The novel's title character and protagonist is found as an abandoned baby on the edge of the enchanted Forest of Burzee. He is adopted by the wood-nymph Necile, who gives him the name Claus, and grows up surrounded by the magical immortals in the forest. When he reaches manhood, Claus decides to leave the forest and live among his own kind, although the immortals continue to help and protect him after he moves to the human world. The novel goes on to explain how Claus begins making toys which bring great joy to children, how he begins delivering the toys on a sleigh pulled by reindeer, why he enters houses via the chimney, how he gains the name Santa Claus and why he can only deliver the toys on Christmas Eve. The novel also explains the origins of Christmas stockings and Christmas trees and tells how Santa Claus gained immortality. The events of Baum's novel bear very little resemblance to accounts of the life and legends of Nicholas of Myra, a bishop said to have lived in what is now Demre, Turkey in the 3rd century CE, on whom the figure of Santa Claus is based.
Baum wrote a sequel to The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus in the form of the short story "A Kidnapped Santa Claus", which was first published in 1904.
There have been two animated adaptations of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. A stop-motion animation version, produced by Rankin-Bass, first aired in the United States on CBS on December 17, 1985. A second version, distributed by Universal, was released direct-to-video on October 31, 2000.
The Forest of Burzee is a place which has never been entered by humans. It is home to the wood-nymph Necile who is charged with looking after some pine trees. The trees need very little protection, consequently, Necile has very little work to do and she grows bored. When Ak the Master Woodsman of the World visits the forest, Necile hears him say that, although he is not obliged to, he often helps human children. He says that when he came to the forest that day, he found an abandoned baby boy on the edge of the wood which was being threatened by Shiegra the lion. Ak ordered Shiegra not to harm the child and to give him some of her milk. All of the other animals of the forest were also commanded to do no harm to the baby. On hearing about the baby boy, Necile immediately goes to the place where the child is lying. She asks permission of Ak to adopt the boy, explaining that she has no other work to occupy her. The child becomes the only human ever to be adopted by an immortal.
Necile names the child Neclaus, Baum explains that the name means "Necile's little one" and that it has sometimes been corrupted to Nicholas, hence the name Saint Nicholas. However, Necile always calls the boy Claus, as do all of her friends. Claus grows up in the Forest of Burzee and becomes familiar with all kinds of immortals; Nymphs, which look after trees, Ryls, which look after flowers and other plants, Knooks, which look after animals and prevent wild beats from acting too savagely, and Fairies, which watch over human beings. Claus also learns the languages of all plants and animals, however, as a child, he never sees another human.
When Claus reaches adolescence, Ak takes him on a journey through the human world. Claus is surprised to find that some people are rich and others are poor and is equally surprised to find that poor children are as happy as rich children when they are playing. Claus decides to leave the Forest of Burzee so that he can live among other people. However, he decides not to move very far away, so that he can return to ask Necile and the other immortals for advice. He is also assured that the immortals will protect and help him always. Claus makes his home in the Laughing Valley of Hohaho, where he lives with his cat Blinkie. He is welcomed everywhere, except at the homes of the wealthy Lord of Lerd and Baron Braun. He quickly befriends most of the local children and enjoys playing with them.
One snowy evening, having nothing else to do, Claus begins cutting a piece of wood. He is surprised to find that the wood forms the shape of a cat. Hearing a noise outside, Claus finds that it is a boy, who he recognizes as Weekum. the boy was on his way to his aunt's house but got lost in the snow. Claus takes the unfortunate Weekum inside and allows him to stay for the night. Weekum wants to hold Blinkie but the cat escapes from him. Claus gives him the wooden cat instead. The boy is delighted with the wooden cat, which becomes the world's first toy, and proudly shows it to his mother when he returns home. Claus realizes that he can cheer up poor and sick children by making wooden cats for them. He makes more. The Ryls supply him with colors which he uses to paint the cats.
Shiegra the lion enters Claus' house and tells him to make a wooden model of her instead of a cat. Claus carves a wooden lion, however, when he tries to give it to a girl named Mayrie, she is frightened by it. Claus decides never to make toys of frightening animals again but starts to make models of animals other than cats. He takes the toys to the homes of local children and many children also come to his house to receive them.
One day, Claus is visited by Bessie Blithesome, the daughter of the wealthy Lord of Lerd. Claus is reluctant to give her a toy, believing that she already has everything that she wants. However, the Queen of the Fairies tells him that rich children have as much right to be happy as poor children. Claus makes the first doll for Bessie. The toy proves very popular and Claus makes more.
