Tuesday, December 8, 2009

December Stories and Songs, Part 7

There are just a few Christmas stories that have become iconic, and subject to endless retellings and re-imaginings. One is the Nativity story itself; another is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; and a third is O. Henry’s classic short story, Gifts of the Magi. (According to the editors of A Christmas Treasury, from which I took my reading, this is the original title; it makes more sense to me than the usual The Gift of the Magi, but I have not been able to verify this.) Hardly a year goes by without some film or television special giving us a new version; in fact, one of the stories I blogged about last year, Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas, is essentially a retelling of the O. Henry tale. In any case, that’s the story for December 7. (Sorry about the late posting.)

O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) wrote several Christmas tales – The Cop and the Anthem and Whistling Dick’s Christmas Stocking come to mind. Many of his stories were first published in the New York World’s Sunday magazine, and Gifts of the Magi, said to have been written in Pete’s Tavern, (hence the photo above) was published in the World on December 10, 1905. Later it appeared in the short story collection The Four Million. gift of the magi Since it is now in the public domain, there are a number of illustrated versions available, and it appears in probably 9 out of 10 Christmas anthologies as well. However, you can also read it here if you like.

Illustrated books, films, musicals, and at least two operas (one in Finnish!) have been based on the story, and the Squirrel Nut Zippers have a song that recounts the story on their CD Christmas Caravan. Christmas Caravan And, through the magic of YouTube, here they are performing The Gift of the Magi: