face, and the fierce Baron threatened to hang
him from an iron hook on the castle walls. Whereupon Claus sighed and
went back to the poorer dwellings where he was welcome.
After a time the winter drew near.
The flowers lived out their lives and faded and disappeared; the
beetles burrowed far into the warm earth; the butterflies deserted the
meadows; and the voice of the brook grew hoarse, as if it had taken cold.
One day snowflakes filled all the air in the Laughing Valley, dancing
boisterously toward the earth and clothing in pure white raiment the
roof of Claus's dwelling.
At night Jack Frost rapped at the door.
"Come in!" cried Claus.
"Come out!" answered Jack, "for you have a fire inside."
So Claus came out. He had known Jack Frost in the Forest, and liked
the jolly rogue, even while he mistrusted him.
"There will be rare sport for me to-night, Claus!" shouted the sprite.
"Isn't this glorious weather? I shall nip scores of noses and ears
and toes before daybreak."
"If you love me, Jack, spare the children," begged Claus.
"And why?" asked the other, in surprise.
"They are tender and helpless," answered Claus.
"But I love to nip the tender ones!" declared Jack. "The older ones
are tough, and tire my fingers."
"The young ones are weak, and can not fight you," said Claus.
"True," agreed Jack, thoughtfully. "Well, I will not pinch a child
this night--if I can resist the temptation," he promised. "Good
The young man went in and closed the door, and Jack Frost ran on to
the nearest village.
Claus threw a log on the fire, which burned up brightly. Beside the
hearth sat Blinkie, a big cat give him by Peter the Knook. Her fur
was soft and glossy, and she purred never-ending songs of contentment.
"I shall not see the children again soon," said Claus to the cat, who
kindly paused in her song to listen. "The winter is upon us, the snow
will be deep for many days, and I shall be unable to play with my
The cat raised a paw and stroked her nose thoughtfully, but made no
reply. So long as the fire burned and Claus sat in his easy chair by
the hearth she did not mind the weather.
So passed many days and many long evenings. The cupboard was always
full, but Claus became weary with having nothing to do more than to
feed the fire from the big wood-pile the Knooks had brought him.
One evening he picked up a stick of wood and began to cut it with his
sharp knife. He had no thought, at first, except to occupy his time,
and he whistled and sang to the cat as he carved away portions of the
stick. Puss sat up on her haunches and watched him, listening at the
same time to her master's merry whistle, which she loved to hear even
more than her own purring songs.
Claus glanced at puss and then at the stick he was whittling, until
presently the wood began to have a shape, and the shape was like the
head of a cat, with two ears sticking upward.
Claus stopped whistling to laugh, and then both he and the cat looked
at the wooden image in some surprise. Then he carved out the eyes and
the nose, and rounded the lower part of the head so that it rested
upon a neck.
Puss hardly knew what to make of it now, and sat up stiffly, as if
watching with some suspicion what would come next.
Claus knew. The head gave him an idea. He plied his knife carefully
and with skill, forming slowly the body of the cat, which he made to
sit upon its haunches as the real cat did, with her tail wound around
her two front legs.
The work cost him much time, but the evening was long and he had
nothing better to do. Finally he gave a loud and delighted laugh at
the result of his labors and placed the wooden cat, now completed,
upon the hearth opposite the real one.
Puss thereupon glared at her image, raised her hair in anger, and
uttered a defiant mew. The wooden cat paid no attention, and Claus,
much amused, laughed again.
Then Blinkie advanced toward the wooden image to eye it closely and
smell of it intelligently: Eyes and nose told her the creature was
wood, in spite of its natural appearance; so puss resumed her seat and
her purring, but as she neatly washed her face with her padded paw she
cast more than one admiring glance at her clever master. Perhaps she
felt the same satisfaction we feel when we look upon good photographs
The cat's master was himself pleased with his handiwork, without
knowing exactly why. Indeed, he had great cause to congratulate
himself that night, and all the children throughout the world should
have joined him rejoicing. For Claus had made his first toy.
3. How the Ryls Colored the Toys
A hush lay on the Laughing Valley now. Snow covered it like a white
spread and pillows of downy flakes drifted before the dwelling where
Claus sat feeding the blaze of the fire. The brook gurgled on beneath
a heavy sheet of ice and all living plants and insects nestled close
to Mother Earth to keep warm. The face of the moon was hid by dark
clouds, and the wind, delighting in the wintry sport, pushed and
whirled the snowflakes in so many directions that they could get no
chance to fall to the ground.
Claus heard the wind whistling and shrieking in its play and thanked
the good Knooks again for his comfortable shelter. Blinkie washed her
face lazily and stared at the coals with a look of perfect content.
The toy cat sat opposite the real one and gazed straight ahead, as toy
Suddenly Claus heard a noise that sounded different from the voice of
the wind. It was more like a wail of suffering and despair.
He stood up and listened, but the wind, growing boisterous, shook the
door and rattled the windows to distract his attention. He waited
until the wind was tired and then, still listening, he heard once more
the shrill cry of distress.
