A Kidnapped Santa Claus

       L. Frank Baum / Fantasy

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A Kidnapped Santa Claus Produced by Dennis Amundson

A Kidnapped Santa Claus

by

L. Frank Baum

Santa Claus lives in the Laughing Valley, where stands the big,rambling castle in which his toys are manufactured. His workmen,selected from the ryls, knooks, pixies and fairies, live with him, andevery one is as busy as can be from one year's end to another.

It is called the Laughing Valley because everything there is happyand gay. The brook chuckles to itself as it leaps rollicking betweenits green banks; the wind whistles merrily in the trees; the sunbeamsdance lightly over the soft grass, and the violets and wild flowerslook smilingly up from their green nests. To laugh one needs to behappy; to be happy one needs to be content. And throughout theLaughing Valley of Santa Claus contentment reigns supreme.

On one side is the mighty Forest of Burzee. At the other side standsthe huge mountain that contains the Caves of the Daemons. And betweenthem the Valley lies smiling and peaceful.

One would thing that our good old Santa Claus, who devotes his days tomaking children happy, would have no enemies on all the earth; and, asa matter of fact, for a long period of time he encountered nothing butlove wherever he might go.

But the Daemons who live in the mountain caves grew to hate Santa Clausvery much, and all for the simple reason that he made children happy.

The Caves of the Daemons are five in number. A broad pathway leadsup to the first cave, which is a finely arched cavern at the foot ofthe mountain, the entrance being beautifully carved and decorated. Init resides the Daemon of Selfishness. Back of this is another caverninhabited by the Daemon of Envy. The cave of the Daemon of Hatred isnext in order, and through this one passes to the home of the Daemonof Malice--situated in a dark and fearful cave in the very heart ofthe mountain. I do not know what lies beyond this. Some say thereare terrible pitfalls leading to death and destruction, and this mayvery well be true. However, from each one of the four caves mentionedthere is a small, narrow tunnel leading to the fifth cave--a cozylittle room occupied by the Daemon of Repentance. And as the rockyfloors of these passages are well worn by the track of passing feet, Ijudge that many wanderers in the Caves of the Daemons have escapedthrough the tunnels to the abode of the Daemon of Repentance, who issaid to be a pleasant sort of fellow who gladly opens for one a littledoor admitting you into fresh air and sunshine again.

Well, these Daemons of the Caves, thinking they had great cause todislike old Santa Claus, held a meeting one day to discuss the matter.

”I'm really getting lonesome,” said the Daemon of Selfishness. ”ForSanta Claus distributes so many pretty Christmas gifts to all thechildren that they become happy and generous, through his example, andkeep away from my cave.”

”I'm having the same trouble,” rejoined the Daemon of Envy. ”Thelittle ones seem quite content with Santa Claus, and there are few,indeed, that I can coax to become envious.”

”And that makes it bad for me!” declared the Daemon of Hatred. ”Forif no children pass through the Caves of Selfishness and Envy, nonecan get to MY cavern.”

”Or to mine,” added the Daemon of Malice.

”For my part,” said the Daemon of Repentance, ”it is easily seen thatif children do not visit your caves they have no need to visit mine;so that I am quite as neglected as you are.”

”And all because of this person they call Santa Claus!” exclaimed theDaemon of Envy. ”He is simply ruining our business, and somethingmust be done at once.”

To this they readily agreed; but what to do was another and moredifficult matter to settle. They knew that Santa Claus worked allthrough the year at his castle in the Laughing Valley, preparing thegifts he was to distribute on Christmas Eve; and at first theyresolved to try to tempt him into their caves, that they might leadhim on to the terrible pitfalls that ended in destruction.

So the very next day, while Santa Claus was busily at work, surroundedby his little band of assistants, the Daemon of Selfishness came tohim and said:

”These toys are wonderfully bright and pretty. Why do you not keepthem for yourself? It's a pity to give them to those noisy boys andfretful girls, who break and destroy them so quickly.”

