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by belka37 

Posted: 06 December 2009
Word Count: 969
Summary: "Albert and the Krampus" is a story about the celebration of St Nicholas Day in Austria on December 5 or 6 depending in what part of the world you live. The story was created for an oral storytelling - and I've just quickly tried to translate it into a written form. I'll be interested to hear from you how well it works - and whether you think there's enough background for it work in a country unfamiliar with the Austrian tradition..

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In some parts of Austria, December 5, Saint Nicholas Eve, is also known as Krampusí Day. The Krampus is a mischievous sprite who walks in the shadow of Saint Nicholas, bearing a coal sack on his back as he lies in wait hoping to carry off any naughty children he finds. But whenever the Krampus attempts to steal a naughty child, the good Saint Nicholas drives him away.
* * * * *
One Saint Nicholas Eve in Vienna, Austria a long time ago Albert, together with his four sisters, his father and mother and old Auntie Betty; friends and neighbours gathered as the the first Advent Candle was lit - and waited excitedly ó expectantly for the arrival of Saint Nicholas.

Albert pushed his sisters and the other children back and stood at the window. He wanted to be the first to see St Nicholas coming down their street.

Suddenly, he let out a cry: "He's coming! He's coming! He's here! Quickly! Open the door!"

Mama opened the door to welcome the guest. But it was not just one guest. There were two! Albert's eyes widened in horror.

"Oh, no!"

Behind Saint Nicholas followed a strange wee man dressed in a rough brown fur coat. He had a enormous tail, a long red tongue and was carrying a rattling chain, birch branches and on his back was a big black coal sack.

Albert recognised him at once. The Krampus!

There was only one thing for Albert to do. Hide!

Albert scuttled to a hiding place behind the big old padded chair Papa always sat in the read the paper when he came home from work. From here Albert could see everything that was going on but hoped that no-one could see him.

Saint Nicholas opened his large book. In it was a list of all the good and bad things done by children all around the world.

As St Nicholas read silently from the book, the Krampus looked about, licked his lips and practised hitting strokes with his birch. Every now and then he rattled his chains, grinned and peered behind him into the large sack he carried on his back.

Saint Nicholas raised his eyes from the book and greeted Albert's oldest sister.
"Aha! Are you Annie?"
Annie nodded.
"Come here, child."

Annie came.
Saint Nicholas gave her a warm smile.
"I see you have been very helpful and kind. Can you say a poem for me?"

Annieís eyes fixed on Saint Nicholas as she recited a poem, remembering every word just as it was meant to be.

Saint Nicholas nodded with pleasure and handed Annie her Saint Nicholas' bag. In it was an apple; some peanuts and walnuts; dried figs, plums and apricots.

Albert felt hungry at the sight of it. He was about to venture from his hiding place when he heard again the jangle of the Krampus's chain. He could hear the Krampus rubbing his hands together and muttering to himself, "The next one will be mine! The next one will be mine!"

Albert stayed where he was and tried not to breathe.

It was Hana's turn next. She too, had been ever so good. The same was true for Emilie and Maria - and the others.

The Krampus jaggled his chains and his muttering became ever more persistent.

Auntie Betty looked around. "Where's Albert?"

Mama searched the room with her eyes until she spotted him behind the chair.
"Come on, Albert. It's your turn, now."

Saint Nicholas turned his face toward Albert's hiding place.
"Come on, Albert. Don't be afraid. Now let me look in my book for your name."

Albert struggled to his feet and step by shuffling step moved out onto the room for all to see.

The Krampus grinned as he rubbed his hands together and started to jump up and down in anticipation.

Saint Nicholas studied his book. He frowned a little and had another look, before turning to Albert. "What's this? You were very naughty this year." The gentle old man shook his head sadly. "Albert, what's to be done? You ... bad in the school ... won't listen to your parents."

Looking very pleased with himself, the Krampus jumped with glee. Albert covered his ears with his hands to block out the sound of the little manís rattling chain. "This one's mine! This one's mine," the Krampus cried - and he began to chase Albert around the room.

He caught up with Albert and scooped the boy into his large coal sack. And though Albert struggled and kicked there was no help for it. The Krampus was too strong for him.

