Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Real St. Nicholas.

So, another Writer’s Almanac...reading about Mary Mapes Dodge, who wrote Hans Brinker, or The Silver Skates in 1895. Later she oversaw a magazine for Scribner’s called St. Nicholas, which published the first childish works of Ring Lardner, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Eudora Welty, Edmund Wilson and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Also found this account of the early St. Nicholas, which has very little to do with reindeers and the bringing of presents...interesting:

A wealthy gentleman in Asia, the story runs, sent his two sons to Athens to be educated. He charged the boys at parting to stop at Myra on their way and pay their respects to his reverence, the bishop. The boys reached the city at night, and took lodgings in an inn, intending to make the promised call in the morning.

Now the landlord was a very wicked man, and when he saw the boys’ rich store of baggage he resolved to rob and murder them. So when the poor boys were asleep, he crept up to their room and dispatched them, and, to conceal his terrible deed, he cut up their bodies and packed them in a pickling-tub with some pork, intending to sell the whole to some ship in the Adriatic.

Now good St. Nicholas that night saw it all in a dream, and in the morning he put on his pontifical robes (for he was now an archbishop), and, with his crozier in his hand, went in holy indignation to the inn.

The landlord was greatly frightened when he saw the archbishop, and on being accused, fell upon his knees and confessed his crime.

St. Nicholas next went to the tub in his pontificals, and he passed his hands over the boys, who at once hopped up and out of the pickled pork alive and whole. The happy fellows began to sing praises to St. Nicholas, but he, good soul, would not listen to it. He told them to worship none but God. The boys, at once recovering their possessions, went on their way rejoicing, and St. Nicholas was regarded as the special protector of boys and students from that hour.

Most of the old pictures represent three boys in the pickling-tub, all with uplifted hands, praising good St. Nicholas. We suspect that three boys in the tub, instead of two, better suited the fancy of the old artists. It did not make a great deal of difference in point of fact, and it certainly made a better picture.