Quickly he drew on his coat, pulled his cap over his eyes and opened
the door. The wind dashed in and scattered the embers over the
hearth, at the same time blowing Blinkie's fur so furiously that she
crept under the table to escape. Then the door was closed and Claus
was outside, peering anxiously into the darkness.
The wind laughed and scolded and tried to push him over, but he stood
firm. The helpless flakes stumbled against his eyes and dimmed his
sight, but he rubbed them away and looked again. Snow was everywhere,
white and glittering. It covered the earth and filled the air.
The cry was not repeated.
Claus turned to go back into the house, but the wind caught him
unawares and he stumbled and fell across a snowdrift. His hand
plunged into the drift and touched something that was not snow.
This he seized and, pulling it gently toward him, found it to be
a child. The next moment he had lifted it in his arms and carried
it into the house.
The wind followed him through the door, but Claus shut it out quickly.
He laid the rescued child on the hearth, and brushing away the snow he
discovered it to be Weekum, a little boy who lived in a house beyond
Claus wrapped a warm blanket around the little one and rubbed the
frost from its limbs. Before long the child opened his eyes and,
seeing where he was, smiled happily. Then Claus warmed milk and fed
it to the boy slowly, while the cat looked on with sober curiosity.
Finally the little one curled up in his friend's arms and sighed and
fell asleep, and Claus, filled with gladness that he had found the
wanderer, held him closely while he slumbered.
The wind, finding no more mischief to do, climbed the hill and swept
on toward the north. This gave the weary snowflakes time to settle
down to earth, and the Valley became still again.
The boy, having slept well in the arms of his friend, opened his eyes
and sat up. Then, as a child will, he looked around the room and saw
all that it contained.
"Your cat is a nice cat, Claus," he said, at last. "Let me hold it."
But puss objected and ran away.
"The other cat won't run, Claus," continued the boy. "Let me hold
that one." Claus placed the toy in his arms, and the boy held it
lovingly and kissed the tip of its wooden ear.
"How did you get lost in the storm, Weekum?" asked Claus.
"I started to walk to my auntie's house and lost my way," answered Weekum.
"Were you frightened?"
"It was cold," said Weekum, "and the snow got in my eyes, so I could
not see. Then I kept on till I fell in the snow, without knowing
where I was, and the wind blew the flakes over me and covered me up."
Claus gently stroked his head, and the boy looked up at him and smiled.
"I'm all right now," said Weekum.
"Yes," replied Claus, happily. "Now I will put you in my warm bed, and
you must sleep until morning, when I will carry you back to your mother."
"May the cat sleep with me?" asked the boy.
"Yes, if you wish it to," answered Claus.
"It's a nice cat!" Weekum said, smiling, as Claus tucked the blankets
around him; and presently the little one fell asleep with the wooden
toy in his arms.
When morning came the sun claimed the Laughing Valley and flooded it
with his rays; so Claus prepared to take the lost child back to its mother.
"May I keep the cat, Claus?" asked Weekum. "It's nicer than real
cats. It doesn't run away, or scratch or bite. May I keep it?"
"Yes, indeed," answered Claus, pleased that the toy he had made could
give pleasure to the child. So he wrapped the boy and the wooden cat
in a warm cloak, perching the bundle upon his own broad shoulders, and
then he tramped through the snow and the drifts of the Valley and
across the plain beyond to the poor cottage where Weekum's mother lived.
"See, mama!" cried the boy, as soon as they entered, "I've got a cat!"
The good woman wept tears of joy over the rescue of her darling and
thanked Claus many times for his kind act. So he carried a warm and
happy heart back to his home in the Valley.
That night he said to puss: "I believe the children will love the
wooden cats almost as well as the real ones, and they can't hurt them
by pulling their tails and ears. I'll make another."
So this was the beginning of his great work.
The next cat was better made than the first. While Claus sat
whittling it out the Yellow Ryl came in to make him a visit, and so
pleased was he with the man's skill that he ran away and brought
several of his fellows.
There sat the Red Ryl, the Black Ryl, the Green Ryl, the Blue Ryl and
the Yellow Ryl in a circle on the floor, while Claus whittled and
whistled and the wooden cat grew into shape.
"If it could be made the same color as the real cat, no one would know
the difference," said the Yellow Ryl, thoughtfully.
"The little ones, maybe, would not know the difference," replied
Claus, pleased with the idea.
"I will bring you some of the red that I color my roses and tulips
with," cried the Red Ryl; "and then you can make the cat's lips and
"I will bring some of the green that I color my grasses and leaves with,"
said the Green Ryl; "and then you can color the cat's eyes green."
"They will need a bit of yellow, also," remarked the Yellow Ryl; "I
must fetch some of the yellow that I use to color my buttercups and
"The real cat is black," said the Black Ryl; "I will bring some of the
black that I use to color the eyes of my pansies with, and then you
can paint your wooden cat black."
"I see you have a blue ribbon around Blinkie's neck," added the Blue
Ryl. "I will get some of the color that I use to paint the bluebells
and forget-me-nots with, and then you can carve a wooden ribbon on the
toy cat's neck and paint it blue."
So the Ryls disappeared, and by the time Claus had finished carving
out the form of the cat they were all back with the paints and brushes.
They made Blinkie sit upon the table, that Claus might paint the toy
cat just the right color, and when the work was done the Ryls declared
it was exactly as good as a live cat.
"That is, to all appearances," added the Red Ryl.
Blinkie seemed a little offended by the attention bestowed upon the
toy, and that she might not seem to approve the imitation cat she
walked to the corner of the hearth and sat down with a dignified air.
But Claus was delighted, and as soon as morning came he started out
and tramped through the snow, across the Valley and the plain, until
he came to a village. There, in a poor hut near the walls of the
beautiful palace of the Lord of Lerd, a little girl lay upon a
wretched cot, moaning with pain.
Claus approached the child and kissed her and comforted her, and then
he drew the toy cat from beneath his coat, where he had hidden it, and
placed it in her arms.
Ah, how well he felt himself repaid for his labor and his long walk
when he saw the little one's eyes grow bright with pleasure! She
hugged the kitty tight to her breast, as if it had been a precious
gem, and would not let it go for a single moment. The fever was quieted,
the pain grew less, and she fell into a sweet and refreshing sleep.
Claus laughed and whistled and sang all the way home. Never had he
been so happy as on that day.
When he entered his house he found Shiegra, the lioness, awaiting him.
Since his babyhood Shiegra had loved Claus, and while he dwelt in the
Forest she had often come to visit him at Necile's bower. After Claus
had gone to live in the Laughing Valley Shiegra became lonely and ill
at ease, and now she had braved the snow-drifts, which all lions
abhor, to see him once more. Shiegra was getting old and her teeth
were beginning to fall out, while the hairs that tipped her ears and
tail had changed from tawny-yellow to white.
Claus found her lying on his hearth, and he put his arms around the
neck of the lioness and hugged her lovingly. The cat had retired into
a far corner. She did not care to associate with Shiegra.
Claus told his old friend about the cats he had made, and how much
pleasure they had given Weekum and the sick girl. Shiegra did not
know much about children; indeed, if she met a child she could
scarcely be trusted not to devour it. But she was interested in
Claus' new labors, and said:
"These images seem to me very attractive. Yet I can not see why you
should make cats, which are very unimportant animals. Suppose, now
that I am here, you make the image of a lioness, the Queen of all
beasts. Then, indeed, your children will be happy--and safe at the
Claus thought this was a good suggestion. So he got a piece of wood
and sharpened his knife, while Shiegra crouched upon the hearth at his
feet. With much care he carved the head in the likeness of the
lioness, even to the two fierce teeth that curved over her lower lip
and the deep, frowning lines above her wide-open eyes.
When it was finished he said:
"You have a terrible look, Shiegra."
"Then the image is like me," she answered; "for I am indeed terrible
to all who are not my friends."
Claus now carved out the body, with Shiegra's long tail trailing
behind it. The image of the crouching lioness was very life-like.
"It pleases me," said Shiegra, yawning and stretching her body
gracefully. "Now I will watch while you paint."
He brought the paints the Ryls had given him from the cupboard and
colored the image to resemble the real Shiegra.
The lioness placed her big, padded paws upon the edge of the table
and raised herself while she carefully examined the toy that was
"You are indeed skillful!" she said, proudly. "The children will like
that better than cats, I'm sure."
Then snarling at Blinkie, who arched her back in terror and whined
fearfully, she walked away toward her forest home with stately strides.
4. How Little Mayrie Became Frightened
The winter was over now, and all the Laughing Valley was filled with
joyous excitement. The brook was so happy at being free once again
that it gurgled more boisterously than ever and dashed so recklessly
against the rocks that it sent showers of spray high in the air. The
grass thrust its sharp little blades upward through the mat of dead
stalks where it had hidden from the snow, but the flowers were yet too
timid to show themselves, although the Ryls were busy feeding their
roots. The sun was in remarkably good humor, and sent his rays
dancing merrily throughout the Valley.
Claus was eating his dinner one day when he heard a timid knock
on his door.
"Come in!" he called.
No one entered, but after a pause came another rapping.
Claus jumped up and threw open the door. Before him stood a small
girl holding a smaller brother fast by the hand.
"Is you Tlaus?" she asked, shyly.
"Indeed I am, my dear!" he answered, with a laugh, as he caught both
children in his arms and kissed them. "You are very welcome, and you
have come just in time to share my dinner."
He took them to the table and fed them with fresh milk and nut-cakes.
When they had eaten enough he asked:
"Why have you made this long journey to see me?"
"I wants a tat!" replied little Mayrie; and her brother, who had not
yet learned to speak many words, nodded his head and exclaimed like an
"Oh, you want my toy cats, do you?" returned Claus, greatly pleased to
discover that his creations were so popular with children.
The little visitors nodded eagerly.
"Unfortunately," he continued, "I have but one cat now ready, for I
carried two to children in the town yesterday. And the one I have
shall be given to your brother, Mayrie, because he is the smaller; and
the next one I make shall be for you."
The boy's face was bright with smiles as he took the precious toy
Claus held out to him; but little Mayrie covered her face with her arm
and began to sob grievously.
"I--I--I wants a t--t--tat now!" she wailed.
Her disappointment made Claus feel miserable for a moment. Then he
suddenly remembered Shiegra.
"Don't cry, darling!" he said, soothingly; "I have a toy much nicer
than a cat, and you shall have that."
He went to the cupboard and drew out the image of the lioness, which
he placed on the table before Mayrie.
The girl raised her arm and gave one glance at the fierce teeth and
glaring eyes of the beast, and then, uttering a terrified scream, she
rushed from the house. The boy followed her, also screaming lustily,
and even dropping his precious cat in his fear.
For a moment Claus stood motionless, being puzzled and astonished.
Then he threw Shiegra's image into the cupboard and ran after the
children, calling to them not to be frightened.
Little Mayrie stopped in her flight and her brother clung to her
skirt; but they both cast fearful glances at the house until Claus had
assured them many times that the beast had been locked in the cupboard.
"Yet why were you frightened at seeing it?" he asked. "It is only a
toy to play with!"
"It's bad!" said Mayrie, decidedly, "an'--an'--just horrid, an' not a
bit nice, like tats!"
"Perhaps you are right," returned Claus, thoughtfully. "But if you
will return with me to the house I will soon make you a pretty cat."
So they timidly entered the house again, having faith in their
friend's words; and afterward they had the joy of watching Claus carve
out a cat from a bit of wood and paint it in natural colors. It did
not take him long to do this, for he had become skillful with his knife
by this time, and Mayrie loved her toy the more dearly because she had
seen it made.
After his little visitors had trotted away on their journey homeward
Claus sat long in deep thought. And he then decided that such fierce
creatures as his friend the lioness would never do as models from
which to fashion his toys.
"There must be nothing to frighten the dear babies," he reflected;
"and while I know Shiegra well, and am not afraid of her, it is but
natural that children should look upon her image with terror.
Hereafter I will choose such mild-mannered animals as squirrels and
rabbits and deer and lambkins from which to carve my toys, for then
the little ones will love rather than fear them."
He began his work that very day, and before bedtime had made a wooden
rabbit and a lamb. They were not quite so lifelike as the cats had
been, because they were formed from memory, while Blinkie had sat very
still for Claus to look at while he worked.
But the new toys pleased the children nevertheless, and the fame of
Claus' playthings quickly spread to every cottage on plain and in
village. He always carried his gifts to the sick or crippled
children, but those who were strong enough walked to the house in the
Valley to ask for them, so a little path was soon worn from the plain
to the door of the toy-maker's cottage.
First came the children who had been playmates of Claus, before he
began to make toys. These, you may be sure, were well supplied. Then
children who lived farther away heard of the wonderful images and made
journeys to the Valley to secure them. All little ones were welcome,
and never a one went away empty-handed.
This demand for his handiwork kept Claus busily occupied, but he was
quite happy in knowing the pleasure he gave to so many of the dear
children. His friends the immortals were pleased with his success and
supported him bravely.
The Knooks selected for him clear pieces of soft wood, that his knife
might not be blunted in cutting them; the Ryls kept him supplied with
paints of all colors and brushes fashioned from the tips of timothy
grasses; the Fairies discovered that the workman needed saws and
chisels and hammers and nails, as well as knives, and brought him a
goodly array of such tools.
Claus soon turned his living room into a most wonderful workshop. He
built a bench before the window, and arranged his tools and paints so
that he could reach everything as he sat on his stool. And as he
finished toy after toy to delight the hearts of little children he
found himself growing so gay and happy that he could not refrain from
singing and laughing and whistling all the day long.
"It's because I live in the Laughing Valley, where everything else
laughs!" said Claus.
But that was not the reason.
5. How Bessie Blithesome Came to the Laughing Valley
One day, as Claus sat before his door to enjoy the sunshine while
he busily carved the head and horns of a toy deer, he looked up
and discovered a glittering cavalcade of horsemen approaching through
When they drew nearer he saw that the band consisted of a score of
men-at-arms, clad in bright armor and bearing in their hands spears
and battle-axes. In front of these rode little Bessie Blithesome, the
pretty daughter of that proud Lord of Lerd who had once driven Claus
from his palace. Her palfrey was pure white, its bridle was covered
with glittering gems, and its saddle draped with cloth of gold,
richly broidered. The soldiers were sent to protect her from harm
while she journeyed.
Claus was surprised, but he continued to whittle and to sing until the
cavalcade drew up before him. Then the little girl leaned over the
neck of her palfrey and said:
"Please, Mr. Claus, I want a toy!"
Her voice was so pleading that Claus jumped up at once and stood
beside her. But he was puzzled how to answer her request.
"You are a rich lord's daughter," said he, "and have all that
"Except toys," added Bessie. "There are no toys in all the world
"And I make them for the poor children, who have nothing else to amuse
them," continued Claus.
"Do poor children love to play with toys more than rich ones?"
"I suppose not," said Claus, thoughtfully.
