Kris Kringle and Dobbin his Horse

A Christmas story by Dennis Anderson with a lot of help and encouragement from RoseMary Anderson.

A long time ago, before there was Santa Claus, an old tinker in a rickety, creaky old wagon made his way down a forest path. The old cart had belonged to his father and his father before him. It had once been painted blue with white lettering, but over the years the paint had faded until it was mostly grey.

Dobbin, the small, old, brown horse that pulled the cart had once been a fine prancing steed. Now Dobbin was very old and blind in one eye. He was barely able to pull the tinker's cart from one town to the next.

A tinker was a man who wandered from town-to-town mending things, usually pots, pans and other metal things, but a tinker also knew how to make things from wood and even cloth. The tinker's name was Kristofer Nikolas Kringle, but everybody just called him Kris.

Kris sat in the driver's seat, but the reins were wrapped around the brake lever instead of being held in his hands. The old man needed both hands to carve a doll's head from a piece of wood. Besides, Dobbin didn't need the reins to guide him. He knew the way as well as the old man. "C'mon Dobbin, old friend. Just four more miles and we'll be at the inn", the tinker said gently to the old horse.

Kris enjoyed his work. When he fixed a housewife's favorite pan and returned it to her, the smile on her face let him know that he was appreciated. The firm handshake he got from a farmer when he fixed the farmer's hoe was a great reward. For these things Kris got paid, usually in money but other times with a hot meal, some food for Dobbin and a warm bed. But the best payment for Kris was the children's laughter as he handed them a new top or other toy.

In fact, Kris loved children so much that he always made toys as Dobbin pulled the old cart between towns. When they arrived at the next town he always found boys and girls to give the toys to. Kris never sold the toys. They were a gift for the children to give them a bit of happiness.

This day as Kris and Dobbin travelled through the green forest they saw a strange sight. There was a little man, dressed in a black cape and a black hat with a purple ribbon, standing right in the middle of the road. The road was too narrow to let them go around even as small a man as this one.

Kris shouted "Whoa" and Dobbin stopped. Kris put the doll head and knife down, and jumped down from the cart. "Who are you and why are you standing in the middle of the road so we can't get past", asked Kris, a bit out of sorts.

"My name does not matter", the little man replied. "The wee folk of this part of the world have been watching you all these years. You bring happiness wherever you go, especially to the children."

"We have decided that you are the man to remind everyone in all the world of the special hope and joy that they deserve at Christmas time", continued the little man.

"Everyone …. in all the world? I don't think so. In fact, that's impossible"

"Oh tish", said the little man. "The wee-folk are magical. We can make things happen that seem impossible in your world. Of course, just as in all things magical, there is a catch."

"Magic? And just what is this catch?"

"You will spend all year making toys for the children. Then you will visit all the good little children in the world and do what you have always chosen to do. You will give them toys that you have made, but you have just one night to visit the children, each year on Christmas Eve."

"But …. that is simply not possible", said Kris. "Old Dobbin and I many times can't even make it to the next town in a whole day and you think we can make it all over the world in one night? And just how would I ever be able to make that many toys, even in a whole year?"

"Magic, remember. But you will also have many helpers. There's an old man called Dedushka Moroz, or Grandfather Frost in Russia, the three Magi in other parts of the world, Tomte or Nisse in Scandanavia, and many others to help distribute the toys.

Some of the little people, elves, will help you all year around to make the toys. Your years will be filled doing what you enjoy best, making children happy."

"But where in all this great land would I be able to set up a workshop that big? This old wagon is my home and my workshop and there is just barely room enough for me and my tools."

"We have a special place for you, far to the north. You and the elves will live and work there", replied the little man.

"But my old cart really couldn't possibly travel that far. And what about old Dobbin? He's so old and tired. He deserves better than to go on working the rest of his years."

