Mr. S. Claus's Predicament
December 1915 Issue of St. Nicholas
Mr. S. Claus's Predicament, illustrated by Norman Rockwell, appeared inside the December 1915 issue of St. Nicholas on pages 164 through 167.
Rockwell painted three illustrations for the story.
St. Nicholas was a popular children's magazine of the time.
The story is actually a Christmas play, starring Santa Claus and the Snow Queen. The plot basically concerns a year where there is no snow. How will Santa and his sled pulled by reindeer ever deliver all the candy and toys on Christmas without an abundance of snow.
He appeals to the Snow Queen for help with his predicament.
The three illustrations were also reproduced in Norman Rockwell, A Definitive Catalogue by Laurie Norton Moffatt on pages 743 and 744.
The location of two of the charcoal and gesso on paper illustrations are not known. The third is part of a private collection.
Mr. S. Claus's Predicament
Available as Oil on Canvas:
Oil on Canvas Reproduction
Mr. S. Claus's Predicament
(Prelude for a Christmas-tree distribution)
BY J. D. Whitney
Santa Claus. Snow Queen.
(Spoken before the drop-curtain by the person who is to take the part of Santa Claus)
Ladies and gentlemen - and grown-up people: This evening we are going to present a sensational and scintillating spectacular drama entitled "Mr. S. Claus's Predicament."
This is the first time it has been given on any stage in the world—also the first time in America. It has been put on at tremendous cost, and Santa Claus has been engaged especially for this production, regardless of expense, on this the busiest night of the year for him.
We want to say that we have with us to-night the only real, genuine, authentic Santa Claus.
We are pleased to be able to give this show before so stylish and handsome an audience. ln fact, on looking at you all a second time, I see that you are the politest and most intelligent company that ever came together to see a play. Therefore we shall ask you to be kind enough to keep your seats until the end of the show, and please do not throw anything, except bouquets, at the actors.
The first scene shows Santa Claus in his workshop at the North Pole. and his friend. the Snow Queen, calling on him. After that you will be able to follow the plot yourselves.
As it is a long way to the North Pole, the orchestra will first play Mr. MacDowell’s piece called "To a Wandering lce-chest" - excuse me - "Ice-berg"; and, if you listen carefully, you will hear the icebergs clinking against each other. (Exit. )
(The workshop of Santa Claus. At the left are seen andirons and the glow from an open fireplace; at the back, a workbench strewn with toys, dolls, and several very large books. Over the bench is a long low window through which blue sky and a moon are seen. At the close of the piano solo the curtain rises, and Santa Claus is discovered, sitting opposite the fire, working on a toy. The whistle of the wind is heard.)
SNOW QUEEN (speaking off the stage). Good-by, North Wind, good-by.
(She peers in at the window, waving her light-tipped wand. Finally Santa Claus looks up and sees her.)
SANTA CLAUS. Evening, Snow Queen!
SNOW QUEEN (entering). Evening, Santy!
SANTA CLAUS. Howdy! Step right into the shanty.
(Snow Queen trips forward throwing Santa Claus a kiss.)
Mercy! I 've known some charming misses,
But none that threw me such frosty kisses.
Come and get warm.
(He picks up a shaving and puts it on the fire.)
SNOW QUEEN (laughing). Oh, Santy! you joker!
SANTA CLAUS (motioning to the wand). ]ust stir up the fire a bit with that poker.
SNOW QUEEN. Now, Santy, you know if I came near the fire,
I'd melt, and your little Snow Queen would expire.
SANTA CLAUS. Oh, yes, I know, Snow Queen, you're made out of ice.
SNOW QUEEN. I love to be cold.
SANTA CLAUS. Well, you 're chilly - but nice.
(He places his hands on the Snow Queen's shoulders, but quickly withdraws them, blows on his fingers, and extends his hands to the fire.)
SNOW QUEEN. North Wind and I have been out for a lark,
Whistling down chimneys of folks after dark;
Rattling the windows and blowing the leaves;
Hanging up icicles under the eaves;
Piling up snow on the roofs of the houses;
Putting cold breezes up sleeves and through blouses.
SANTA CLAUS. There is n`t much snow down Haworth way, (local ames may be subsitutued)
They tell me it feels like the middle of May.
SNOW QUEEN. No snow?
SANTA CLAUS. Just so!
SNow QUEEN. Well, if that's how it feels,
It must be nice for the automobiles.
SANTA CLAUS. Yes, but how are my reindeer going to go
If the roofs around Haworth are n’t covered with snow?
Oh, beautiful Snow Queen, please hustle right down
And spread a snow - blanket deep over the town.
Else how do you think I can get any toys
To all those dozens of girls and boys?
SNOW QUEEN. I really don’t see how you ever remember
Who all of them are - as you do each December.
SANTA Ci.AUs, Oh, I jot down a list - their names, and their looks,
And how they behave—in these little books.
(He selects one of the large volumes from the·work-bench, muttering "Let ’s see - letter H,” and sits down in front of the fire, Snow Queen kneeling beside him, playfully waving her lighted wand about his head.)
Let ’s see! Here ’s Jack and Beth, and Pink.
And a boy named - Donald Knapp, I think;
Here ’s Harry Blake, and Gladys Graeme,
And another family - what is their name? -
Why - Whitney, surely! Kate and Polly,
They ’re all in here - oh yes - how jolly!
