Tis the season: lights, decorations, Yule logs, nativity scenes, mistletoe, holiday cheer, and of course, Krampus.
One of the things that I love about the Hellboy series is the way that the creative team incorporates myths, legends, and the occult. Myths are such powerful forms of storytelling and they convey profound wisdom and insight into the human condition that they are able to be re-imagined with each new generation. And that is exactly what this issue does—it presents the story of Krampus in a way that resonates with the average American reader.
You’re going to have to bear with me. I’m an American. Over there we’ve got Santa Claus and the elves with toys. Over here… you’ve got Saint Nicholas and his monster sidekick, the Krampus. While Nick’s handing out toys, Krampus–that’s you–hits the bad kids with sticks and rides them around in a basket.
Toward the end of the tale, Hellboy and the professor discuss the possible origins of the Krampus legend.
Professor: Well, I wonder what old Harry Middleton will make of this. I’ll have to call him in the morning… For years he’s maintained that the Krampus was actually the demon goat of the witches’ sabbath, done up in fancy dress for the holidays. And I’ve argued that it was just a slightly nastier variation on the Scandinavian Yule Goat.
Hellboy: “Yule Goat.”
Professor: Yule Goat. Joulupukki. The pre-Christian goat-man version of Father Christmas.
I had never heard of Joulupukki before, but a quick search online provided me with some background on the myth.
Joulupukki is a Finnish Christmas figure. The name “Joulupukki” literally means “Christmas goat” or “Yule Goat” in Finnish; the word pukki comes from the Teutonic root bock, which is a cognate of the English “buck”, and means “billy-goat”. An old Scandinavian custom, the figure eventually became more or less conflated with Santa Claus.
Pagans used to have festivities to honour the return of the sun and some believe Joulupukki is the earliest form of present-day Santa. The Yule Goat was thought by some to be an ugly creature and frightened children while others believe it was an invisible creature that helped prepare for Yule.
Most theorists believe when Christianity began incorporating Pagan ways into their festivals in order to justify the action, they merged the Pagan figure with an already existing Catholic legend known as Saint Nicholas to create Santa Claus.
While the holiday season is a time of celebration throughout cultures and traditions, there is also a touch of the mystical associated with it, and this is often conveyed through ghost stories related to the season.
There must always be ghost stories at Christmas, Elizabeth.
Thanks for stopping by, and may you have a blessed holiday season and a joyous New Year.