In English-speaking cultures, a Christmas elf is a diminutive elf that lives with Santa Claus at the North Pole and acts as his helper. Christmas elves are usually depicted as green- or red-clad, with large, pointy ears and wearing pointy hats. They are most often depicted as humanoids, but sometimes as furry mammals with tails. Santa's elves are often said to make the toys in Santa's workshop and take care of his reindeer, among other tasks.
They were first introduced in literature by Louisa May Alcott in 1856. Santa is much older, emerging in U.S. folklore in the early 17th century from St. Nicholas with attributes of various European Christmas traditions, especially from English Father Christmas and Dutch Sinterklaas. The association of Christmas presents with elves has precedents in the first half of the 19th century with the Scandinavian nisse or tomte, and St Nicholas himself is called an elf in A Visit from St. Nicholas (1823).
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The origins of the elf are said to have been derived from Norse mythology, which refers to the álfar, also known as huldufólk, or "hidden folk." The elf character is most likely to have combined this Norse legend with other Scandinavian and Celtic cultures and myths regarding elves, fairies and nature spirits. In various regions of Europe there were similar supernatural beings that can be connected to elves, such as kolbolds from Germany and house spirits named brownies in Scotland. In Medieval Europe, elves were seen as nefarious and were often linked to demons.
The Christmas elf appeared in literature as early as 1850 when Louisa May Alcott completed, but never published a book titled Christmas Elves. The image of the elves in the workshop was popularized by Godey's Lady's Book , with a front cover illustration for its 1873 Christmas issue showing Santa surrounded by toys and elves with the caption, "Here we have an idea of the preparations that are made to supply the young folks with toys at Christmas time."During this time, Godey's was immensely influential to the birth of Christmas traditions, having shown the first widely circulated picture of a modern Christmas tree on the front cover of its 1850 Christmas issue. Additional recognition was given in Austin Thompson's 1876 work "The House of Santa Claus, a Christmas Fairy Show for Sunday Schools."
In the 1823 poem A Visit from St. Nicholas (more commonly known today as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas), often attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, Santa Claus himself is described in line 45 as, "He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf." [ clarification needed ] He became merged with Tomten, which was previously an elfish / dwarfish farm guardian. Following the work of Jenny Nyström, this hybrid figure became known as Jultomten.Prior to the influence of St. Nicholas in Sweden, the job of giving out gifts was done by the Yule goat. By 1891, the saint had become so well known that he could no longer be ignored.
In the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and Ireland, the modern legend of Santa Claus typically includes diminutive elves at Christmas; green-clad elves with pointy ears and pointy hats as Santa's employees / assistants. They make the toys in Santa's workshop located in the North Pole. In recent years, other toys—usually high-tech toys like computers, video games, DVDs, and DVD players, and even mobile phones—have also been depicted as being ready for delivery, but not necessarily made, in the workshop as well. In this portrayal, elves slightly resemble nimble and delicate versions of the dwarves of Norse myth.
In more recent movies (e.g. The Santa Clause series and The Christmas Chronicles ), the elves' jobs also include operating police and air forces protecting the North Pole, helping Santa outside the Pole when he is captured by the real-world police, and as Santa's secret-service-like bodyguards ( Fred Claus ).
The elves are generally said to live for hundreds, or even thousands, of years, despite the fact that in some cases they appear eternally youthful as children.
Christmas elves have had their role expanded in modern films and television. They are generally portrayed in live-action films either by little actors, children, forced perspective to make normal-sized actors appear diminutive, or computer-generated imagery (CGI); otherwise by traditional animation, stop-motion animation, or computer animation according to the format of the film. For instance:
Valentine D'Arcy Sheldon's children's picture book, The Christmas Tree Elf,tells the origin story of how Santa met his elves. It also introduces Blink the elf, who introduces Santa to the elves and saves Christmas by extinguishing a Christmas tree fire.
A strong connection to Christmas and elves can be found in the popular fairy tale The Elves and the Shoemaker published by the Brothers Grimm in 1812. In this tale a shoemaker, who had not been able to meet the demand to make more shoes, is greeted by several elves just before Christmas to finish all the shoes for him.
In European countries, Santa has differing helpers depending on the country. In The Netherlands and Belgium, St. Nicholas is accompanied by Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) whose inclusion has become a controversial issue for the Blackface depiction of the character.
In Germany, the companions are the Knecht Ruprecht and in Luxembourg they are known as Hoesecker.