SNOW QUEEN; Have all these children been very good?
If they ’d seen that book they surely would.
SANTA CLAUS (producing a book about an inch sqnare).
There are n’t many bad ones - just this minute.
This book is for them - (laughing, and speaking behind his hand) but there are n’t any in it!
No, all these children are very nice;
You never have to speak to them twice.
If only some snow were on the roads
I ’d take them candy and toys in loads.
SNOW QUEEN (going to the door and waving her wand). North Wind, come quickly!
White snow, Fly thickly!
I ’ll see, Santa. dear, you have plenty of snow.
The ground will be white wherever you go.
North Wind and I
To Haworth will fly
And give you good sleighing. Dear Santa, good-by!
SANTA CLAUS (as Snow Queen starts to go out).
And, Snow Queen, I ’m terribly busy this year,
And the chimneys are smaller than ever, I hear;
So, lest I be late and you don’t hear my team,
Give each sleeping youngster a nice Christmas dream.
(Exit Snow Queen; Santa Claus waves to her at the window. Then as he sits down and resumes his work the curtain falls.)
(A nursery bedroom. Big dolls asleep in doll-beds. A white curtain hangs across the back of the scene. The open fire throws out a soft glow. Snow Queen enters and stoops over the sleeping children.)
SNOW QUEEN. Tired of waiting! Asleep in their beds!
I must put some beautiful dreams in their heads.
(She waves her wand over each child, making the wand shine as she does so. Then she sits down in the obscurity of one side of the stage, and the refleeting lantern throws pictures of Santa Claus and other Christmassy subjects on the sheet. The "fire" should be put out for this, and the lantern should not be seen by the audience. Some one reads aloud“The Night before Christmas,” the lantern throwing on the sheet pictures from an illustrated edition of the poem.)
SNOW QUEEN. No candles? That is tragic!
This is the time for magic! (waving her wand).
Tree, light! (Button is pressed behind tlze scenes and the tree lights.)
Santa Claus is here to-night.
(Snow Queen vanishes, and Santa Claus appears, carrying his pack, stepping from the wing where the fire is, seeming to have come down the chimney.)
SANTA CLAUS. Phew! That ’s a warm welcome, sure enough!
Suppose I 'd stuck with all this stuff?
But here I am. and here 's my pack,
With gifts for Molly, Beth, and ]ack.
There 's one for you. just over there;
And one for you - behind that chair.
Let each come quickly when I call -
Then - Merry Christmas - one and all!
(The presents or favors are distributed.)
DIRECTIONS FOR STAGING
An ordinary parlor can readily be arranged as shown in the following diagram, A light strip of wood extends across the room, about half-way to the back of the stage. From this sheets are hung, at the right hand to hide the tree in the hrst scene, and across from side to side for the second scene.
The scenery for the workshop, in the original production of this play, was built out of wood 3/8 inch thick, and made in adjustable parts, so as to be set up and taken down quickly. The window was an old piece of narrow sash laid lengthwise, originally intended for a small storm window.
Cotton and artificial snow were arranged on the panes to resemble real snow. The wall can be stained brown - the weathered white of the sash makes a good contrast, and the bench can be left the natural color of lumber.
The moon and sky are made by pasting blue and white tissue-paper over a box with a light in it. The floor is strewn with shavings.
The fireplace is arranged by having a pair of andirons project from between two curtains; an electric light bulb, covered with orange tissue-paper, placed between the andirons out of sight of the audience, gives the effect of firelight.
The light for Snow Queen’s wand should be a 3½-volt bulb, which can be bought at any electrical store for ten cents. Use a five-cent pin-socket and magnet-wire. Wind the wire around the wand, and paste silver paper over all. Cut one wire at the point where the hand comes and attach the two ends to a skeleton push-button, which can be readily fastened to the wand with a rubber band. Then lead the wires up the Queen’s sleeve and down to a small candle-battery fastened at the waist on a belt.
Opaque bulbs in the form of flowers are very pretty for the tree. They are sold at electrical stores in sets of eight, and can be attached to the house-circuit. The person who switches on the lights in Scene III should, of course, be concealed.
Reflecting lanterns, which can be used on the electric circuit, and which will project, in its correct colors, any picture put in them, can be bought in camera stores. electrical stores, and toy-shops, at from three to fifty dollars. Jessie Willcox Smith’s illustrations of the poem are very effectively shown in this way.
A drop-curtain can be easily contrived with a couple of breadths of denim or some similar material, a few nails, some screw-eyes, and a ball of twine. The lantern should be used as a spotlight when the Snow Queen enters in Scene I and should be kept on her and Santa Claus to reinforce the firelight.
Santa Claus wears long rubber-boots, a red coat, trimmed around the edges with white "fur" made of cotton, a long white beard, a touch of rouge on each cheek, and a stripe of “clown’s white" on each eye-brow.
These paintings was only one of many Norman Rockwell paintings.
Here is the complete list of all Norman Rockwell magazine covers.
The Snow Queen has long golden hair, and wears a flowing white gown trimmed with cotton and sprinkled with artificial snow. On her head is a crown of pasteboard covered with silver paper. She carries a silver wand with a small electric bulb in the end of it.
These illustrations were, as you can tell, painted at the beginning of Norman Rockwell's career. He was even still using his middle initial to sign the works.
Copyright © 1915 St. Nicholas
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