’Twas the Night Before Christmas: Textual issues

I’m fine with flying reindeer delivering presents to every earthly child in one night. However, Mr. Clement C. Moore has imbedded some serious textual inconsistencies in “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

The reindeer and sleigh are clearly diminutive: “miniature sleight . . . eight tiny reindeer  . . . tiny hooves.” Let’s say mouse/squirrel size. However all extant illustrations show St. Nick as proportional. A portly man looks ridiculous pulled by little beasties in a miniature sleigh, not to mention flying reindeer abuse. Case in point: Cinderella’s steeds were normal-size horses pulling a normal-size coach. Even flying reindeer have to be up to the job.

What clatter? Our speaker refers to a “clatter” on the roof (which doesn’t wake Mama, perhaps because her kerchief stifles sound, but I digress). Would eight rooftop mice or squirrels make a “clatter”? No, more like a scamper. Poor word choice, Clement.

What does the speaker see? Our speaker refers to St. Nick as “a right jolly old elf,” and elves are typically small, maybe as small as our “tiny reindeer.” However, he doesn’t note that St. Nick is diminutive. The two characters, when shown together (eg our speaker spying from around a corner), are always of similar height (although not body mass).

Are these real toys? The toys are apparently normal size. If they come down the chimney tiny and zoom to normal size in the living room, wouldn’t our otherwise observant narrator share this magic?

Does St. Nick shape-shift? Suppose he’s tiny in transit and when going through chimney. However, when he’s about to ascend in our speaker’s full view, there is no note of size transformation. A poet of Mr. Moore’s talents could easily have written: “[St. Nick] turned his head with a jerk/And laying his finger aside of his nose/ Then zap! down to mouse-size the plump figure goes.”

What about Mama? What happens when she sees all that mess of “ashes and soot” in the living room? I’m not crazy about ashes and soot causing a “tarnish,” but that’s another article.

Who hears the exclamation? Let’s accept a size-shifting Santa. He’s normal size in the living room and miniature/tiny when aloft and flying “out of sight.” Would those tiny vocal chords produce “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night” at a volume that carries from the horizon? I think not.

I welcome your commentary.




Pamela Schoenewaldt, historical novels of immigration and the search for self in new worlds: WHEN WE WERE STRANGERS, SWIMMING IN THE MOON, and UNDER THE SAME BLUE SKY (all HarperCollins).

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Posted in Just life
2 comments on “’Twas the Night Before Christmas: Textual issues
  1. Anonymous says:

    A perfect, uplifting read for a dreary and dad afternoon. 👍😳😍


  2. Anonymous says:

    Oops, sad, not dad afternoon.


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Sunday, May 6, 2pm reading from latest work at Hexagon Brewing Company, Knoxville, TN.

Thursday, May 10, 6-8 pm presentation on research on the historical novel, Blount County Library, Maryville, TN.

When We Were Strangers, Italian translation, to be presented in Pescasseroli, Italy, August 2018.

Recent Review
“Absorbing and layered with rich historical details, in Under the Same Blue Sky, Schoenewaldt weaves a tender and at times, heartbreaking story about German-Americans during World War I. With remarkable compassion, the author skillfully portrays conflicted loyalties, the search for belonging, the cruelty of war, and the resilience of the human spirit.”—Ann Weisgarber, author of The Promise and The Personal History of Rachel Dupree

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