"The first thing you and the elves will do after you arrive is fix up your old cart. It will work best as a sleigh and with elven magic and your know-how it will do the job. As for Dobbin, we will keep him where he will be safe and cared for. We will have plenty of hay and grass for him. "

"But without Dobbin, who will pull the sleigh?" asked Kris.

"We've been thinking about that. Let's get you settled in and the cart converted into a sleigh and then we can work on that problem. With our help, Dobbin can pull you to your new home, then we'll take care of him."

And with that, Kris, Dobbin and the strange little man started north. Kris learned that the little man's name was Gandolf. They spoke of many things as they travelled and Kris began to learn the magic that he would need to know.

After many days, passing through many lands and past many strange sights, they came to a land covered with ice and snow.

After a long time, they arrived at a large door opening into a mountainside. The little man walked up to the door and it magically opened.

Inside the mountain was a very large room. The room was so large that Kris could not see the other side. It was filled with tools, shelves, workbenches and tables. Most wondrous of all were the little people, hundreds of them, who all stood, cheered and applauded as Kris entered.

One-by-one each of the elves introduced him or herself. With his new magic, Kris remembered each of their names and what they did best.

The elves gathered around Dobbin and reached out to pet the faithful old horse. At last Gandolf told Kris it was time for Dobbin and him to leave.

Kris unhitched Dobbin from the old cart for the last time. As Gandolf led the old horse to the giant door, Kris felt a tear come to his eyes. He would miss the little man but even more he would miss that old horse that had pulled the old rickety cart over so many miles and had been his companion for so many years.

After the great door closed, four of the elves who were especially skilled at working with sleds, wagons and carts gathered around the cart. Kris went over to them as they talked over the changes to be made to the old cart.

Off came the wheels and on went the shiniest runners that Kris had ever seen. The old cart had been a peddler's wagon with a high box where Kris had slept when he and Dobbin were travelling. Off came the box; it would no longer be needed. The old cart began to really look like a sleigh.

Next, the elves, those who were especially good with paint, began to paint the old wood of the cart. First they sanded it and made all the old wood smooth. Then they painted the sleigh a bright shiny red with gold trim. The old cart, turned into a sleigh, was beautiful and Kris approved. He felt sure that Dobbin would have approved as well.

Kris' days were filled with things to do. There were tops, carts, hoops, dolls, and jump ropes to be made. Drums, horns and whistles too. Kris had to learn the magic of deciding who was naughty and who was nice, who needed toys from Kris and what toy to give to each child. There were so many things to learn.

But always in the back of his mind were thoughts of an old brown horse that had been his friend and companion for many years.

Oh, but there was one big decision still to make. WHAT was going to pull his sleigh? Gandolf had told him that "they" were discussing a replacement for Dobbin. He learned that "they" were the elves who specialized in animals.

Katrina liked little animals. She suggested that they try armadillos - after all, armadillos were so cute.

They soon discovered two problems with the armadillos. They hated ice and snow and besides they just weren't strong enough to begin to pull the sleigh. Not even elven magic could make them and the sleigh fly. "Old Dobbin never had any trouble pulling the cart", Kris thought to himself.

Julian was the elf in charge of long-ago animals. Somehow he produced a gigantic Stegosaurus. With a lot of work, shrieking and laughter the elves finally were able to place a very large harness on the dinosaur.

They hitched the stegosaurus to the sleigh and with the help of some of Julian's special magic, the sleigh and the dinosaur flew through the air. It was magnificent, until they tried to land on the roof top of their practice house.

The dinosaur left a very large, dinosaur-sized hole in the roof. That would never do! "Old Dobbin could have landed lightly on the roof", thought Kris. "He walked so lightly that he never got stuck in even the deepest mudhole and he never splashed my cart or me."

Nelda was the elf in charge of jungle animals. She thought some monkeys would be the animals to pull the sleigh. But when they tried to harness them, the monkeys swung from the lights and jumped over the benches and tables and made a mess of the workshop. What a disaster! "Dobbin always stood patiently while I harnessed him", thought Kris to himself.