Albert's pleading eyes met the eyes of Saint Nicholas. "Oh, please Saint Nicholas, please help me. I will be a good boy again."
Saint Nicholas turned to the Krampus and spoke to him sternly.
"Let the boy free. Leave him alone. He's mine."

Auntie Betty helped Albert from the Krampusís sack and stood him on his feet.

"Now go to Saint Nicholas and say 'thankyou' for saving you from the Krampus."

Albert looked down at his shoes and walked very slowly toward Saint Nicholas.

Saint Nicholas stepped toward the nervous boy and took him by the hand. "Come, Albert," he said. "I can see the kind of boy you can be - and for that I have a very special bag. I am sure you will go well next year in school and in listening to your parents ... I look forward to seeing you again next Saint Nicholas Eve and hearing all about it."
And he passed Albert's Saint Nicholas' bag to him.

Albert had never tasted fruit and nuts so sweet. But sweetest of all was the sight of that old Krampus skulking out of the house and away into the night.

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Comments by other Members

Issy at 09:00 on 07 December 2009  Report this post
This is an interesting story but I wondered if it needed updating for today's children. It seemed a little too moralistic to me, but I would be interested in what everyone else says.

I wondered if some poetic licence could be taken eg the Krampus can only come in if a naughty child is called to book by Santa. Also could he be a bit more nasty, a bit more gruesome?

I liked that Albert hid away whilst all the good children went to see Santa, but I had a sneaking admiration for Albert rather than the good ones. Maybe when he is hiding he could be going through all his misdemenours in the year gone by. Some of them could add a touch of humour.

Maybe there is a reason why Santa keeps Albert, for example he has done something terrific which he has forgotten about, or perhaps his Aunt reminds Santa of an event like that.

Regarding the writing,I realise that this is a translation, and maybe the original is what is controlling the style. Some of it read a little formally such as "...greeted Albert's oldest sister..." and "Papa" but also "Suddenly..." is used and an exclamation mark as in "There were two!" which doesn't actually to my mind give the significance that it clearly wants to. I wondered how it would read in a more modern writing such as Santa said, "Hullo, Annie," to Albert's eldest sister. Maybe simply, "There were two guests. Albert's eyes widened in horror at the sight of a strange wee man..."

Towards the end I did wonder also how if Albert was in the sack his pleading eyes could meet Santa's. Maybe some description of how nasty it was in the sack.

Just my view, please ignore if not helpful.


I do think the story does have enormous potential and as based on an actual folk tale has a ring of authenticity about it. And congratulations on translating!Lovely to be able to do that.

Freebird at 13:56 on 07 December 2009  Report this post
Hi Mabel,

I can see that this would work really well as an oral storytelling, but not sure that it works quite so well in the written form. It has the air of a folk tale, which of course lends itself to the telling round a fire on a dark night.

But I think for a written story, it needs to be tightened up. For example, using both' excitedly' and 'expectantly' is un-necessary, yet I can imagine you speaking the words to build up atmosphere.

It's interesting - when I read to children something that I have written (or even something someone else has written!) I do find myself either skipping or embellishing parts to develop the storytelling atmosphere. It's a different skill, I think.

Have a read through of your first sentence (up to the semi-colon) - it doesn't seem complete. Unless the semi-colon is meant to be a comma?

Having said that, The Krampus is a great (and scary!) character - deliciously so! You built up the fear factor really well, but then nothing much happened - as soon as the Krampus got Albert, St. Nicholas got him out again. Maybe you need to keep the tension going a bit longer - you know, the point where all seems lost for the mc?

delightfully seasonal, though!


belka37 at 09:31 on 08 December 2009  Report this post
Thank you Freebird and Issy,
You've given me quite a lot to think about and use in re-working the story. Funnily enough, this is not a folktale or a translation, while it is set within the St Nicholas tradition, the story itself is based on an actual experience of my husband's as a boy. He was born and raised in Vienna.
Bye for now

Ben Yezir at 11:28 on 08 December 2009  Report this post
Hi, I think Freebird is right. I can hear this told by the fireside, but written down it does appear a bit stilted and out of its time. However I have never heard of Krampus, so I loved the idea of there being a Ying to Santa's Yang. As Issy put it, could this darked the tale a bit, so that it was less preachy and more modern in style?

Ben Yezir

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