A Friday Christmas Eve Tale

By Jay Stoeckl, Chief Assistant to the Assistant, Assistant Breeder, Dec. 22, 2023
Santa and wolves.jpg
Wolves love Christmas too!

This may be my last letter for some time as Jennifer plans to be home on Sunday and we may not be including a letter out Christmas day. At the very least, we’ll send a simple Christmas wish to you that morning.

In my final letter for a long time, I want to share with you a winter’s tale. This is an original piece I am going to put together as I go. Go grab a cup of hot chocolate, place your favorite Christmas throw over your legs, and sit by the fire. Hope your favorite American Dirus is lying nest to you. Hope you enjoy!

Now, I’m completely making this up. So wish me the best! Here goes:

Father Christmas was no Santa Claus. He stood in the upper room of his Norweigian fortress, pondering how much his story had changed since that Hollywood place had changed people’s impression of him.

Though short of stature, he was no jolly ol’ elf. In fact his face revealed nothing jolly about it at all. Expressionless, his eyes were deep and penetrating, exposing an unspoken wisdom that spanned nearly two thousand years, for that is how long he had been alive.

Though he wore a red coat and cap, they were very different from the Santa suit of that land across the sea. His had resembled more of a dwarf’s hood, with the fur-lined point long and resting across his  chest. And his coat was of a dark red woolen fabric, the finest cloth hand-spun looms could create.

Though aged, his long beard still possessed the brown and golden strands of his younger years.

The fringes of his coat were indeed lined with fur, but this fur had golden highlights and sparkled whenever he moved.

Beneath the coat was a simple red and green flannel shirt, black woolen pants, and red embroidered boots that stretched up his calves nearly reaching the knee.

The night sky was uncharacteristically clear this Christmas Eve. The Northern Lights danced to the rhythm of shepherd girls, kulning their songs to the cattle and sheep, calling them back to the barns for a bit of hay and a winter’s nap.

It had been years since Father Christmas made his yearly run through the local villages on Christmas Eve. It was his tradition to bring fresh-baked bread, home-made cookies, and chocolate truffles to every doorstep of every residence through a dozen residences. The children there, having expected his arrival, would leave their shoes out on the stoop in anticipation of finding their prizes there come the dawn of Christmas Day.

A tear appeared in Father Christmas’s eyes. It had been like this for over a decade. Christmas would live on all over the world. But Father Christmas was a prisoner inside his own castle. For he lived a solitary life far, far away from all the villages, none of them knowing at all that such a majestic castle existed that far to the wintry north.

“Why?” the townsfolk would ask. “Why have they not seen hint or sign of Father Christmas in a dozen years?” Had the old wizard disappeared altogether? Had he passed away despite his immortal nature? No one knew.

Christmas was everything to the angelic elf. He had made small wooden toys throughout the year, never to be delivered. As the townsfolk that far into the wilderness had no internet, no Walmart Superstores, and no Amazon, toys and chocolates were hard to come by. Half a generation had passed and the children would find their pathways to adulthood without ever knowing the Spirit of Christmas.

Whatever evil had taken away the reindeer, evil had won the day.

Who had done such a thing? Father Christmas gazed off toward the south. Such a holy night to be missed once again. For the reindeer who had carried his sleigh across the icy landscape had mysteriously disappeared. Always tame in his presence, the reindeer appeared to take pride in their annual, magical task. Over a dozen had appeared out of nowhere to take Father Christmas and all he had created out of love for the poor children of Norway.

He wiped a crystallizing tear from his somber cheek, turned and stepped towards his front door. The reindeer had failed to appear yet again. Christmas would be lost. A mug of hot chocolate would await him next to the fire, a small solace in a sea of sorrow.

Just as he turned the handle to the hefty wooden door, his senses piqued. He was sure he heard something. He turned his dark gray eyes out across the snow-laden landscape. Little hope the sound was of reindeer returning, for so well did Father Christmas know these sounds. No, this was entirely something else.

As the sound grew stronger to his ears, he thought that perhaps it was the shepherd girls calling out to the cattle and sheep, their melodic voices perhaps adrift on a northbound wind current. Similar in pitch, this strange new sound was not of the shepherd girls, but of wolves!

Father Christmas ventured toward the castle rampart, gazing long and hard towards the approaching sounds. Dire wolves howled. There had to be a few dozen or more as one echoed howl grew exponentially, a haunting chorus in a desolate wilderness.

Dire wolves hadn’t been seen in the world since the Ice Ages. Were these the culprits of the reindeer's disappearances? Did these elusive wolves consume the reindeer population to extinction?

No. Father Christmas could tell that these were no ordinary wolves. As they appeared in the snowy meadows between the pine-laden hills, more than a dozen wolves appeared, their shiny white coats shimmering like frost from the illuminated sky, each shimmer in rhythm to the dancing pattern of the pack.

No, magical creatures don’t hunt for survival. Like Father Christmas, the immortal beings require no sustenance. Oh, a mug of hot chocolate still brings elation to the heart, but it was not a requirement. And these wolves carried with them a joyful air as they danced and pranced about each other.

They circled in figure eight patterns until one of them, the alpha male, halted just a hundred meters from the magical fortress. Father Christmas’s mittened hands gripped the delicately carven wooden rail the moment the wolves eyes locked onto his.

In that moment, Father Christmas knew. The evil that had lurked had indeed taken away the reindeer and with them, the Spirit of Christmas. But dire wolves could never be overcome by evil. These were strong, majestic beings. Nothing could tear them down. Nothing could break their ecstasy.

From the arched front doors to the fortress, Father Christmas met the leader of the pack. He pulled behind him the sleigh he prepared every Christmas season in anticipation his prayers would be answered. This year, this 2023, he emerged for the first time. A smile did indeed appear on his once solemn face.

He bent down low to greet Mackinack, the strongest and most glorious of all the dire wolves. He reached down, offering a bare hand to the nose of the majestic being. Mackinack stretched forward, flicking the tip of his tongue across Father Christmas’s fingertips.

Yes, indeed, the reindeer were gone. But here the dire wolves had come to begin a new tradition. And indeed, a new era in the holy mission of Father Christmas.

Jennifer Stoeckl is the co-founder of the Dire Wolf Project, founder of the DireWolf Guardians American Dirus Dog Training Program, and owner/operator of DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito. She lives in the beautiful inland northwest among the Ponderosa pine forests with her pack of American Dirus dogs.