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Showing posts with label Demi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Demi. Show all posts

12.14.2010

The Legend of Saint Nicholas (2003)

Written and Illustrated by Demi

Paint and Ink

Text set in Packard

Margaret K. McElderry


We call upon Your mercy, O Lord. Through the intercession of St. Nicholas, keep us safe amid all dangers so that we may go forward without hindrance on the road to salvation.

This is not - as one might be expecting - the true story behind jolly St. Nick who would one day be transformed and reiterated as Santa Claus. It's more of the myth behind the myth. Which at first frustrated me, as I had read with genuine curiosity about the historical Saint Nicholas. But upon reflection, I like the idea of there being myths within myths. A true hall of mirrors, this.

"As soon as he was born, Nicholas showed amazing and miraculous powers. On his very first day, he stood up in his bath and prayed to God!" Demi writes, and there he is, a newborn babe, standing with his head bowed and his hands folded. Was baby Jesus himself as pious as this? I think not.

As a toddler, Nicholas fasted on every holy saint's say. He refused to nurse, preferring to pray all day.

There's an absurdity to the premise which brings to mind Oskar Matzerath from Grass' The Tin Drum (who in turn serves as the literary ancestor of The Family Guy's Stewie Griffin), the baby who is born with complete cognition and maturity intact. Demi goes on to chronicle several other miraculous events in your Nicholas' life, illustrating them in her gorgeous, gilded style, which culminate in story of a nobleman who had fallen upon hard times, and was forced to sell each of his three daughters so that he could collect the dowry. St. Nicholas, learning of the man's troubles, anonymously sends him bags of coins at night, tossing them in through open windows. On the third night, the bag falls into the youngest girl's open stockings. Aha! Thus is born the long-lasting Christmas tradition.

From there, Nicholas travels the world, performing miracles and dispensing wisdom and piety, calming stormy seas, rescuing the unjustly imprisoned. Perhaps the greatest of all miracles comes when he learns that "a wicked innkeeper kidnapped three little boys, killed them, and salted them in a tub of brine, intending to serve them as food." Yikes. Nicholas, praying to the Lord, raises the bodies of the dead children from the brine and brings them back to life.

So, not only does Santa Claus see you when you're sleeping and knows when you're awake, but he can raise the dead as well.

It is only in the last several pages that Demi shows his transformation into Santa, as he mingles with the Dutch character Sinter Klass and we see him flying in his sleigh packed with goodies, led by his team of reindeer. It's an image which seems rather incongruous with the preceding pages of formal beauty and religiousness.

Throughout the world today, whether he goes by the name of St. Nicholas, Sinter Klass, or Santa Claus, this figure who shows enormous generosity, a love of children, deep care for the poor and needy, and a completely selfless nature is considered to embody the spirit of Christmas and the true spirit of the Lord.


This review is linked from Tales and Their Tellers 7: "The Prayer of Saint Nicholas."
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