Friday, December 24, 2010

Charles Dickens-A Christmas Tree

"But, now, the very tree itself changes, and becomes a bean-stalk--the marvellous bean-stalk up which Jack climbed to the Giant's house! And now, those dreadfully interesting, double-headed giants, with their clubs over their shoulders, begin to stride along the boughs in a perfect throng, dragging knights and ladies home for dinner by the hair of thei heads. And Jack-how noble, with his sword of sharpness, and his shoes of swiftness! Again those old meditations come upong me as I gaze up at him; and I debate within myself whether there was more than one Jack (which I am loathe to believe possible), or only one genuine original admirable Jack, who achieved all the recorded exploits.
"Good for Christmas-time is the ruddy colour of the cloak, in which-the tree making a forest of itself for her to trip through, with her basket-Little Red Riding-Hood comes to me one Christmas Eve to give me information of the cruelty and treachery of that dissembling Wolf who ate her grandmother, without making any impression on his appetite, and then ate her, after making that ferocious joke about his teeth. She was my first love. I felt that if I could have married Little Red Riding-Hood, I should have known perfect bliss. But, it was not to be...

"Hush! Again a forest, and somebody up in a tree--not Robin Hood, not Valentine, not the Yellow Dwarf...but an Eastern King with a glittering scimitar and turban. By Allah! two Eastern Kings, for I see another, looking over his shoulder! Down upon the grass, at the tree's foot, lies the full length of a coal-black Giant, stretched asleep, with his head in a lady's lap; and near them is a glass box, fastened with four locks of shining steel, in which he keeps the lady prisoner when he is awake, I see the four keys at his girdle now. The lady makes signs to the two kings in the tree, who softly descend. It is the setting-in of the bright Arabian Nights.
"Oh, now all common things become uncommon and enchanted to me. All lamps are wonderful; all rings are talismans. Common flower-pots are full of treasure, with a little earth scattered on top; trees are for Ali Baba to hide in; beef-steaks are to throw down into the Valley of Diamonds...Any iron ring let into stone is the entrance to a cave which only waits for the magician...all apples are akin to the apple purchased from the Sultan's garden...
"Yes, on every object that I recognise among those upper branches of my Christmas Tree, I see this fairy light! When I wake in bed, at daybreak, on the cold, dark, winter mornings, the white snow dimly beheld, outside, through the frost on the window-pane, I hear Dinarzade. 'Sister, sister, if you are yet awake, I pray you finish the history of the Young King of the Black Islands.' Scheherezade replies, 'If my lord the Sultan will suffer me to live another day, sister, I will not only finish that, but tell you a more wonderful story yet.' Then, the gracious Sultan goes out, giving no orders for execution, and we all three breathe again."

Texts taken from "A Christmas Tree" by Charles Dickens, a delightful piece in which he recalls childhood memories that come to mind in the presence of his Christmas tree. People love to quote the line where Dickens claimed he thought he should have known perfect bliss if he married Little Red Riding Hood, so here is a bit more of the context, which includes other fairy tale references as well. To those of you that celebrate-Merry Christmas!

Images: here, Charles H. Sylvester, llamdorada, Virginia Frances Sterrett, Illustrated London News "Christmas at Windsor Castle" (1848),

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