In Nordic countries, Christmas Elves are considered nisser and not elves and will usually wear only red instead of the green and red outfits they are known for in English speaking countries.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is a 1964 Christmas stop motion animated television special produced by Videocraft International, Ltd. and currently distributed by Universal Television. It first aired Sunday, December 6, 1964, on the NBC television network in the United States and was sponsored by General Electric under the umbrella title of The General Electric Fantasy Hour. The special was based on the Johnny Marks song "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" which was itself based on the poem of the same name written in 1939 by Marks' brother-in-law, Robert L. May. Since 1972, the special has aired on CBS; the network unveiled a high-definition, digitally remastered version of the program in 2005.
Mrs. Claus is the legendary wife of Santa Claus, the Christmas gift-bringer in Western Christmas tradition. She is known for making cookies with the elves, caring for the reindeer, and preparing toys with her husband.
Santa Claus: The Movie is a 1985 British-American Christmas film starring Dudley Moore, John Lithgow, and David Huddleston in the title role. It is the last major fantasy film produced by the Paris-based father-and-son production team of Alexander and Ilya Salkind. The film was directed by Jeannot Szwarc and released in North America on November 27, 1985, by TriStar Pictures. The 2005 DVD release was released by Anchor Bay Entertainment, under license from the film's current owner, StudioCanal; the 25th Anniversary home video release was by Lionsgate Home Entertainment, again under StudioCanal's license.
Santa's Workshop is the legendary workshop where Santa Claus and his elves are said to make the toys and presents given out at Christmas. The exact "location" of Santa's workshop varies depending upon local culture. There are at least eight claimed locations for his workshop. For example, children in Canada send letters to Santa's Workshop at his North Pole location in Canada with the unique postal code of "H0H 0H0". Children in the United States believe the workshop is a sprawling commune located at the North Pole. Children in the United Kingdom and Finland tend to believe that Father Christmas' Workshop is located in Finland in Lapland. In addition to housing the factory where toys are either manufactured or distributed by the elves, the complex also houses the residence of Santa, his wife, companions, and all of the reindeer.
Santa vs. the Snowman 3D is a 2002 half-hour computer-animated film, created by Steve Oedekerk and produced by O Entertainment.
Motion pictures featuring Santa Claus constitute their own subgenre of the Christmas film genre. Early films of Santa revolve around similar simple plots of Santa's Christmas Eve visit to children. In 1897, in a short film called Santa Claus Filling Stockings, Santa Claus is simply filling stockings from his pack of toys. Another film called Santa Claus and the Children was made in 1898. A year later, a film directed by George Albert Smith titled Santa Claus was created. In this picture, Santa Claus enters the room from the fireplace and proceeds to trim the tree. He then fills the stockings that were previously hung on the mantle by the children. After walking backward and surveying his work, he suddenly darts at the fireplace and disappears up the chimney. Santa Claus' Visit in 1900 featured a scene with two little children kneeling at the feet of their mother and saying their prayers. The mother tucks the children snugly in bed and leaves the room. Santa Claus suddenly appears on the roof, just outside the children's bedroom window, and proceeds to enter the chimney, taking with him his bag of presents and a little hand sled for one of the children. He goes down the chimney and suddenly appears in the children's room through the fireplace. He distributes the presents and mysteriously causes the appearance of a Christmas tree laden with gifts. The scene closes with the children waking up and running to the fireplace just too late to catch him by the legs. A 1909 film by D. W. Griffith titled A Trap for Santa Claus shows children setting a trap to capture Santa Claus as he descends the chimney, but instead capture their father who abandoned them and their mother but tries to burglarize the house after he discovers that she inherited a fortune. A 29-minute 1925 silent film production titled Santa Claus, by explorer/documentarian Frank E. Kleinschmidt, filmed partly in northern Alaska, feature Santa in his workshop, visiting his Eskimo neighbors, and tending his reindeer. A year later, another movie titled Santa Claus was produced with sound on De Forest Phonofilm. Over the years, various actors have donned the red suit, including Leedham Bantock in Santa Claus (1912), Monty Woolley in Life Begins at Eight-thirty (1942), Alberto Rabagliati in The Christmas That Almost Wasn't (1966), Dan Aykroyd in Trading Places (1983), Jan Rubes in One Magic Christmas (1985), David Huddleston in Santa Claus: The Movie (1985), Jonathan Taylor Thomas in I'll Be Home for Christmas (1998), and Ed Asner in Elf (2003). Later films about Santa vary, but can be divided into the following themes shown below.
