Wednesday, December 24, 2014

New versions of old stories

Last night I caught a few minutes of The Muppet Christmas Carol on television and marveled once again at how the story written so many years ago by Charles Dickens keeps getting told and retold in so many different forms. A year ago in this space I observed that even the John Mortimer short story Rumpole and the Christmas Spirit, so different from the Dickens tale, can nevertheless be seen as a variation on the Dickens formula. What might Dickens have thought had he been visited by the Ghost of Christmas Future and allowed to see how his creation would evolve over time?

Other classic stories similarly get retold in so many different ways. I am thinking particularly of the Greek myths and the Grimm fairy tales, but there are plenty of other examples. And at Christmas we must also mention the original story, the Nativity, which is still reenacted thousands of times each year at this time, usually with children in the starring roles.

The December issue of Christianity Today includes an article by Sarah Arthur called "Have Yourself a Merry Kitschy Christmas" about the many variations on the basic Nativity set that have been created. Some might strike purists as sacrilegious,  such as those featuring superheroes or, in the Meat Nativity, bacon and sausages on a bed of hash browns. This doesn't bother Arthur, however. Whether Wonder Woman or a little girl in her bathrobe portrays Mary doesn't really matter. What's important, as in the case of A Christmas Carol performed by Muppets, is the story itself.

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