Here is a post on one of my personal favorite Christmas-themed books of all times! To be perfectly honest, the story is still a bit long for my boys who are 3.5 and 1.5 years old. I tired reading it with Alexandros by breaking it down into parts, but somehow couldn’t quite get him into the story. Part of the thing, he is really into snakes, dinosaurs and maps right now. Currently on his Charismas gift list is a cobra. He understand Santa can’t bring him a real one from India as a cobra just wouldn’t like it, so he says he is OK with that, just wants a toy cobra that is very realistic! Earlier our Christmas list had a live tarantula and an anaconda. 🙂 So…. the cute bunnies aren’t quite cutting it for him as far as the story goes 🙂
But in any case, this story is so good and the illustrations are so wonderful that I think this book is one of those classic ones you can read over and over again throughout your entire childhood and later. I re-read it every winter. So here it is.
Who is a Tomte?
In Swedish tradition it is a tomte (or jultomte — Yule tomte) who brings Christmas presents to children. It is traditional to leave a bowl of porridge out for the tomato on Christmas night as a special gift to thank him.
Here is a bit of a cultural reference on a Tomte from Ingebretsen’s Nordic Marketplace:
“They are both solitary, mischievous domestic sprites responsible for the protection and welfare of the farmstead and its buildings. Tomte literally means “homestead man” and is derived from the word tomt which means homestead or building lot.”
“A tomte is described as an older, little man about the size of a young child. He wears old often ragged clothes, usually gray or navy, and sports a bright red cap on his head. He resides in the pantry or barn and watches over the household and farm.”
A little bit about the story
So in this story, a Tomte named Grump is living all alone in a cottage where once a family used to live but they moved away long ago. He is rather lonely, but it is unbecoming for a Tomte to acknowledge so. 🙂 After all, there is a lot of work to be done regardless and that’s something an Tomte takes very seriously, even though the family has moved away.
And in the forest in a cozy little home under a tree lives a family of rabbits.
And quite some way away, under an enormous oak tree in a big forest, was a rabbit burrow. The burrow was full of life.
Mother Rabbit was cooking cabbage juice. Auntie Bunty was polishing winter apples, wrapping them in sycamore leaves, and putting them away i na corner. Uncle Nubbin was doing his exercises. Father Rabbit was brushing his black hat. And Grandfather Rabbit was thinking. He liked thinking. At that moment he was thinking about why things went downwards when they fell.
And the children? Well, the were rushing around, being noisy.
One day two rabbit children find Tomte’s red hat that a wind blew off and a part of the sign that used to read “Tomte’s Cottage”, but now it only read “Tomte’s co…”. As they bring it back to the borrow the whole family now tries to figure out what those things and what the sign meant to say. With the help of a wise owl and clever jackdaws it is decided that the sign meant to say “Tomte is coming”.
There was a moment of silence. Then Binny spoke.
“What’s a tomte?” she asked.
“A tomte comes at Christmas. The Yule Tomte.” said the first jackdaw.
“And what is Christmas?” Mother asked.
“We have no idea, but it sounds exciting,” the second jackdaw replied.
“I know what Christmas is,” said the squirrel proudly. “I found out about it from Grandma’s uncle. He is ancient. He said that at Christmas you hang pretty things on a tree. And you eat and dance. And sing. And give presents”.
“And did your relatives by any chance say when this Christmas takes place?” [asked grandfathers Rabbit]
“When the tomte comes,” he said.
“We had better get started straight away,” said Grandfather
Soon all the animals in the Big Forest knew that Yule Tomte was coming. But not the Tomte himself who was away in his little cottage feeling rather grumpy reading his favorite “Praise of Solitude” book.
As the story unfolds all the forest gets ready for the Christmas celebration. The tree is beautifully decorated. The rabbit borrow is cleaned and full of delicious food. Everyone got their presents for Tomte ready. But there is still no sign of Tomte. What to do? Will there be Christmas after all? Will Tomte ever come?
I’ll leave you at that as far as the story goes. 🙂 But I can guarantee you will absolutely love it. We got our book from Amazon at full price, but then I found them also on ThriftBooks at a fraction of the cost. So I recommend always checking there first!
And in case I don’t get another chance to post before the holidays, I wanted to wish you and your family a slow, joyful and festive days leading up to the beautiful celebrations of Solstice, Yuletide, Christmas or New Year! 🙂