"Am I to blame because my father is a lord? Must I be denied the
pretty toys I long for because other children are poorer than I?" she
"I'm afraid you must, dear," he answered; "for the poor have nothing
else with which to amuse themselves. You have your pony to ride, your
servants to wait on you, and every comfort that money can procure."
"But I want toys!" cried Bessie, wiping away the tears that forced
themselves into her eyes. "If I can not have them, I shall be
Claus was troubled, for her grief recalled to him the thought that his
desire was to make all children happy, without regard to their
condition in life. Yet, while so many poor children were clamoring
for his toys he could not bear to give one to them to Bessie
Blithesome, who had so much already to make her happy.
"Listen, my child," said he, gently; "all the toys I am now making are
promised to others. But the next shall be yours, since your heart
so longs for it. Come to me again in two days and it shall be ready
Bessie gave a cry of delight, and leaning over her pony's neck she
kissed Claus prettily upon his forehead. Then, calling to her
men-at-arms, she rode gaily away, leaving Claus to resume his work.
"If I am to supply the rich children as well as the poor ones," he
thought, "I shall not have a spare moment in the whole year! But is
it right I should give to the rich? Surely I must go to Necile and
talk with her about this matter."
So when he had finished the toy deer, which was very like a deer
he had known in the Forest glades, he walked into Burzee and made
his way to the bower of the beautiful Nymph Necile, who had been
his foster mother.
She greeted him tenderly and lovingly, listening with interest to his
story of the visit of Bessie Blithesome.
"And now tell me," said he, "shall I give toys to rich children?"
"We of the Forest know nothing of riches," she replied. "It seems to
me that one child is like another child, since they are all made of
the same clay, and that riches are like a gown, which may be put on or
taken away, leaving the child unchanged. But the Fairies are
guardians of mankind, and know mortal children better than I. Let us
call the Fairy Queen."
This was done, and the Queen of the Fairies sat beside them and heard
Claus relate his reasons for thinking the rich children could get
along without his toys, and also what the Nymph had said.
"Necile is right," declared the Queen; "for, whether it be rich or
poor, a child's longings for pretty playthings are but natural. Rich
Bessie's heart may suffer as much grief as poor Mayrie's; she can be
just as lonely and discontented, and just as gay and happy. I think,
friend Claus, it is your duty to make all little ones glad, whether
they chance to live in palaces or in cottages."
"Your words are wise, fair Queen," replied Claus, "and my heart tells
me they are as just as they are wise. Hereafter all children may
claim my services."
Then he bowed before the gracious Fairy and, kissing Necile's red
lips, went back into his Valley.
At the brook he stopped to drink, and afterward he sat on the bank and
took a piece of moist clay in his hands while he thought what sort of
toy he should make for Bessie Blithesome. He did not notice that his
fingers were working the clay into shape until, glancing downward, he
found he had unconsciously formed a head that bore a slight resemblance
to the Nymph Necile!
At once he became interested. Gathering more of the clay from the
bank he carried it to his house. Then, with the aid of his knife and
a bit of wood he succeeded in working the clay into the image of a toy
nymph. With skillful strokes he formed long, waving hair on the head
and covered the body with a gown of oakleaves, while the two feet
sticking out at the bottom of the gown were clad in sandals.
But the clay was soft, and Claus found he must handle it gently to
avoid ruining his pretty work.
"Perhaps the rays of the sun will draw out the moisture and cause the
clay to become hard," he thought. So he laid the image on a flat
board and placed it in the glare of the sun.
This done, he went to his bench and began painting the toy deer, and
soon he became so interested in the work that he forgot all about the
clay nymph. But next morning, happening to notice it as it lay on the
board, he found the sun had baked it to the hardness of stone, and it
was strong enough to be safely handled.
Claus now painted the nymph with great care in the likeness of Necile,
giving it deep-blue eyes, white teeth, rosy lips and ruddy-brown hair.
The gown he colored oak-leaf green, and when the paint was dry Claus
himself was charmed with the new toy. Of course it was not nearly so
lovely as the real Necile; but, considering the material of which it
was made, Claus thought it was very beautiful.
When Bessie, riding upon her white palfrey, came to his dwelling next
day, Claus presented her with the new toy. The little girl's eyes
were brighter than ever as she examined the pretty image, and she
loved it at once, and held it close to her breast, as a mother does to
"What is it called, Claus?" she asked.
Now Claus knew that Nymphs do not like to be spoken of by mortals, so
he could not tell Bessie it was an image of Necile he had given her.
But as it was a new toy he searched his mind for a new name to call it
by, and the first word he thought of he decided would do very well.
"It is called a dolly, my dear," he said to Bessie.
"I shall call the dolly my baby," returned Bessie, kissing it fondly;
"and I shall tend it and care for it just as Nurse cares for me.
Thank you very much, Claus; your gift has made me happier than I have
ever been before!"
Then she rode away, hugging the toy in her arms, and Claus, seeing her
delight, thought he would make another dolly, better and more natural
than the first.
