Several years ago a friend and I got into a conversation about Christmas song characters. Specifically, the many unsuccessful attempts songwriters and singers have made over the years to duplicate the success of the songs “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman” (and to a lesser extent “The Little Drummer Boy”). Examples I can think of were “Chrissy the Christmas Mouse,” “Thistlebear the Christmas Bear,” “The Little Blue Bell,” “Percival and Chauncy,” and “Dominik the Donkey.” He had some others on his list that I’d never heard of. I think he went so far as to track down more to put together a mix CD that he handed out to a bunch of us the next Christmas.
We both agreed that Maria and the little bird from “The Gift” (this is the song that ends with the line, “As her offering was lifted to heaven
By the very first nightingale’s song”) or the poor little boy in “The Christmas Shoes” don’t fall into this category. I even argued that the Little Drummer Boy shouldn’t be included. Frosty and Rudolph are anthropomophized—non-human characters given human-like traits, or at least a human-like story line. Whereas the bird in “The Gift” never does anything that a real bird wouldn’t do.
And characters that were originally created in other media who happen to have subsequently been given a song when someone decided to try to make a television special or direct-to-video show about the character shouldn’t count, either. So as wonderful as The Grinch is (and how could he not be, having been created by Dr. Seuss?), he shouldn’t be offered as an example of a Rudolph competitor. And while Jack Frost appears in a couple of songs, (“Jack Frost nipping at your nose,” and “Little Jack Frost Get Lost”) he first was mentioned in poems back in the late 1700s, and often as simply an allusion to the cold rather than a full-blown personification.
Once you listen these other songs, it’s not much of a surprise why they’ve never caught on. For instance, “Chrissy the Christmas Mouse” has no story. I mean, “Frosty the Snowman” doesn’t have much of a plot, but compared to Chrissy, it’s practically Crime and Punishment! Chrissy is a mouse, who lives in Santa’s house, and she wants to go with Santa on Christmas Eve. So Santa asks Mrs. Claus if Chrissy has done her chores, and Mrs. Clause says “yes,” and Chrissy goes.
“The Little Blue Bell” has a plot, sort of. There’s this little blue bell in a church steeple, right? Except the little blue bell can’t ring. No matter what, it’s silent. How can it be a bell if it can’t ring? And why is it still up in the steeple if it is broken? So the song tells us over the course of three verses, that the blue bell is sad up in that steeple every Christmas Eve because it can’t ring. If I were a bell that couldn’t ring, it would seem to be that it would bother me more than just one night a year, right? Anyway, in the final verse, an angel appears and tells the bell it’s there to dry its tears. And then the angel does some angel-y magic, and transforms the bell into pure gold, and now the bell can ring. And the bell is so proud! And that’s the song.
So apparently the reason the bell couldn’t ring was because blue metal is somehow silent? What’s the moral? Suffer long enough but otherwise do nothing and an angel might come and transform you into a different race or whatever (what else is the blue can’t ring, but gold rings beautifully supposed to be a metaphor of?)? It’s just weird.
Not that Rudolph is much better. As I pointed out last week, it can persuasively be argued that Rudolph’s moral is that nonconformity will be punished until it can be exploited. Not exactly uplifting.
Of course, if you think too hard about the story line of just about any song out there it can be pretty crazy making.
So maybe I should stick to characters like Scrooge and leave the songs to songwriters.