”Nonsense!” cried the old graybeard, his bright eyes twinkling merrilyas he turned toward the tempting Daemon. ”The boys and girls arenever so noisy and fretful after receiving my presents, and if I canmake them happy for one day in the year I am quite content.”

So the Daemon went back to the others, who awaited him in their caves,and said:

”I have failed, for Santa Claus is not at all selfish.”

The following day the Daemon of Envy visited Santa Claus. Said he:”The toy shops are full of playthings quite as pretty as those you aremaking. What a shame it is that they should interfere with yourbusiness! They make toys by machinery much quicker than you can makethem by hand; and they sell them for money, while you get nothing atall for your work.”

But Santa Claus refused to be envious of the toy shops.

”I can supply the little ones but once a year--on Christmas Eve,” heanswered; ”for the children are many, and I am but one. And as mywork is one of love and kindness I would be ashamed to receive moneyfor my little gifts. But throughout all the year the children must beamused in some way, and so the toy shops are able to bring muchhappiness to my little friends. I like the toy shops, and am glad tosee them prosper.”

In spite of the second rebuff, the Daemon of Hatred thought he wouldtry to influence Santa Claus. So the next day he entered the busyworkshop and said:

”Good morning, Santa! I have bad news for you.”

”Then run away, like a good fellow,” answered Santa Claus. ”Bad newsis something that should be kept secret and never told.”

”You cannot escape this, however,” declared the Daemon; ”for in theworld are a good many who do not believe in Santa Claus, and these youare bound to hate bitterly, since they have so wronged you.”

”Stuff and rubbish!” cried Santa.

”And there are others who resent your making children happy and whosneer at you and call you a foolish old rattlepate! You are quiteright to hate such base slanderers, and you ought to be revenged uponthem for their evil words.”

”But I don't hate 'em!” exclaimed Santa Claus positively. ”Suchpeople do me no real harm, but merely render themselves and theirchildren unhappy. Poor things! I'd much rather help them any daythan injure them.”

Indeed, the Daemons could not tempt old Santa Claus in any way. Onthe contrary, he was shrewd enough to see that their object invisiting him was to make mischief and trouble, and his cheery laughterdisconcerted the evil ones and showed to them the folly of such anundertaking. So they abandoned honeyed words and determined to use force.

It was well known that no harm can come to Santa Claus while he is inthe Laughing Valley, for the fairies, and ryls, and knooks all protecthim. But on Christmas Eve he drives his reindeer out into the bigworld, carrying a sleighload of toys and pretty gifts to the children;and this was the time and the occasion when his enemies had the bestchance to injure him. So the Daemons laid their plans and awaited thearrival of Christmas Eve.

The moon shone big and white in the sky, and the snow lay crisp andsparkling on the ground as Santa Claus cracked his whip and sped awayout of the Valley into the great world beyond. The roomy sleigh waspacked full with huge sacks of toys, and as the reindeer dashed onwardour jolly old Santa laughed and whistled and sang for very joy. Forin all his merry life this was the one day in the year when he washappiest--the day he lovingly bestowed the treasures of his workshopupon the little children.

It would be a busy night for him, he well knew. As he whistled andshouted and cracked his whip again, he reviewed in mind all the townsand cities and farmhouses where he was expected, and figured that hehad just enough presents to go around and make every child happy. Thereindeer knew exactly what was expected of them, and dashed along soswiftly that their feet scarcely seemed to touch the snow-covered ground.

Suddenly a strange thing happened: a rope shot through the moonlightand a big noose that was in the end of it settled over the arms andbody of Santa Claus and drew tight. Before he could resist or evencry out he was jerked from the seat of the sleigh and tumbled headforemost into a snowbank, while the reindeer rushed onward with theload of toys and carried it quickly out of sight and sound.

Such a surprising experience confused old Santa for a moment, and whenhe had collected his senses he found that the wicked Daemons hadpulled him from the snowdrift and bound him tightly with many coils ofthe stout rope. And then they carried the kidnapped Santa Claus awayto their mountain,
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