As related by Santa Fox himself
Text ©2007 Santa Fox; illustration ©2007 Grrrowly the Bear
There are many stories of Christmas time where animals play a pivotal role. At the top of this list would fall such classics as the story of the reindeer who helped Santa Claus make his Christmas Eve delivery on time. There is, however, a little-known story about an unlikely forest creature who once helped to save Christmas for a very special group of children. It all happened many, many years ago, back in a much simpler time.
It was Christmas Eve, and as usual, Santa Claus and his team of elves were hard at work packing up the sleigh for Santas annual flight around the world. Beautiful hand-made toys were carefully stowed in the giant red sack, the sleigh polished to a perfect shine, the reindeer fed and groomed. Santa, dressed in his red and white suit of fur, stepped out of the workshop, gave Mrs. Claus a hug and a kiss, and then mounted the sleigh. With a crack of his whip and a jolly Ho, ho, ho! the reindeer galloped forward and soon the sleigh was aloft.
This particular night started out exceptionally well. With mild weather through most of the world, Santa made very good time. Thousands and thousands of chimneys he slipped down, carefully laying presents under trees and in stockings. And, of course, there were all of those plates of cookies and glasses of milk to help keep him jolly through the night.
During part of his journey this night, Santa traveled between two small English towns that were fairly close to each other. Large, open, snow-covered fields separated the two towns, so Santa kept the sleigh low, taking in the wonderful sights of Mother Nature as he hurried on his way.
Now, in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, most wildlife will be fast asleep, but there was one creature still stirring. A little red fox was scurrying about, looking for a quick meal before setting down for the night. Santa spotted the lovely red fox and watched him as he ran from place to place, sniffing the bushes for signs of prey. As Santa watched, the little fox poked his head into one clump of bushes. He took a step into the bushes, then suddenly jumped back in shock. His leg had been caught up in the thick rope of a hunters snare.
Santa felt terrible for the poor fellow and he quickly landed his sleigh. Cautiously, he approached the little fox and then paused for a moment. The fox seemed upset; certainly scared, but still friendly even so. In his eyes was a look of fear and sadness. He seemed to be asking Santa to help him, and so Santa slowly walked up to the snare, watching closely to see if the fox would stay calm. He did, so Santa carefully loosened the snare and set the little fox free.
The fox licked his freed leg, then looked up at Santa with a wide smile. Santa gave him a friendly pat on the head and a scritch behind his ears. The fox followed Santa back to the sleigh, and when Santa saw him, he smiled and waggled a finger at the fox, then climbed up into the sleigh. The fox looked longingly at Santa, but Santa cheerfully waggled his finger again, and then picked up his whip. However, as soon as Santa turned his attention to his reindeer, the little fox swiftly and quietly scurried up onto the back seat of the sleigh and hid down by the floorboards. Santa cracked his whip, and the sleigh took off with a lurch.
The little fox stayed in the back as Santa continued delivering toys. Poking his head out the side from time to time, he would look with amazement at the places where Santa would land. It was so strange to him to see so many unusual looking towns. He had lived in the English countryside, and had wandered into a few towns around his part of the forest, but most of the places he was seeing this night were very different from those sleepy little English towns.
In one village, the fox looked out and saw two large dogs come running towards the sleigh. Scared, he dove down under the back seat and waited for the sleigh to take off. Once airborne, the fox crawled out from under the seat, and noticed that hed pulled out with him an old red and white fur hat, much like Santas hat but a little too small for Santa. It probably belonged to one of Santas elves, but it was a perfect fit for a wily red fox, so he lobbed it onto his head.
The night crept onward as Santa made more and more stops. The little fox loved every moment, and kept hoping that the journey would never end. He was tired, though, so he finally settled down into the floorboards for a little nap. When he awoke, he heard Santa talking to his reindeer.
This is it, my friends. The last town. Our last deliveries, and then we can head ho, ho, home!
They were landing in a small town with maybe two dozen families, plus one orphanage with twenty children in residence. Santa dropped off toys at all of the homes, and then landed just outside of the orphanage. He reached into his sack to get the last of his toys, but his hands came up empty. He looked down into the sack, but there was nothing there! It could not be, but somehow he had miscounted and was short by just the number of toys needed for the orphanage.
