The Krampus has resurged in recent years, commonly known as the ‘Folkloric Devil’ of Christmas or ‘Anti-Clause’; it is said that the Krampus punishes naughty children by beating them with a rusty chain before dragging them back to its fiery lair. With our ever-growing cynical society, it is probably not so unexpected that the Krampus has become such a fascinating topic.
Al Ridenour has put together a stunning book, filled to the brim with folklore, cultural history and Anthropology. THE KRAMPUS is not just a standardised fact-based book, but very much resembles a travel memoir at times, where the reader is taken on a journey of mythical discovery alongside the author’s own experiences. With little information on this mysterious and terrifying creature, Ridenour fills in the gaps, leading us on an adventure around the foothills of North America and the vast outreaches of Europe, to investigate the origin of the demon further.
According to Ridenour, and perhaps unsurprising to some, the dark roots associated with the Krampus’s birth come from Germanic origin. The story of the Krampus was presumed to have been created to frighten children into behaving, much like our own version of the Boogeyman. Ridenour’s description of his first encounter with the Krampus is deeply disturbing and atmospheric.
‘It was the sound that alerted me, a ponderous, metallic clatter somewhere out in the dark. Our headlights caught something like a lumbering forest animal… Through the flickering snowfall, I saw only pieces: moving hillocks of fur and bobbing horns, chains, and broom-like protuberances – bundled switches wagging in the creatures’ fists… I glimpsed the belts hung on the back with those clattering bunches of bells, each nearly the size of a cannon ball… One turned toward us, his mask displaying an insane lantern-jawed grimace and maw crammed with impossible teeth…’
An otherworldly atmosphere is created by the use of auditory and visual imagery. The monster feels real to us even though later on we find out that the author has begun to witness what the town’s folk call the Remplar, a ritualised territorial war between two opposing Krampuses from different troupes. Of course, the demon that Ridenour describes is but a man dressed in the costume of a Krampus, although from the clever use of description and angled perspective, it seems as though the demon has been brought back to life.
In addition to invoking a chilling miasma, the realistic telling of the demonic creature invites speculation on whether some lingering truth may be apparent in the myth; who knows, once upon a time there may have been a demon named the Krampus that lurked in the Old World and ventured out when the clock struck midnight and Christmas day had indeed arrived…
Ridneour takes us deeper into the legend of the Krampus and argues that the influences surrounding the birth of the creature may even go all the way back to the church. He also mentions various intriguing suggestions, such as, St. Nicholas, the Alpine pagan witch Frau Perchta, the march of the Nachtvolk (Night Folk) and the Perchten (devilish spirits).
Ridenour’s writing is beautiful and engaging, accompanied by well-researched ideas and vivid illustrations, THE KRAMPUS is perfect for the Grinch’s out there who hate Christmas or even for those that revel in the festivities such as myself, will both enjoy this dark take on the commonly fun and jolly season.
Post by Sarah