Title: Krampus: The Yule Lord
Plot Type: Horror with Dark Humor
Ratings: Violence—5; Sensuality—0; Humor—3
Publisher: HarperCollins (10/2012)
Eventually, the devil creatures commandeer Jesse and his truck because none of them know how to drive, having died long before cars were invented. These fiendish men (and one woman) are called Belsnickels, and they are blood-sworn slaves to Krampus, Lord of the Yule. Krampus, who is the son of Loki, has been imprisoned in a cave for 500 years, and if he can get hold of Loki's sack, he can reach in and get the key to unlock his manacles. The man who imprisoned Krampus is Santa Claus (or jolly old St. Nicholas, as he sometimes calls himself). Santa used to be called Baldr, back in pre-Christian days when people worshipped a pantheon of gods and goddesses. In those days, he was an arrogant, narcissistic jerk who wound up in Hel and was then resurrected, only to turn on his rescuer—Krampus. In the world of this novel, Santa now stands for modern-day Christianity, while Krampus represents the old pagan ways, when the line between good and evil was crystal clear and when people feared as well as revered their deities. Santa sees Krampus as a throwback to the olden times; Krampus views Santa as the worshipper of a single arrogant God who completely shuts out all other gods.
Here is Santa as he confronts Krampus: "Yule is dead. It is the past. Men need a path to enlightenment, to be set free from trivial earthbound concerns, to see beyond the limitations of flesh and blood. Life is fleeting, but the hereafter is eternal...Foolish beast, earth is nothing more than a rock in space...The world has moved on and left you behind. You have become nothing but a pathetic relic of days long dead." (pp. 201-202) Krampus responds: "You worship death. You and all the One Gods. They seduce mankind with their promises of glory attained in the hereafter, thus blinding men to the splendor before them here on earth. One can never expect to achieve enlightenment if one does not first live life to its fullest." (p. 202) And here's what Krampus thinks about Christmas: "Christmas is an abomination. A perversion! Yule is the true spirit of Mother Earth. Yule is the rebirth of the seasons. Without Yuletide, Mother Earth cannot heal herself...will wither and die." (p. 117) Obviously, the two will never see eye to eye.
I'll try a few analogies to point out their differences: In a very (VERY!) loose application of Freudian psychoanalytic terms, Krampus is the id (because he lives for pleasure without the restrictions of morality), Santa is the ego (because he tries to be a realistic, long-term thinker), and the Belsnickels are the super-ego (because they are always trying to curb Krampus' excesses). Or if you want to put it in pop culture terms, Krampus is a cross between the Grinch and Bad Santa (with his hot temper, his punishment of the naughty, and his love of a good strong drink), and Santa Claus is a cross between Hulk Hogan and Brigham Young (lots of muscles, a stern visage, and multiple wives).
Although the violence can get bloody and graphic, the story has plenty of dark humor, as in the scene in which Krampus watches a young boy as he mindlessly plays a video game, "staring glassy-eyed, his mouth half-open, looking like a lobotomy patient." Krampus concludes that the boy is bewitched, so he smashes the screen and announces to the stunned child, "You are free. The world is now yours. Go take it." As Krampus leaves the room he remarks to Jesse, "It seems there are other demons besides Santa's ghost to contend with." (p. 236)
Brom tells a terrific story, and he makes the book even richer with his liberal insertion of illustrations—both in black and white and in rich, full color. This novel is definitely a page-turner that you won't want to put down until you read through to the very end. Here's a test: if you're the type of person who laughs out loud at Terry Gilliam's sadistic animated Chrismas card, then this book is definitely one that you will love. (Click on the "Terry Gilliam" pink-link to take a look at the "card.")