It’s a great shame that Roald Dahl never actually wrote any full-length Christmas stories. The subject is the perfect territory for him. Christmas delivers all the trappings of a good morality tale, with its mixture of greedy children, stupid adults spoiling them and in Father Christmas, a central figure who is a mixture of warmth and generosity on the one hand, mischievousness and malevolence on the other.
Come to think of it, he did write that story in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, with Willy Wonka as the Santa figure. The factory with its Elf like workers and rooms stacked full of staggering bounty for all the children of the world is rather like the North Pole workshop. And in Wonka’s surprising generosity to the poverty-stricken Charlie Bucket we have an echo of Scrooge and Tiny Tim.
But if you want something more explicitly Christmassy, then you have to turn to a poem he wrote for Great Ormond Street Hospital with a majestic illustration by Quentin Blake. Where Art Thou Mother Christmas? introduces us to the real force behind the holiday: Please welcome the hardest working woman in Greenland, Mother Christmas.
Where art thou, Mother Christmas? I only wish I knew Why Father should get all the praise And no-one mentions you.
I’ll bet you buy the presents
And wrap them large and small
While all the time that rotten swine
Pretends he’s done it all.
So Hail To Mother ChristmasWho shoulders all the work
And down with Father Christmas,
That unmitigated jerk.
Mother Christmas features in the Roald Dahl Treasury