Christmas stories are a dime a dozen, and I think that’s underselling the point. For a story about Christmas or Santa Claus to have some kind of impact, it needs to be different while still towing to the themes of faith, love, and hope. When the writer of First Blood turned his storytelling pen to a fable about Santa Claus not many people would have expected such a poignant and heartfelt tale. Well, that’s just what readers of The Hundred Year Christmas got when they closed the book illustrated by R. J. Krupowicz.
My father was and is a big Stephen King fan so when he first became a King fan back in the 1980s, he learned of The Dark Tower (at the time, only The Gunslinger) was published. He managed to get a first edition of The Gunslinger and subsequently got on the mailing list for the publisher Donald M. Grant books, the original publisher of The Hundred Year Christmas.
So, since my father bought the book nearly 30 years ago, I read it every couple of years and again yesterday for the first time in quite a while. It is basically an origin for Santa Claus and it’s got a little bit in common with the film The Santa Clause and hits upon some of the same thematic beats as the Rankin-Bass stop-motion special The Year without a Santa Claus.
The story is told as a bedtime story on Christmas Eve from father to his two children. The story itself began as a tale Morrell told his two children. Intertwined into the story of Santa Claus is that of Father Time; Santa has a 100-year lifespan and Father Time a one-year lifespan. Both entities live in a magical house with a road leading over a hill where each must go when their time is up. EThe story chronicles the hundredth year of the Santa Claus from the 20th Century, for there have been multiple Santa Clauses throughout the years. very 100 years, Santa has to choose his successor while every year a new Father Time appears. Morrell crafts a wonderful story and in a short space, builds up a great deal of emotion and love between the two mythical characters.
To go into more detail would spoil the story (right, its a story nearly 30 years old now and not easy to acquire). I’m somewhat surprised this one hasn’t been made into a film or TV special of some sort. The illustrations by R.J. Krupowicz are a bit unsettling, the elves in the illustrations are creepy and they resemble gremlins. Away from the elves, the art does lend an appropriately classic look to the story.
Overlook Press recently reissued the story in an illustrated edition with some revisions and an introduction.