Monday, December 03, 2012

Père Fouettard

I need some new material for the Dougmas season. Let's talk about the unsavory sorts that follow Santa around.

Père Fouettard (French for The Whipping Father) is a companion of St. Nicholas known mostly in the east of France. He's sort of the love child of Norman Bates and Sweeny Todd. According to legend there were three rich children going to enroll in religious school who stayed in his inn. There he drugged them, slit their throats, cut them up, made them into a nice stew. Apparently, this is what the French refer to as a "robbery". St. Nick revived the children and took Pére Fouettard as a companion. Opinion is divided over whether this was punishment or Pére Fouettard repented.

Other stories have the three boys getting lost while searching the fields for food missed at harvest. They come to Pére for shelter where they get chopped up and thrown in a barrel of brine.

While St Nick goes around handing out gifts to the good children, Pére Fouettard gives out coal and floggings to the bad ones.

His appearance differs from place to place. Generally he wears dark robes, sports a long, messy beard, and carries a whip, stick, or bundle of switches. Sometimes he has a backpack to carry away bad children. Other times he's nearly identical to Santa, but with a black suit instead of red. You know, much the way you tell good Spiderman from bad. His ride tends to be a donkey, but is sometimes a white steed.

He made some appearances in America in the 30's as Father Flog or Spanky.

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