A Different Dickens Christmas Story

I’m going to start my annual re-reading of A Christmas Carol tonight.  One stave a night for five nights will let me finish it on Christmas Eve.  My edition of A Christmas Carol also contains several other Christmas stories that Dickens wrote.  I’ve read them before, but it’s been a while and I had some time this afternoon, so I decide to give them a read again.

The one that really caught my attention today is called “The story of the goblins that stole a sexton”.  It’s not a great title.  I think I would call it “The Tale of Gabriel Grub”, but Dickens didn’t ask me.  It’s from The Pickwick Papers, which I have never read.  In a nutshell, the story is about a sexton named Gabriel Grub.  He is, “an ill-conditioned, cross-grained surly fellow-a morose and lonely man, who consorted with nobody but himself and an old wicker bottle.”  On Christmas Eve, Grub runs across some people trying to make merry, and makes a point of ruining their fun.  Then he goes to the graveyard to dig a grave (that’s his job as a sexton).  Part way through the job, he stops and lies down to rest and drink.  Then a bunch of goblins show up and torment him.  They also show him visions of good and generous and happy people.  This changes Grub and he leaves town to become a better person.  The townspeople find his discarded spade and bottle and assume that the goblins took him.

The similarities to A Christmas Carol are pretty obvious, but the story doesn’t feel anything like A Christmas CarolA Christmas Carol is a story that features ghosts.  Whereas Gabriel Grub is a ghost story.  It would work well around a campfire and might be a bit scary for the little ones.  That’s what really caught my attention today, the idea of a Christmas ghost story.  It seems that Dickens was fond of the idea.  Besides A Christmas Carol and “Gabriel Grub”, he also wrote a novella called The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain about Christmas.  

I hadn’t thought of it before, but Christmas ghost stories have become something of a tradition.  Unfortunately, they are almost all variations on A Christmas Carol.  I think we should nurture this tradition and try to add variety.  I’d like to try at least.  I don’t have enough time before this Christmas to write my own Christmas ghost story, so I want to make a commitment to have a Christmas ghost story ready before Christmas 2018 and thereby add a little bit to the tradition.

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