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The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
by L. Frank Baum
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
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
Civilization has never yet reached Burzee. Will it ever, I
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
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."
"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
"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
"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 told her to send word
throughout the forest, to all beasts and reptiles, that the
child should not be harmed."
"I am glad you did thus," said the good Queen again, in a tone
of relief; but this time Necile did not echo her words, for
the nymph, filled with a strange resolve, had suddenly stolen
away from the group.
Swiftly her lithe form darted through the forest paths until
she reached the edge of mighty Burzee, when she paused to gaze
curiously about her. Never until now had she ventured so far,
for the Law of the Forest had placed the nymphs in its inmost
Necile knew she was breaking the Law, but the thought did not
give pause to her dainty feet. She had decided to see with
her own eyes this infant Ak had told of, for she had never yet
beheld a child of man. All the immortals are full-grown;
there are no children among them. Peering through the trees
Necile saw the child lying on the grass. But now it was
sweetly sleeping, having been comforted by the milk drawn from
Shiegra. It was not old enough to know what peril means; if
it did not feel hunger it was content.
Softly the nymph stole to the side of the babe and knelt upon
the sward, her long robe of rose leaf color spreading about
her like a gossamer cloud. Her lovely countenance expressed
curiosity and surprise, but, most of all, a tender, womanly
pity. The babe was newborn, chubby and pink. It was entirely
helpless. While the nymph gazed the infant opened its eyes,
smiled upon her, and stretched out two dimpled arms. In
another instant Necile had caught it to her breast and was
hurrying with it through the forest paths.
3. The Adoption
The Master Woodsman suddenly rose, with knitted brows. "There
is a strange presence in the Forest," he declared. Then the
Queen and her nymphs turned and saw standing before them
Necile, with the sleeping infant clasped tightly in her arms
and a defiant look in her deep blue eyes.
And thus for a moment they remained, the nymphs filled with
surprise and consternation, but the brow of the Master
Woodsman gradually clearing as he gazed intently upon the
beautiful immortal who had wilfully broken the Law. Then the
great Ak, to the wonder of all, laid his hand softly on
Necile's flowing locks and kissed her on her fair forehead.
"For the first time within my knowledge," said he, gently, "a
nymph has defied me and my laws; yet in my heart can I find no
word of chiding. What is your desire, Necile?"
"Let me keep the child!" she answered, beginning to tremble
and falling on her knees in supplication.
"Here, in the Forest of Burzee, where the human race has never
yet penetrated?" questioned Ak.
"Here, in the Forest of Burzee," replied the nymph, boldly.
"It is my home, and I am weary for lack of occupation. Let me
care for the babe! See how weak and helpless it is. Surely
it can not harm Burzee nor the Master Woodsman of the World!"
"But the Law, child, the Law!" cried Ak, sternly.
"The Law is made by the Master Woodsman," returned Necile; "if
he bids me care for the babe he himself has saved from death,
who in all the world dare oppose me?" Queen Zurline, who had
listened intently to this conversation, clapped her pretty
hands gleefully at the nymph's answer.
"You are fairly trapped, O Ak!" she exclaimed, laughing.
"Now, I pray you, give heed to Necile's petition."
The Woodsman, as was his habit when in thought, stroked his
grizzled beard slowly. Then he said:
"She shall keep the babe, and I will give it my protection.
But I warn you all that as this is the first time I have
relaxed the Law, so shall it be the last time. Never more, to
the end of the World, shall a mortal be adopted by an
immortal. Otherwise would we abandon our happy existence for
one of trouble and anxiety. Good night, my nymphs!"
Then Ak was gone from their midst, and Necile hurried away to
her bower to rejoice over her new-found treasure.
Another day found Necile's bower the most popular place in the
Forest. The nymphs clustered around her and the child that lay
asleep in her lap, with expressions of curiosity and delight.
Nor were they wanting in praises for the great Ak's kindness
in allowing Necile to keep the babe and to care for it. Even
the Queen came to peer into the innocent childish face and to
hold a helpless, chubby fist in her own fair hand.
