“Man has only himself to fear now…he has become his own worst devil.”
The first thing that wakes you up isn’t the impregnable darkness or the eerie silence hanging thick in your room. It’s rather something simple, albeit the mixture of two elements; you’re cold and something is watching you. In your sleep-induced mind you’re not yet fully aware of your senses, but there’s a nightmarish quality to the tall figure standing in your doorway, its horns, the outlines of thick fur, and swishing tail a thing of folklore and campfire stories.
“Festive greetings and a happy Yuletide for all!” the devil-figure suddenly cries out.
You’re jolted awake, suddenly noticing the black bag clutched in his long-fingered grip.
“I am Krampus, the Yule Lord!”
This is a very old story that spans more than 500 years, it speaks of Odin’s most beautiful son whom he had begged all the other gods in all the realms of Asgard not to injure. With his wish granted, Baldr, the beloved son of Odin, became something of a legend among the gods; no matter what weapon or poison used, no harm could befall Baldr.
All were smitten with Baldr and his apparent invincibility – except for Loki. The god of tricks, thievery, and deceit had set it upon himself to find a way to kill the beautiful prancing bastard. With the use of mistletoe he crafted an arrow out of the plant, gave it to Baldr’s oafish and slow brother one day at another display of the invincible god’s immunity against mortal weapons, and with some careful boasting Loki convinced Baldr’s brother to launch an arrow at his arrogant brother. With Baldr’s tragic death the world of the gods was in turmoil, and our story takes places years later with the appearance of Santa Claus.
How to understand Krampus: the son of Hel, Krampus is a devilish fiend quite similar to Loki himself. He’s fond of tricks and thievery – but that’s where the similarities end. My favourite line from the novel is this; “It is good to be terrible.” Now, for those who might not know this; the legend of Krampus is very real. People go about dressing up in furs and horns and brandish switches with which they dither between frolicking about in the streets on Yuletide or beating others whilst quite intoxicated. This is all done in good humour without any serious incidents involved.
What’s quite surprising, however, is that despite Krampus’s appearances he is a very understanding, doting, and compassionate creature – as one that embodies the wild fiery nature of old should be. Brom’s Krampus is a character of joviality and passion, of traditions and of preservation. He cares deeply for the land and the mythical creatures called upon Balr, grieving over them when they die or have undergone serious injuries…and when one encounter leaves a wolf crippled Krampus’s hatred for his enemy intensifies.
Jesse Walker is a fuckup in every sense of the word; he’s jobless, he’s a self-doubting musician, and there’s a failed marriage and a dirty cop hanging over his shoulders like dark clouds. However, most importantly of all is his little daughter, Abigail, which he constantly blames himself for for not being able to care for her. Add old gang buddies to his list of growing problems and Jesse Walker is a very desperate man. When he’s given a side job to smuggle local drugs into another town goes out of hand, Jesse finds himself torn between an age old battle with neither side of the fight pulling back any punches and taking out all the stops to see the other dead. I’m talking about the much anticipated fight between Krampus and Santa Claus.
Why you should read this: the story has a rich history that digs deep into the roots of what it means to celebrate Yuletide. You get to meet Krampus! At some point Santa’s head gets chopped off and his barn gets burnt to ash. Oh! And you start questioning yourself about things such as ‘Should I really put candy in my shoes with a thank you letter outside my doorstop during Yuletide?’ Here’s the answer; Yes! Unless you want Krampus to put you in his sack and give you a proper beating. That’s your choice to make, my friend.
Alas, I leave you with this warm excerpt;
“Ho, ho, ho!” Jesse cried and smashed the clay pot to bits on the floor. “Merry fucking Christmas!”