Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Stories on the web

While we are inundated with Christmas carols and Christmas movies are virtually unavoidable on TV, there are many excellent Christmas stories that we no longer take the time to read. One thing the internet has given us is free access to many of these classic stories.

In addition to text versions, many of these have free audio versions available. Most of these audio links are mp3 files, which can be downloaded to your iPod or burned onto a CD. It makes a change on those Christmas drives from the same carols that you have gotten tired of over the last month.

Here are some of my favorite Christmas stories. These stories and readings are all in the public domain, so you need not worry about being naughty when downloading.

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Sherlock Holmes is at his deductive best in a story that begins with a dropped Christmas goose. This story can be read online, or you can listen to it. There are also radio performances from 1948, with John Stanley as Holmes and from 1955 with Sir John Gielgud as Holmes and Sir Ralph Richardson as Dr. Watson. If you use Netflix, there is also an excellent version of it on Disc 3 of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
I have always had a soft spot for O. Henry, and especially for Gift. While it has been made into a movie and various performances, I still think it is best in the short concise story that O. Henry wrote. Gift is a simple story about love and sacrifice, with a classic O. Henry twist at the end. Read it or listen to it.

The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Anderson
This is the Christmas story Red Sovine would have written if he had been a Dutch author instead of a country writer/singer. In less than 1000 words a story is told that has inspired movies, an opera, and thousands of pages of interpretation. Simple and moving, you can read it online or listen to a reading.

Reginald’s Christmas Revel by Saki (H. H. Munro)
OK, enough sappy Christmas goodness. This is a wry, satirical story about having to spend Christmas with relatives you dislike (an experience that I am sure we are all at least a bit familiar with.) If you like dry British humor, this is the story for you. (Note to Katie, you will not like this, but Chris probably will.) I have a link to the text and to a reading. If you enjoy this, do yourself a favor and read more of Saki’s work. His stories are short, with twist endings like O. Henry, but with dry wit and a dose of the macabre.

Twas the Night Before Christmas (A Visit from St. Nicholas) by Clement C. Moore
OK, I cannot pretend that this story is little known, or forgotten. I would like, however, to give you a link to the version on Project Gutenberg. This version has the excellent 1912 illustrations by Jessie Wilcox Smith. Gutenberg also has several readings you can choose from.

I hope you enjoy some of these. Project Gutenberg, which is the source for most of these texts, even those on other sites, does a marvelous job of making public domain works actually available to the public and has, in recent years, also helped provide audio versions of many books, from Shakespeare to Jules Verne and Mark Twain.


Anonymous said...

I first heard "The Gift of the Magi" when I was 8, and it was so incredibly powerful. I'm not sure if I fully understood the concept of sacrifice, but it definitely stayed with me.

Anonymous said...

I think my comment got eaten . . .

Just wanted to say that I love "The Gift of the Magi." It is the second story in an anthology of O. Henry's work I just pulled from my shelf. Now I have to share it with my kids . . .

Also, it's good to see Ginny commenting here. Coincidence?

Finally . . . are we doing anything for on New Year's Eve?