"What shall we call him, Necile?" she asked, smiling. "He
must have a name, you know."
"Let him be called Claus," answered Necile, "for that means 'a
"Rather let him be called Neclaus,"** returned the Queen, "for
that will mean 'Necile's little one.'"
The nymphs clapped their hands in delight, and Neclaus became
the infant's name, although Necile loved best to call him
Claus, and in afterdays many of her sisters followed her
Necile gathered the softest moss in all the forest for Claus
to lie upon, and she made his bed in her own bower. Of food
the infant had no lack. The nymphs searched the forest for
bell-udders, which grow upon the goa-tree and when opened are
found to be filled with sweet milk. And the soft-eyed does
willingly gave a share of their milk to support the little
stranger, while Shiegra, the lioness, often crept stealthily
into Necile's bower and purred softly as she lay beside the
babe and fed it.
So the little one flourished and grew big and sturdy day by
day, while Necile taught him to speak and to walk and to play.
His thoughts and words were sweet and gentle, for the nymphs
knew no evil and their hearts were pure and loving. He became
the pet of the forest, for Ak's decree had forbidden beast or
reptile to molest him, and he walked fearlessly wherever his
will guided him.
Presently the news reached the other immortals that the nymphs
of Burzee had adopted a human infant, and that the act had
been sanctioned by the great Ak. Therefore many of them came
to visit the little stranger, looking upon him with much
interest. First the Ryls, who are first cousins to the
wood-nymphs, although so differently formed. For the Ryls are
required to watch over the flowers and plants, as the nymphs
watch over the forest trees. They search the wide world for
the food required by the roots of the flowering plants, while
the brilliant colors possessed by the full-blown flowers are
due to the dyes placed in the soil by the Ryls, which are
drawn through the little veins in the roots and the body of
the plants, as they reach maturity. The Ryls are a busy
people, for their flowers bloom and fade continually, but they
are merry and light-hearted and are very popular with the
Next came the Knooks, whose duty it is to watch over the
beasts of the world, both gentle and wild. The Knooks have a
hard time of it, since many of the beasts are ungovernable and
rebel against restraint. But they know how to manage them,
after all, and you will find that certain laws of the Knooks
are obeyed by even the most ferocious animals. Their
anxieties make the Knooks look old and worn and crooked, and
their natures are a bit rough from associating with wild
creatures continually; yet they are most useful to humanity
and to the world in general, as their laws are the only laws
the forest beasts recognize except those of the Master
Then there were the Fairies, the guardians of mankind, who
were much interested in the adoption of Claus because their
own laws forbade them to become familiar with their human
charges. There are instances on record where the Fairies have
shown themselves to human beings, and have even conversed with
them; but they are supposed to guard the lives of mankind
unseen and unknown, and if they favor some people more than
others it is because these have won such distinction fairly,
as the Fairies are very just and impartial. But the idea of
adopting a child of men had never occurred to them because it
was in every way opposed to their laws; so their curiosity
was intense to behold the little stranger adopted by Necile
and her sister nymphs.
Claus looked upon the immortals who thronged around him with
fearless eyes and smiling lips. He rode laughingly upon the
shoulders of the merry Ryls; he mischievously pulled the gray
beards of the low-browed Knooks; he rested his curly head
confidently upon the dainty bosom of the Fairy Queen herself.
And the Ryls loved the sound of his laughter; the Knooks loved
his courage; the Fairies loved his innocence.
The boy made friends of them all, and learned to know their
laws intimately. No forest flower was trampled beneath his
feet, lest the friendly Ryls should be grieved. He never
interfered with the beasts of the forest, lest his friends the
Knooks should become angry. The Fairies he loved dearly, but,
knowing nothing of mankind, he could not understand that he
was the only one of his race admitted to friendly intercourse
Indeed, Claus came to consider that he alone, of all the
forest people, had no like nor fellow. To him the forest was
the world. He had no idea that millions of toiling, striving
human creatures existed.
And he was happy and content.