Santa turned around and rubbed his temples. How could this happen? How could I have miscounted? I checked that listchecked it twice. Every child every single girl and boy should have had a toy. How could I be twenty short?
The little red fox heard Santa sulking and wanted to do something to help, for he could not stand to see Santa so sad. He slipped up to the front seat and rubbed gently against Santa, hoping to cheer him up somehow.
You? Santa said in surprise. What are you doing here? And in that hat, too? Ho, ho, my, you look so cute in that hat, you sly little fellow, you.
The fox smiled and winked. He had made Santa feel better, but what about the children in the orphanagethe ones who would wake up and not have any toys? He wanted to do something for them, too, but what could he do?
Lucky for you, were not very far from your home, so Ill take you back to where you belong. Santa laughed at firstthen he sighed. But, those poor children arent so lucky. I dont have time to get to the North Pole and back before they wake up. I feel so terribleif only there was something I could do.
Now, a lot of people do not know this, but Santa can speak to and understand the wild animals of the world. They do not talk to him casually or regularly, but rather they consider this ability to be a very special giftone to be used only when absolutely necessary. In thinking over the current situation, the little fox realized that if ever there was a time to speak, this was it.
Allow me to assist you, kind sir. If you will loan me this fine cap and a bell harness from one of your deer, I shall greet and entertain the little tykes while you return home for their presents. I shall keep them happy and occupied until you arrive. I give you my word on that.
Santa was shocked. A fox, entertaining young children? It was a strange ideaone of the strangest he had ever heardbut without any other options, he decided to go along with it.
Here you go, mister fox, Santa said as he fastened a bell collar around the foxs neck and adjusted it for a close fit. Why, you look as pretty as a picture. I wish you good luck, and I shall return just as quickly as I can!
The fox jumped down off the sleigh, gave Santa a nod, and watched as the sleigh took to the sky. He then scurried over to the orphanage and found an open window in the back. Slipping in, he made his way into the front parlor and curled up in front of the tree.
About an hour later, the first child awoke and crawled into the parlora little boy no more than five years old. He saw the fox under the tree and, being a typical five-year-old, called out Foxie! Foxie! Soon, several more children crawled out of bed and came into the parlor to see what was going on.
The fox stood up. He knew he had to work quickly, for if he did not win over the children before the housemother awoke, he would be shooed out rather ungracefully, and that would be most unfortunate for the children. He stood up on his hind legs, and began to dance a little jig that he had seen an Irishman do once in one of the towns near his home. He started out slowly at first, then as he got used to dancing on the hard wooden floor, he went faster and faster, bouncing more and more up into the air with each step. The bells on his neck began to jingle, and their sounds amused the children as much as the foxs dancing. The little five-year-old toddled up to the fox, and the fox let him take his paws and they danced together. The boy soon tired out, and another child took his place.
All of a sudden, the housemother came into the parlor.
What is going on in here? she asked. She then saw the boy and the fox and she stammered, My goodness! A fox! Boy, get away from that fox now!
But, hes not just a fox!
Not just a fox?
No, hes hes The boy wanted to say something to convince the housemother that the fox was okay.
Another child, a little bit older, chimed in, Hes Santa FoxSanta Clauss little helper.
The fox nodded vividly at this. The housemother stared on in puzzlement.
The older child said, Dont you see his lovely hat and all those wonderful bells around his neck? Only Santas helper would be dressed like that!
The housemother did not know what to think. The fox knew that he needed to win her over, so he pulled out all the stops. He jumped to the middle of the parlor, and balanced very carefully on one foot. Then, he tucked his other foot behind his head. He stretched over backwards, touching the floor behind him with his front paws, then curled up into a tiny little ball and rolled around on the floor. Finally, he took a bow and held out his front legs, and two of the youngest children ran up to hug him. Soon, all of the kids were hugging him and dancing with him, and the all the housemother could do was just sit back and watch and laugh happily.
