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The Project Gutenberg Etext of Life/Adventures of Santa Claus*

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

by L. Frank Baum


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

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


1. Burzee

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
thirsty dependents.

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."

Ak smiled.

"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 ...