** Some people have spelled this name Nicklaus and others
Nicolas, which is the reason that Santa Claus is still
known in some lands as St. Nicolas. But, of course,
Neclaus is his right name, and Claus the nickname given him
by his adopted mother, the fair nymph Necile.
5. The Master Woodsman
Years pass swiftly in Burzee, for the nymphs have no need to
regard time in any way. Even centuries make no change in the
dainty creatures; ever and ever they remain the same, immortal
Claus, however, being mortal, grew to manhood day by day.
Necile was disturbed, presently, to find him too big to lie in
her lap, and he had a desire for other food than milk. His
stout legs carried him far into Burzee's heart, where he
gathered supplies of nuts and berries, as well as several
sweet and wholesome roots, which suited his stomach better
than the belludders. He sought Necile's bower less
frequently, till finally it became his custom to return
thither only to sleep.
The nymph, who had come to love him dearly, was puzzled to
comprehend the changed nature of her charge, and unconsciously
altered her own mode of life to conform to his whims. She
followed him readily through the forest paths, as did many of
her sister nymphs, explaining as they walked all the mysteries
of the gigantic wood and the habits and nature of the living
things which dwelt beneath its shade.
The language of the beasts became clear to little Claus; but
he never could understand their sulky and morose tempers.
Only the squirrels, the mice and the rabbits seemed to possess
cheerful and merry natures; yet would the boy laugh when the
panther growled, and stroke the bear's glossy coat while the
creature snarled and bared its teeth menacingly. The growls
and snarls were not for Claus, he well knew, so what did they
He could sing the songs of the bees, recite the poetry of the
wood-flowers and relate the history of every blinking owl in
Burzee. He helped the Ryls to feed their plants and the Knooks
to keep order among the animals. The little immortals
regarded him as a privileged person, being especially
protected by Queen Zurline and her nymphs and favored by the
great Ak himself.
One day the Master Woodsman came back to the forest of Burzee.
He had visited, in turn, all his forests throughout the world,
and they were many and broad.
Not until he entered the glade where the Queen and her nymphs
were assembled to greet him did Ak remember the child he had
permitted Necile to adopt. Then he found, sitting familiarly
in the circle of lovely immortals, a broad-shouldered,
stalwart youth, who, when erect, stood fully as high as the
shoulder of the Master himself.
Ak paused, silent and frowning, to bend his piercing gaze upon
Claus. The clear eyes met his own steadfastly, and the
Woodsman gave a sigh of relief as he marked their placid
depths and read the youth's brave and innocent heart.
Nevertheless, as Ak sat beside the fair Queen, and the golden
chalice, filled with rare nectar, passed from lip to lip, the
Master Woodsman was strangely silent and reserved, and stroked
his beard many times with a thoughtful motion.
With morning he called Claus aside, in kindly fashion, saying:
"Bid good by, for a time, to Necile and her sisters; for you
shall accompany me on my journey through the world."
The venture pleased Claus, who knew well the honor of being
companion of the Master Woodsman of the world. But Necile
wept for the first time in her life, and clung to the boy's
neck as if she could not bear to let him go. The nymph who
had mothered this sturdy youth was still as dainty, as
charming and beautiful as when she had dared to face Ak with
the babe clasped to her breast; nor was her love less great.
Ak beheld the two clinging together, seemingly as brother and
sister to one another, and again he wore his thoughtful look.
6. Claus Discovers Humanity
Taking Claus to a small clearing in the forest, the Master
said: "Place your hand upon my girdle and hold fast while we
journey through the air; for now shall we encirle the world
and look upon many of the haunts of those men from whom you
These words caused Claus to marvel, for until now he had
thought himself the only one of his kind upon the earth; yet
in silence he grasped firmly the girdle of the great Ak, his
astonishment forbidding speech.
Then the vast forest of Burzee seemed to fall away from their
feet, and the youth found himself passing swiftly through the
air at a great height.