He brought more clay from the brook, and remembering that Bessie had
called the dolly her baby he resolved to form this one into a baby's
image. That was no difficult task to the clever workman, and soon the
baby dolly was lying on the board and placed in the sun to dry. Then,
with the clay that was left, he began to make an image of Bessie
This was not so easy, for he found he could not make the silken robe
of the lord's daughter out of the common clay. So he called the
Fairies to his aid, and asked them to bring him colored silks with
which to make a real dress for the clay image. The Fairies set off at
once on their errand, and before nightfall they returned with a
generous supply of silks and laces and golden threads.
Claus now became impatient to complete his new dolly, and instead of
waiting for the next day's sun he placed the clay image upon his
hearth and covered it over with glowing coals. By morning, when he
drew the dolly from the ashes, it had baked as hard as if it had lain
a full day in the hot sun.
Now our Claus became a dressmaker as well as a toymaker. He cut the
lavender silk, and nearly sewed it into a beautiful gown that just
fitted the new dolly. And he put a lace collar around its neck and
pink silk shoes on its feet. The natural color of baked clay is a
light gray, but Claus painted the face to resemble the color of flesh,
and he gave the dolly Bessie's brown eyes and golden hair and rosy cheeks.
It was really a beautiful thing to look upon, and sure to bring joy to
some childish heart. While Claus was admiring it he heard a knock at
his door, and little Mayrie entered. Her face was sad and her eyes
red with continued weeping.
"Why, what has grieved you, my dear?" asked Claus, taking the child in
"I've--I've--bwoke my tat!" sobbed Mayrie.
"How?" he inquired, his eyes twinkling.
"I--I dwopped him, an' bwoke off him's tail; an'--an'--then I dwopped
him an' bwoke off him's ear! An'--an' now him's all spoilt!"
"Never mind, Mayrie dear," he said. "How would you like this new
dolly, instead of a cat?"
Mayrie looked at the silk-robed dolly and her eyes grew big
"Oh, Tlaus!" she cried, clapping her small hands together with
rapture; "tan I have 'at boo'ful lady?"
"Do you like it?" he asked.
"I love it!" said she. "It's better 'an tats!"
"Then take it, dear, and be careful not to break it."
Mayrie took the dolly with a joy that was almost reverent, and her
face dimpled with smiles as she started along the path toward home.
6. The Wickedness of the Awgwas
I must now tell you something about the Awgwas, that terrible race of
creatures which caused our good Claus so much trouble and nearly
succeeded in robbing the children of the world of their earliest and
I do not like to mention the Awgwas, but they are a part of this
history, and can not be ignored. They were neither mortals nor
immortals, but stood midway between those classes of beings. The
Awgwas were invisible to ordinary people, but not to immortals. They
could pass swiftly through the air from one part of the world to
another, and had the power of influencing the minds of human beings to
do their wicked will.
They were of gigantic stature and had coarse, scowling countenances
which showed plainly their hatred of all mankind. They possessed no
consciences whatever and delighted only in evil deeds.
Their homes were in rocky, mountainous places, from whence they
sallied forth to accomplish their wicked purposes.
The one of their number that could think of the most horrible deed
for them to do was always elected the King Awgwa, and all the race
obeyed his orders. Sometimes these creatures lived to become a
hundred years old, but usually they fought so fiercely among
themselves that many were destroyed in combat, and when they died that
was the end of them. Mortals were powerless to harm them and the
immortals shuddered when the Awgwas were mentioned, and always avoided
them. So they flourished for many years unopposed and accomplished
I am glad to assure you that these vile creatures have long since
perished and passed from earth; but in the days when Claus was making
his first toys they were a numerous and powerful tribe.
One of the principal sports of the Awgwas was to inspire angry
passions in the hearts of little children, so that they quarreled and
fought with one another. They would tempt boys to eat of unripe
fruit, and then delight in the pain they suffered; they urged little
girls to disobey their parents, and then would laugh when the children
were punished. I do not know what causes a child to be naughty in
these days, but when the Awgwas were on earth naughty children were
usually under their influence.
Now, when Claus began to make children happy he kept them out of the
power of the Awgwas; for children possessing such lovely playthings as
he gave them had no wish to obey the evil thoughts the Awgwas tried to
thrust into their minds.
Therefore, one year when the wicked tribe was to elect a new King,
they chose an Awgwa who proposed to destroy Claus and take him away
from the children.
"There are, as you know, fewer naughty children in the world since
Claus came to the Laughing Valley and began to make his toys," said
the new King, as he squatted upon a rock and looked around at the
scowling faces of his people. "Why, Bessie Blithesome has not stamped
her foot once this month, nor has Mayrie's brother slapped his
sister's face or thrown the puppy into the rain-barrel. Little Weekum
took his bath last night without screaming or struggling, because his
mother had promised he should take his toy cat to bed with him! Such
a condition of affairs is awful for any Awgwa to think of, and the
only way we can direct the naughty actions of children is to take this
person Claus away from them."
"Good! good!" cried the big Awgwas, in a chorus, and they clapped
their hands to applaud the speech of the King.
"But what shall we do with him?" asked one of the creatures.
"I have a plan," replied the wicked King; and what his plan was you
will soon discover.
That night Claus went to bed feeling very happy, for he had completed
no less than four pretty toys during the day, and they were sure, he
thought, to make four little children happy. But while he slept the
band of invisible Awgwas surrounded his bed, bound him with stout
cords, and then flew away with him to the middle of a dark forest in
far off Ethop, where they laid him down and left him.
When morning came Claus found himself thousands of miles from any
human being, a prisoner in the wild jungle of an unknown land.
From the limb of a tree above his head swayed a huge python, one of
those reptiles that are able to crush a man's bones in their coils. A
few yards away crouched a savage panther, its glaring red eyes fixed
full on the helpless Claus. One of those monstrous spotted spiders
whose sting is death crept stealthily toward him over the matted
leaves, which shriveled and turned black at its very touch.
But Claus had been reared in Burzee, and was not afraid.
"Come to me, ye Knooks of the Forest!" he cried, and gave the low,
peculiar whistle that the Knooks know.
The panther, which was about to spring upon its victim, turned and
slunk away. The python swung itself into the tree and disappeared
among the leaves. The spider stopped short in its advance and hid
beneath a rotting log.
Claus had no time to notice them, for he was surrounded by a band of
harsh-featured Knooks, more crooked and deformed in appearance than
any he had ever seen.
"Who are you that call on us?" demanded one, in a gruff voice.
"The friend of your brothers in Burzee," answered Claus. "I have been
brought here by my enemies, the Awgwas, and left to perish miserably.
Yet now I implore your help to release me and to send me home again."
"Have you the sign?" asked another.
"Yes," said Claus.
They cut his bonds, and with his free arms he made the secret sign of
Instantly they assisted him to stand upon his feet, and they brought
him food and drink to strengthen him.
"Our brothers of Burzee make queer friends," grumbled an ancient Knook
whose flowing beard was pure white. "But he who knows our secret sign
and signal is entitled to our help, whoever he may be. Close your
eyes, stranger, and we will conduct you to your home. Where shall we
"'Tis in the Laughing Valley," answered Claus, shutting his eyes.
"There is but one Laughing Valley in the known world, so we can not go
astray," remarked the Knook.
As he spoke the sound of his voice seemed to die away, so Claus opened
his eyes to see what caused the change. To his astonishment he found
himself seated on the bench by his own door, with the Laughing Valley
spread out before him. That day he visited the Wood-Nymphs and
related his adventure to Queen Zurline and Necile.
"The Awgwas have become your enemies," said the lovely Queen,
thoughtfully; "so we must do all we can to protect you from
"It was cowardly to bind him while he slept," remarked Necile,
"The evil ones are ever cowardly," answered Zurline, "but our friend's
slumber shall not be disturbed again."
The Queen herself came to the dwelling of Claus that evening and
placed her Seal on every door and window, to keep out the Awgwas. And
under the Seal of Queen Zurline was placed the Seal of the Fairies and
the Seal of the Ryls and the Seals of the Knooks, that the charm might
become more powerful.
And Claus carried his toys to the children again, and made many more
of the little ones happy.
You may guess how angry the King Awgwa and his fierce band were when
it was known to them that Claus had escaped from the Forest of Ethop.
They raged madly for a whole week, and then held another meeting among
"It is useless to carry him where the Knooks reign," said the King,
"for he has their protection. So let us cast him into a cave of our
own mountains, where he will surely perish."
This was promptly agreed to, and the wicked band set out that night to
seize Claus. But they found his dwelling guarded by the Seals of the
Immortals and were obliged to go away baffled and disappointed.
"Never mind," said the King; "he does not sleep always!"
Next day, as Claus traveled to the village across the plain, where he
intended to present a toy squirrel to a lame boy, he was suddenly set
upon by the Awgwas, who seized him and carried him away to the mountains.
There they thrust him within a deep cavern and rolled many huge rocks
against the entrance to prevent his escape.
Deprived thus of light and food, and with little air to breathe, our
Claus was, indeed, in a pitiful plight. But he spoke the mystic words
of the Fairies, which always command their friendly aid, and they came
to his rescue and transported him to the Laughing Valley in the
twinkling of an eye.
Thus the Awgwas discovered they might not destroy one who had earned
the friendship of the immortals; so the evil band sought other means
of keeping Claus from bringing happiness to children and so making
Whenever Claus set out to carry his toys to the little ones an Awgwa,
who had been set to watch his movements, sprang upon him and snatched
the toys from his grasp. And the children were no more disappointed
than was Claus when he was obliged to return home disconsolate. Still
he persevered, and made many toys for his little friends and started
with them for the villages. And always the Awgwas robbed him as soon
as he had left the Valley.
They threw the stolen playthings into one of their lonely caverns, and
quite a heap of toys accumulated before Claus became discouraged and
gave up all attempts to leave the Valley. Then children began coming
to him, since they found he did not go to them; but the wicked Awgwas
flew around them and caused their steps to stray and the paths to
become crooked, so never a little one could find a way into the
Lonely days now fell upon Claus, for he was denied the pleasure of
bringing happiness to the children whom he had learned to love. Yet
he bore up bravely, for he thought surely the time would come when the
Awgwas would abandon their evil designs to injure him.
