#4 Père Fouettard
Père Fouettard, or ‘Father Whipper’ in English, is the French counterpart to Saint Nicholas. He is said to accompany him on his Saint Nicholas Day (December 6) rounds, administering punishments to naughty children by dispensing lumps of coal or hitting them with his whip.
He is described as being a very sinister character, taking the shape of a dark, scraggy man with dirty robes and an unkempt beard. In some instances, his face is said to be dirty with soot from going down so many chimneys. Of course, he is also equipped with his infamous whip, and, in some variations of the legend, a wicker backpack in which he can carry children away.
Origin stories for Père Fouettard are also varied, but the most popular tale can be traced back as far as 1150. The details of the story itself are debatable, though they follow the same plot. In it, a butcher (or an innkeeper in some versions), along with his wife, captures three children, then drugs them, slits their throats, chops them up, salts them and stews them in a barrel. Proposed motives for the murders range from the man wanting to rob the boys and wanting to eat them… How festive! Saint Nicholas learns of the monstrous crime and decides to intervene, resurrecting the children and taking the man into his custody. As punishment, Saint Nicholas forces Père Fouettard to become his assistant for all eternity.
Merry Christmas, Creeps!
In honour of the holidays, I have compiled a countdown of five festive freaks who pose as Anti-Santas in various different cultures, with a miniature daily profile for each. I hope you find the information useful in your Christmas preparations.
Expect more frequent activity from me in the new year and, if we all survive the holiday season, I’ll see you on the other side.
– Tyler 👻
#5 – Frau Perchta
The legend of Frau Perchta (alternatively known as Berchta or Bertha in English) is featured in German and Austrian tales, particularly during the festive season, as a way of encouraging children to behave.
Perchta is said to be the upholder of cultural taboos, including the prohibition of spinning on holidays. Because of this, she is sometimes described as having one large foot (or goose/swan foot) that represents a spinning woman’s splayfoot that worked the treadle (or, as Jacob Grimm suggested, to symbolize her ability to shape-shift into an animal). As well as this, she is said to possess either a form that is as beautiful and as white as snow, or elderly and haggard.
According to the tales, she is said to visit homes the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany (January 6), judging whether or not the children of the household have behaved all year round. If, by her judgement, they had behaved, she would deliver a silver coin to them the following day. If they had misbehaved, she would slit their bellies open, remove the organs and replace them with rubbish.