Ere long there were spires beneath them, while buildings of
many shapes and colors met their downward view. It was a city
of men, and Ak, pausing to descend, led Claus to its
inclosure. Said the Master:
"So long as you hold fast to my girdle you will remain unseen
by all mankind, though seeing clearly yourself. To release
your grasp will be to separate yourself forever from me and
your home in Burzee."
One of the first laws of the Forest is obedience, and Claus
had no thought of disobeying the Master's wish. He clung fast
to the girdle and remained invisible.
Thereafter with each moment passed in the city the youth's
wonder grew. He, who had supposed himself created differently
from all others, now found the earth swarming with creatures
of his own kind.
"Indeed," said Ak, "the immortals are few; but the mortals are
Claus looked earnestly upon his fellows. There were sad
faces, gay and reckless faces, pleasant faces, anxious faces
and kindly faces, all mingled in puzzling disorder. Some
worked at tedious tasks; some strutted in impudent conceit;
some were thoughtful and grave while others seemed happy and
content. Men of many natures were there, as everywhere, and
Claus found much to please him and much to make him sad.
But especially he noted the children--first curiously, then
eagerly, then lovingly. Ragged little ones rolled in the dust
of the streets, playing with scraps and pebbles. Other
children, gaily dressed, were propped upon cushions and fed
with sugar-plums. Yet the children of the rich were not
happier than those playing with the dust and pebbles, it
seemed to Claus.
"Childhood is the time of man's greatest content," said Ak,
following the youth's thoughts. "'Tis during these years of
innocent pleasure that the little ones are most free from
"Tell me," said Claus, "why do not all these babies fare
"Because they are born in both cottage and palace," returned
the Master. "The difference in the wealth of the parents
determines the lot of the child. Some are carefully tended
and clothed in silks and dainty linen; others are neglected
and covered with rags."
"Yet all seem equally fair and sweet," said Claus,
"While they are babes--yes;" agreed Ak. "Their joy is in
being alive, and they do not stop to think. In after years
the doom of mankind overtakes them, and they find they must
struggle and worry, work and fret, to gain the wealth that is
so dear to the hearts of men. Such things are unknown in the
Forest where you were reared." Claus was silent a moment.
Then he asked:
"Why was I reared in the forest, among those who are not of my
Then Ak, in gentle voice, told him the story of his babyhood:
how he had been abandoned at the forest's edge and left a prey
to wild beasts, and how the loving nymph Necile had rescued
him and brought him to manhood under the protection of the
"Yet I am not of them," said Claus, musingly.
"You are not of them," returned the Woodsman. "The nymph who
cared for you as a mother seems now like a sister to you; by
and by, when you grow old and gray, she will seem like a
daughter. Yet another brief span and you will be but a
memory, while she remains Necile."
"Then why, if man must perish, is he born?" demanded the boy.
"Everything perishes except the world itself and its keepers,"
answered Ak. "But while life lasts everything on earth has
its use. The wise seek ways to be helpful to the world, for
the helpful ones are sure to live again."
Much of this Claus failed to understand fully, but a longing
seized him to become helpful to his fellows, and he remained
grave and thoughtful while they resumed their journey.
They visited many dwellings of men in many parts of the world,
watching farmers toil in the fields, warriors dash into cruel
fray, and merchants exchange their goods for bits of white and
yellow metal. And everywhere the eyes of Claus sought out the
children in love and pity, for the thought of his own helpless
babyhood was strong within him and he yearned to give help to
the innocent little ones of his race even as he had been
succored by the kindly nymph.
Day by day the Master Woodsman and his pupil traversed the
earth, Ak speaking but seldom to the youth who clung
steadfastly to his girdle, but guiding him into all places
where he might become familiar with the lives of human beings.
And at last they returned to the grand old Forest of Burzee,
where the Master set Claus down within the circle of nymphs,
among whom the pretty Necile anxiously awaited him.
The brow of the great Ak was now calm and peaceful; but the
brow of Claus had become lined with deep thought. Necile
sighed at the change in her foster-son, who until now had been
ever joyous and smiling, and the thought came to her that
never again would the life of the boy be the same as before
this eventful journey with the Master.
ON TO PART TWO