Tuesday, December 3, 2019
K.A.C. 2019 - T - 22 ...
Jean Shepherd (1921 - 1999) was no stranger to radio, having a long-running career in the medium, with his popular style of being a free-wheeling raconteur of stories from his life. Primarily remembered now thanks to the 1983 film A Christmas Story, with Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon and Peter Billingsley, his career, both in radio and print, spanned decades, spinning tales from his youth that were sure to bring a smile. Today's tale is no exception and is all over the map: it starts with the poem The Hellbound Train (because, really, what say Christmas more than a cowboy's drunken nightmare about being dragged to Hell on a train run by Satan himself?) and proceeds in Shepherd's own inimitable fashion to talking about the disastrous effects of his teacher mistakenly letting kids pick out their own poems for recitation and his equally disastrous presentation with two of his friends of a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream. From December 23rd, 1975, on New York's WOR radio, travel back in time for some holiday reminiscing from the one, the only Jean Shepherd!
What's that you say, bucko? Not weird enough for you? Not a problem - we live to serve here at the K.A.C.
You've heard us tell plenty of tales about our mascot, Krampus, over the years here (and never fear, the jolly 'Santa Christmas Devil' (as I recently heard him described) will be gracing our pages in just a few days) - but there are also a number of interesting European variations on the charismatic Mr. K. Case in point, in certain areas of France, Saint Nicholas is accompanied by someone else. He's got nicknames like 'Father Whipper', 'Old Man Whipper', 'Father Flog' and 'Spanky'. Sounds like a righteous sort, right?
" Père Fouettard (French for "Father Whipper" or "Old Man Whipper") is a character who accompanies St. Nicholas on his rounds during St. Nicholas' Day (6 December) dispensing lumps of coal and/or beatings to naughty children while St. Nicholas gives gifts to the well behaved. He is known mainly in the far north and eastern regions of France, in the south of Belgium, and in French-speaking Switzerland, although similar characters exist all over Europe. This "Whipping Father" was said to bring a whip with him to spank all of the naughty children who misbehaved.
The most popular story about the origin of Le Père Fouettard was first told in the year 1150. An innkeeper (or in other versions a butcher) captures three boys who appear to be wealthy and on their way to enroll in a religious boarding school. Along with his wife, he kills the children in order to rob them. One gruesome version tells that they drug the children, slit their throats, cut them into pieces, and stew them in a barrel. St. Nicholas discovers the crime and resurrects the children. After this, Le Père Fouettard repents and becomes St. Nicholas' partner. A slightly different version of this story claims that St. Nicholas forced Le Père Fouettard to become his assistant as a punishment for his crimes."
Turns out I wrote about this rascal without knowing it back in my K.A.C. article of December 2nd, 2015, which you can read here:
He was then just known as a murderous innkeeper associated with the Christmas Pickle (and if THAT sentence doesn't get you clicking on the above link, NOTHING will!) - turns out following St. Nicholas and doling out beatings is his penance ... make of that what you will.
Finally, if you want a better overview on him, peruse the link below, in which he's charmingly referred to as, "The French Christmas Cannibal Who Serves Santa Claus" ... someone may want to take the copywriter aside and talk to him about that headline!
Back with more tomorrow!