A short while later there was a knock at the door with an echoing Ho, ho, ho! The housemother opened the door, and if she had not already been startled enough, she found Santa Claus himself standing right there in front of her.
My goodness gracious! What in the world are you doing here?
Why, Ive come to deliver toys to all of your children, and to pick up my helper as well. I hope hes been doing a good job.
Oh, indeed he has. The children are just elated to have him around. I know theyll be sad to see him go as will I.
Santa and the housemother stepped into the parlor together. The fox spotted Santa and stopped, looking up to him and letting him take the childrens attention.
Its Santa Claus! Its Santa Claus! the children yelled out happily. They crowded around him and were all trying to talk to him at once.
Now, now, children. Now, then, have you been enjoying my little friend over there?
One of the older children spoke up. Oh, yes, Santa Fox has been wonderfuljust wonderful, Mr. Claus!
Yes, yes! said another child. I cant remember when Ive had so much fun!
Can we keep him, Santa? Can we keep Santa Fox?
The fox looked to Santa, and gave a little turn of his head. But, Santa did not have to be told; he knew that the fox could not stay at the orphanage. His home was in the forest, and that was where he belonged.
Im so sorryI wish Santa Fox could stay with you, but he cant. He has his own home and his own family that he has to be with. But, if you are all really good, then I bet that hell come back to see you next Christmas, wont you Santa Fox?
The fox nodded sharply, giving a wide smile. This was music to his ears; to get to come out each Christmas and entertain the children! He went right into another jig, and the children and Santa clapped in time as the fox danced.
Finally, it was time for Santa (and Santa Fox) to go. With plenty of presents to go around, the children were well occupied, and with a final thank-you and a kiss goodbye from the housemother, Santa set off back to his sleigh, with Santa Fox at his heels.
You did a good job back there, Santa Fox. In fact, Im going to let you keep the bells and hat if youd like. The fox nodded, and Santa said, Good. Now, I need to take you back home, and then I have a long overdue appointment with Mrs. Claus. Ho, ho, ho!
And so, every year Santa would pick up Santa Fox from his den in the forest and take him to the orphanage to dance for the children and do tricks and just let them cuddle and hug him. After about ten years, though, the fox found he was growing old, and he did not have the same liveliness that he used to have. Finally, one year when Santa arrived at his den, the fox spoke to him, and for only the second time in all those years.
My dear sir, I know how much the orphanage means to you, and it means just as much to me. But, I am an old fox now. My fur has grayed and my muscles have grown tired, and I fear my body will take the stress no longer. I do so hate to disappoint the little tykes, but I am afraid I simply do not have the strength for another year.
Santa Fox bowed his head, a tear dropping from his eyes. It was clear that he wanted to go so badly, to continue the tradition he had started so many years ago.
Oh, Santa Fox, you have done so much for those children, and you really got me out of a pickle the year when we met. You have given of yourself every year, tirelessly working to make those childrens Christmas days a little brighter. You deserve a reward, and so you shall get it!
Santa set his mittened hands on Santa Foxs cheeks, and the fox felt a warmth flow throughout his body. He could feel his joints get looser, his muscles less stiff. He felt the scars of old wounds fade away in an instant. He looked down at his front legs and the graying fur on them had turned a brilliant rust color again, a shade he had not seen in well over five years. His vision and hearing seemed sharper, much like the days of his prime. Slowly, the warmth receded, and Santa removed his hands and stepped back.
Santa Fox, I have given you the everlasting life that I possess. You shall be forever young, and forever able to entertain children for Christmases to come.
Well then, Santa Fox said merrily as he bounced over to the sleigh, what are we waiting for? Tally ho! Off to the orphanage with us!
Santa Claus laughed as he had not laughed in many a year, and together the two took off in the sleigh.
And, to this very day, Santa Fox continues to entertain children and families everywhere. He spends most of his time up at the north pole with Santa Claus, but he comes out into the world to entertain in a number of towns every single Christmas season, and he even makes a few special appearances at other times of the year. While Santa Claus may be the one to bring toys to all of the good girls and boys, it is Santa Fox who brings the gift of lively and magical holiday entertainment to children and families everywhere!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!