Claus comes to the attention of the Awgwas, evil beings which are not immortal but which are invisible to humans. The Awgwas had delighted in tempting children to be naughty but had found that it was more difficult to tempt them since Claus had started making them happy by giving them toys. While he is sleeping, Claus is abducted by the Awgwas and taken to the faraway jungle of Ethop. Fortunately, Claus is able to call on the Knooks to protect him from the dangerous animals in the jungle and to take him home. The immortals place protective seals on Claus' windows and doors which prevent the Awgwas from entering. However, while he is outside, Claus is snatched again and taken to a cave, far from trees, plants and animals and the immortals which protect them. However, because he is a human and under the protection of the Fairies, Claus is rescued again.
The Awgwas realize that they cannot kill Claus but prevent him from giving out toys. Every time he goes out, they steal the toys from him. Children try to go to his house to get toys but the Awgwas cause them to get lost on the way. Claus continues making toys but is unable to give them to any children. He asks Ak for help. Ak tries to reason with the Awgwas but it is useless. For the first time, the immortals go to war to defend Claus. Dragons, goblins and giants join the war on the side of the evil Awgwas but "It is the Law that... the powers of Good can never be overthrown when opposed to Evil' and the Awgwas are completely destroyed.
All of the Awgwas having perished, Claus is free to deliver toys again. He starts to travel farther away, carrying the toys with him in a sack. He gets ideas for new toys from the children that he meets. The arrival of winter snow prevents Claus from going out again, until he notices two deer, Flossie and Glossie, who are able to walk on the surface of the snow. The deer tell Claus that he could travel if he harnessed them to a sledge. They get permission from the Knooks to help Claus but are told that they have to be back in the forest before daybreak the following day.
It is already evening by the time that Claus has finished his sledge. When Claus arrives in town, it is night, evrybody is asleep and all the doors and windows are locked. Claus thinks that it will be impossible to deliver the toys but Glossie suggests that he can get inside a house by going down the chimney. The following morning, everybody in the town relaizes that the toys must have been delivered by Claus but nobody understands how he could have entered the houses. People come to the conclusion that he must be a saint and begin to call him Santa Claus. Parents also start to tell their children that he will only give them presents if they are good. Claus himself, however, does not like that idea because he "knew that the best of children were sometimes naughty, and that the naughty ones were often good".
The Knooks are angry because Flossie and Glossie came back one minute after daybreak. The Prince of Knooks tells Claus that, although he can be assisted by up to ten deer, he can only be helped by them once a year on Christmas Eve. He chooses that date because it is only ten days away and he belives that Claus will not be ready to make another journey until the following year. However, the fairies recover the toys which the Awgwas stole from Claus. With the help of the Gnome King, Claus is able to build a larger sleigh and he calls on eight more reindeer, Racer, Pacer, Reckless, Speckless, Fearless, Peerless, Ready and Steady, to help him.
At one of the houses that Claus delivers to on his first Christmas Eve, the four children had been playing in the melting snow, which made their clothes wet. Claus sees their stockings hanging by the fireplace to dry. He recognizes them as children's stockings and fills them with toys instead of going up to the children's bedrooms. The children are delighted and tell all their friends abot what happened. The following year, many more children hang up their stockings for Claus.
A Fairy tells Claus about some children who live in a tent in a land where there are no trees. Claus takes the top of a pine tree, decorates it and places it in the sand next to the tent. He is pleased with the result and takes a few more trees with him the following year. He is unable to carry very many but parents begin providing trees for their children themselves.
Claus grows older. He stops making toys and lies on his bed all day. Ak summons all the immortals in the world to a council. He tells them that Claus should continue to bring happiness to children for many years to come and proposes that they place the Mantle of Immortality, the only one of its kind in existence, on him. The other immortals are surprised by the suggestion but all vote in favor. The Mantle of Immortality is placed on Claus just as Death is approaching him. It becomes an inseparable part of his body.
Many years pass and the number of children in the world greatly increases. Claus takes on a Fairy, a Pixie, a Knook and a Ryl to help him make the toys and look after the reindeer. Claus then discovers a new problem, he finds that many houses no longer have large chimneys which lead to fireplaces, meaning that he cannot enter them. However, his helpers are able to pass through walls and doors and are able to enter houses which Claus cannot. For that reason, the Fairy, the Pixie, the Knook and the Ryl now always accompany Claus on his yearly journey.
Baum ends the novel by saying that, although Santa Claus is rarely seen, children should not think that he is trying to avoid them. He would love to play with children today just as he played with children in the Laughing Valley long ago but he is simply too busy.
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900)
- "Old Santeclaus with Much Delight" (1821)
- "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (1823)
- "A Letter from Santa Claus" (1875)
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1939)
- Father Christmas (1973)
- Father Christmas Goes on Holiday (1975)
- The Polar Express (1985)
- Winnie and Wilbur Meet Santa (2015)
- Text of L. Frank Baum's The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus on Wikisource.
- Free public domain audiobook of The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus from LibriVox.
- The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus on The Wonderful Wiki of Oz.
- The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (1985) and The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (2000) on Christmas Specials Wiki.