Santa Claus is Comin' to Town is a 1970 stop motion Christmas television special produced by Rankin/Bass Productions in New York, New York. The film stars the voices of Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, Keenan Wynn, Robie Lester, Joan Gardner and Paul Frees, as well as an assistant song performance by the Westminster Children's Choir. The film tells the story of how Santa Claus and several Claus-related Christmas traditions came to be. It is based on the hit Christmas song "Santa Claus Is Comin' to Town", which was written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie for Leo Feist, Inc. and introduced on radio by Eddie Cantor in 1934, and the story of Saint Nicholas.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and the Island of Misfit Toys is a 2001 American-Canadian Christmas computer-animated adventure musical film directed by Bill Kowalchuk for GoodTimes Entertainment. It was released on VHS and DVD on October 30, 2001. The film takes place after the events of the original special. The film thus revisits classic characters like Yukon Cornelius, Hermey the Elf and Rudolph, who is now famous in the Arctic tundra.
The Secret World of Santa Claus is a French and Canadian children's animated television show. It is syndicated to several countries worldwide, including Teletoon in Canada, and Super RTL in Germany, in and is generally seen every December during the holiday season. On December 25, 1999, Christmas Day, The Secret World of Santa Claus marathon took place from 6:00am to 7:00pm. The show has been put back on air and will be shown every Christmas season on Teletoon. As of 2013, it has been released on 2 DVDs from Cinedigm in the US.
The Year Without a Santa Claus is a 2006 made-for-television comedy family fantasy film, a live-action remake of the Rankin-Bass television special The Year Without a Santa Claus which premiered on NBC December 11, 2006. A widescreen DVD was released on December 12, 2006.
Santa's Workshop is a Disney short film directed by Wilfred Jackson, first released on December 10, 1932 in the Silly Symphonies series. The film features Santa Claus and his elves preparing for Christmas in Santa's workshop. A sequel, The Night Before Christmas, partially based on the 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas", was made the year after, portraying Santa leaving the toys in a house with nine children.
Santa Claus, also known as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Saint Nick, Kris Kringle, or simply Santa, is a legendary character originating in Western Christian culture who is said to bring gifts on Christmas Eve of toys and candy to well-behaved children, and either coal or nothing to naughty children. He is said to accomplish this with the aid of Christmas elves, who make the toys in his workshop at the North Pole, and flying reindeer who pull his sleigh through the air.
Hooves of Fire is one of three animated BBC Christmas comedy television specials, filmed using stop motion techniques, and presented in 1999 in aid of Comic Relief.
Prep & Landing is a computer animated television special, based on an idea by Chris Williams at Walt Disney Animation Studios and developed by Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers-Skelton into a half-hour Christmas special. It first aired December 8, 2009 on ABC.
Arthur Christmas is a 2011 British-American 3D computer-animated fantasy film and was the first Sony Pictures Animation film co-produced with Aardman Animations. Directed by Sarah Smith and co-directed by Barry Cook, the film stars the voices of James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Imelda Staunton, and Ashley Jensen. It is also the second Aardman film completely made computer animation after Flushed Away in 2006.
The Story of Santa Claus is a 1996 CBS animated television special directed by Toby Bluth. It features the voices of Ed Asner, Betty White, and Tim Curry.
Prep & Landing is a series of computer animated television specials produced by the Walt Disney Animation Studios. Voices of Dave Foley, Derek Richardson, Sarah Chalke and W. Morgan Sheppard are featured in the specials.
Nilus the Sandman: The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas is a Canadian part-animated and part-live-action Christmas television special which was originally broadcast on December 1, 1991 on CTV. In the United States, it was first broadcast on The Disney Channel on December 10, 1991. It was followed by two more Nilus the Sandman TV specials which premiered in 1994 and 1995, and then a Nilus the Sandman TV series airing from 1996 to 1998.
Noelle is a 2019 American Christmas film written and directed by Marc Lawrence, produced by Walt Disney Pictures and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. The film stars Anna Kendrick as Noelle Kringle, the daughter of Kris Kringle. It also stars Bill Hader, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Billy Eichner, Julie Hagerty, and Shirley MacLaine. In the film, when Noelle's brother Nick is stressed from all the pressure of taking over for their father, he leaves and doesn't come back. Noelle must find her brother and bring him back in time to save Christmas. It was released on November 12, 2019 on Disney+, receiving mixed reviews from critics.
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