Mother Christmas is an original festive fairy tale written by Layla Holzer for the Pack of Wolves. The story was performed with handmade paper cut shadow puppets by Layla and Spike Dennis and was filmed and edited by Spike.
Our story begins seven days before Christmas in a faraway place where trees were blackening and the ground was hardening, and a pale-faced girl was sat at her window.
Her name was Eira. She lived with her penniless Papa and her bone idle Stepma. Times were hard for all but mostly everybody got by the best they could on as little as they had. Eira spent most of her days cleaning, cooking, and collecting firewood, which she shared with her neighbours. Her Stepma however did nothing but laze and graze on what little food they had. She was a cruel woman with a nose as sharp as a crow’s beak and a heart as hard as ice.
Christmas was scarcely acknowledged in these lands; no one could afford festive luxuries and the landscape was too barren to provide nature’s festal features. At best, folk would light little candles and share orange segments between them whilst singing the ancient carols of their ancestors.
So on the first night of Christmas Eira was astonished to see a shimmering light between the black trees around her window. Unnatural and ethereal, the light moved and sailed towards the opening of trees before Eira’s window. As the light drew closer it began to take the shape of a woman. She dazzled in furs and embroidered fabrics and her eyes sparkled like galaxies. She introduced herself as Mother Christmas; the bearer of Christmastide. Reaching inside her skirts she presented Eira with seven eggs. Mother Christmas explained that an egg would hatch each day, bringing Yuletide joy and Christmas peace to all. With her best wishes Mother Christmas retreated back through the trees and all was dark again.
As she was told, Eira placed all seven eggs before the fireplace. As the flame licked their shells the first egg began to crack. It burst open to reveal the deep-green sprigs of a fir tree. Elated Eira stood the tree up in the room, its green prickly branches poking the bitter air with fresh alpine tinge.
Morning brought surprise and wonderment to all. Eira snipped off little fir tree branches and potted them up for her neighbours, much to her Stepma’s outrage. The Stepma had taken a fancy to the remaining eggs and would check each and every five minutes for any signs of new cracks. Upon the final hour of the night the next egg hatched to release a ball of wool. Eira sat through the night knitting mittens and scarves and blankets that were as soft as fur, and she delivered them to her neighbours the next morning. Her Stepma took thrice of each garment for herself wrapping herself up until she was warmer than the summer sun.
Later that third day the third egg cracked open. Snowflakes delicately exploded from within and as they began to melt the sky opened and more feathery flakes fell down to earth. They coated the blackened trees and hardened ground with a layer of pure snow whilst everyone felt thankful for their new woolen warmers. People treaded careful outside and revelled in making snowmen and snowballs and snowangels. Stepma however sat inside annoyed at the inconvenience of it all, and not least at the extra chill that the snow had brought with it.
On the fourth day, after being thoroughly inspected by Eira’s Stepma, the next egg sprang open. Ivory candles began to tumble out of the shells which Eira collected and used to decorate each and every fir tree. The flickering flames of each candle warmed up the homes and hopes of nearly every person as they huddled around their trees. Meanwhile, Stepma sulked in the corner of her room, which she felt was not quite lit brightly enough.
Christmas day edged nearer as the fifth egg hatched open. Peering inside the shell, Eira saw a hamper of oranges, meats, cheeses and gingerbread. She set about cooking up a feast of delightful dishes, inviting her neighbours inside to fill their grumbling bellies. Her Stepma snatched what dishes she could and crammed her greedy gobbling mouth full.
On the eve of Christmas, all was calm. The snow-clad houses were brimming with cheer as the candles flickered on the fir trees. The neighbours sang Christmas choruses as they peeled their oranges and clapped their mitten-clad hands. As soon as the sun slipped out of sight, the sixth egg cracked open and out rolled a Nutcracker wearing a gift-note that bore Eira’s name; a gift all for her very own. With glee, Eira took the Nutcracker in her hands, stroked his soft hair, polished his wooden cheeks, and took delight in his articulated jaw; Chomp! Chomp! Chomp! She fed him nutshells and in return he gave her the sweet fruit from within them. Eira’s Stepma watched on with envy thinking about how many shiny coins such an exquisite Nutcracker could fetch. Oh the luxuries she could buy with those gold coins; she could even afford to leave town and set herself up nicely in some other more exotic part of the world.
As soon as everyone had settled down for their twilight slumber Eira’s Stepma crept down the stairs with her greedy claws stretched out wide. She began to skulk across the floor towards the Nutcracker, who was nestled under the fir tree. But upon hearing her lofty footsteps his eyes flew towards her and his jaws began to open.
Here comes a candle to light you to bed,
Here comes a chopper to chop off your head.
The old hag’s dead!
The Stepma’s head rolled across the floor stopping next to the final egg. As dawn rolled in the seventh egg began to fracture. A bright-breasted robin flew from the broken shell and dashed outside, settling on a snowy branch. From deep within his inflated chest he trilled out his morning-song, rousing everybody from their sleep and welcoming them to Christmas Day.
Eira and her Papa flew down the stairs to greet the frightening scene before them for the Stepma’s head still lay silently on the floor. However, no sadness was spared for the old hag; Oh hurrah! Hurrah! they exclaimed. Her broken body was swept away and Eira and her Papa celebrated their first Christmas in harmonious peace and joy as Mother Christmas sent another sprinkling of soft snow from the skies.