Albert was in charge of large barnyard animals. He bought in a pair of the most beautiful white horses with long flowing manes and streaming tails. The horses waited patiently while Albert harnessed them and hitched them to the sleigh.

But when it was time to fly away, the horses refused. They only wanted to return to their clean, warm stable. Kris thought to himself, "Old Dobbin always went wherever I needed him to go."

Kris called all the elves together who were in charge of animals. They discussed many other choices. Cows and pigs don't like to fly. Bears and lions are too dangerous. Buffalo and elephants are too big and too wild.

Finally Ellie, the elf in charge of dogs and cats, suggested they might try dogs, like the Eskimos use to pull their sleds.

They soon learned that each of the dogs wanted to be the leader. That didn't work of course. Before long, dogs, Kris, Ellie and the sleigh were all tangled up together in the harnesses and it took 10 elves to untangle them. "Old Dobbin never tangled the harness in all the years we travelled together", thought Kris.

In the end, Frankie, the elf in charge of forest animals, suggested they try reindeer like the Laplanders use to pull their sleighs.

Frankie brought in eight reindeer. The reindeer waited patiently while he harnessed them. They pulled the sleigh like it was a bag of feathers. The reindeer loved to fly. When the reindeer landed on the roof of the house, all they left were 32 tiny footprints in the snow.

No more animals that were too weak to pull the heavy sleigh. No more messes all over the toy factory. No more animals that refused to get far away from their stable. No more tangled harnesses. And no more huge holes in rooftops. "This just might work. But I still miss old Dobbin", thought Kris.

At last Kris had the animals that he needed to pull his sleigh, and just in time too. It was Christmas Eve, the first time Kris would visit the boys and girls as Santa Claus.

The reindeers were hitched to the sleigh, the magical toy sack was loaded. Kris dressed in the magical red suit that the tailor elves had made for him and for the first time there was a Santa Claus. But Kris thought to himself, "If only Dobbin could see me and our old cart now."

Before Kris could climb into the sleigh, the elves had a special surprise for Kris. The great door opened and there stood Gandolf leading an old brown horse. Kris rushed over to hug the horse who had been his companion for so many years and so many miles. Old Dobbin nudged Kris with his large brown nose as if to kiss him.

Kris was so happy at seeing his beloved horse that he just couldn't stop himself. For the first time in all the history of the earth, a hearty "Ho Ho Ho" rang out. The thunderous sound rolled out of his mouth and echoed through the workshop and over the great land of ice and snow and finally covered all the earth. Everyone who heard it couldn't help but feel full of joy and happiness.

Gandolf explained that Dobbin had missed Kris. He just was never happy in the forest, so they had decided to bring Dobbin to live with Kris and the elves.

Dobbin was too old to accompany Kris, even with elven magic. Besides, noone knew how Dobbin would take to flying.

Kris told his old horse that he would return soon. He sprang into the driver's seat of the sleigh and he was off to visit all the good boys and girls and leave them gifts. He was so thrilled that he could make children all over the world happy and still be near his old horse.

When Kris returned a few hours later, he went immediately to the stable. Next to a special stall hung a very old, very patched harness. The name on the stall read "Dobbin, my faithful servant", and inside was an old, brown, nearly blind horse who loved the carrots that the tinker had brought with him.

If you try real hard, you might find your way to that land of ice and snow. You might even find a large door cut into a certain mountainside. When you walk up to it, that door might open and you could ask one of the elves to show you to the reindeer stable. There, just past the reindeer stalls, you'll see a very special stall. And if you are there at just the right time you will see a certain old tinker feeding his old brown horse a fresh bunch of carrots.

If you ask, he just might let you feed old Dobbin a carrot too. After all, one of the favorite things that Kris does is to make Dobbin happy. But Kris also loves to make boys and girls like you happy.

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