He devoted all his hours to toy-making, and when one plaything had
been completed he stood it on a shelf he had built for that purpose.
When the shelf became filled with rows of toys he made another one,
and filled that also. So that in time he had many shelves filled with
gay and beautiful toys representing horses, dogs, cats, elephants,
lambs, rabbits and deer, as well as pretty dolls of all sizes and
balls and marbles of baked clay painted in gay colors.
Often, as he glanced at this array of childish treasures, the heart of
good old Claus became sad, so greatly did he long to carry the toys to
his children. And at last, because he could bear it no longer,
he ventured to go to the great Ak, to whom he told the story of his
persecution by the Awgwas, and begged the Master Woodsman to assist him.
7. The Great Battle Between Good and Evil
Ak listened gravely to the recital of Claus, stroking his beard the
while with the slow, graceful motion that betokened deep thought. He
nodded approvingly when Claus told how the Knooks and Fairies had
saved him from death, and frowned when he heard how the Awgwas had
stolen the children's toys. At last he said:
"From the beginning I have approved the work you are doing among the
children of men, and it annoys me that your good deeds should be
thwarted by the Awgwas. We immortals have no connection whatever with
the evil creatures who have attacked you. Always have we avoided
them, and they, in turn, have hitherto taken care not to cross our
pathway. But in this matter I find they have interfered with one of
our friends, and I will ask them to abandon their persecutions, as you
are under our protection."
Claus thanked the Master Woodsman most gratefully and returned to his
Valley, while Ak, who never delayed carrying out his promises, at once
traveled to the mountains of the Awgwas.
There, standing on the bare rocks, he called on the King and his
people to appear.
Instantly the place was filled with throngs of the scowling Awgwas,
and their King, perching himself on a point of rock, demanded fiercely:
"Who dares call on us?"
"It is I, the Master Woodsman of the World," responded Ak.
"Here are no forests for you to claim," cried the King, angrily.
"We owe no allegiance to you, nor to any immortal!"
"That is true," replied Ak, calmly. "Yet you have ventured to
interfere with the actions of Claus, who dwells in the Laughing Valley,
and is under our protection."
Many of the Awgwas began muttering at this speech, and their King
turned threateningly on the Master Woodsman.
"You are set to rule the forests, but the plains and the valleys are
ours!" he shouted. "Keep to your own dark woods! We will do as we
please with Claus."
"You shall not harm our friend in any way!" replied Ak.
"Shall we not?" asked the King, impudently. "You will see! Our
powers are vastly superior to those of mortals, and fully as great as
those of immortals."
"It is your conceit that misleads you!" said Ak, sternly. "You are a
transient race, passing from life into nothingness. We, who live
forever, pity but despise you. On earth you are scorned by all, and
in Heaven you have no place! Even the mortals, after their earth
life, enter another existence for all time, and so are your superiors.
How then dare you, who are neither mortal nor immortal, refuse to
obey my wish?"
The Awgwas sprang to their feet with menacing gestures, but their King
motioned them back.
"Never before," he cried to Ak, while his voice trembled with rage,
"has an immortal declared himself the master of the Awgwas! Never
shall an immortal venture to interfere with our actions again! For we
will avenge your scornful words by killing your friend Claus within
three days. Nor you, nor all the immortals can save him from our
wrath. We defy your powers! Begone, Master Woodsman of the World!
In the country of the Awgwas you have no place."
"It is war!" declared Ak, with flashing eyes.
"It is war!" returned the King, savagely. "In three days your friend
will be dead."
The Master turned away and came to his Forest of Burzee, where he
called a meeting of the immortals and told them of the defiance of the
Awgwas and their purpose to kill Claus within three days.
The little folk listened to him quietly.
"What shall we do?" asked Ak.
"These creatures are of no benefit to the world," said the Prince of
the Knooks; "we must destroy them."
"Their lives are devoted only to evil deeds," said the Prince of the
Ryls. "We must destroy them."
"They have no conscience, and endeavor to make all mortals as bad as
themselves," said the Queen of the Fairies. "We must destroy them."
"They have defied the great Ak, and threaten the life of our adopted
son," said beautiful Queen Zurline. "We must destroy them."
The Master Woodsman smiled.
"You speak well," said he. "These Awgwas we know to be a powerful
race, and they will fight desperately; yet the outcome is certain.
For we who live can never die, even though conquered by our enemies,
while every Awgwa who is struck down is one foe the less to oppose us.
Prepare, then, for battle, and let us resolve to show no mercy to
Thus arose that terrible war between the immortals and the spirits of
evil which is sung of in Fairyland to this very day.
The King Awgwa and his band determined to carry out the threat to
destroy Claus. They now hated him for two reasons: he made children
happy and was a friend of the Master Woodsman. But since Ak's visit
they had reason to fear the opposition of the immortals, and they
dreaded defeat. So the King sent swift messengers to all parts of the
world to summon every evil creature to his aid.