Krampus Confidential: Character profiles
"I’d always assumed that I got blamed for things because I was different. The North Pole is a place of mostly elves, and as far as I know, I’m the only krampus who lives there. There are krampuses in the city—I’ve seen them myself—but up there, a kid like me sticks out like ink splattered on a snowman.”
In our new middle-grade chapter book, Krampus Confidential, Ruprecht is a twelve-year-old krampus who finds himself blamed for a string of crimes that splash across the front page of Yuletopia’s top newspaper, The Tinseltown Herald. While Ruprecht grew up in the posh suburbs of the North Pole, he’s spending his winter break down in Tinseltown, a festive metropolis with a most unfestive underbelly.
The krampus creature dates back to 18th century Alpine culture. The krampus is St. Nicholas’ scary accomplice, a horned, hooved, hairy monster who St. Nicholas uses to scare children into good behavior around the holidays. Meanwhile, St. Nicholas rewards the well-behaved children with goodies. While the krampus has received a revived popularity across the world in recent years, the creature is but one of many examples of delightfully darker strains of European Christmas tradition.
“Marley was a voracious reader who took any opportunity to spend time with a book. Over her decades as a ghost, Marley had devoured all the books in all the libraries of Tinseltown. So, she decided to expand her horizons by floating up to the North Pole and haunting our libraries for a while. That’s how we met two years ago, in the library of Jack M. Frost Middle School.”
In Krampus Confidential, Viviana Marley is a book-hungry ghost who became a spirit 175 years ago and has floated around as an exuberant, semi-transparent 13-year-old ever since. Marley (as she prefers to be called) is Ruprecht's best friend and she haunts a townhouse in Tinseltown’s Specterville neighborhood with her dad, Jacob.
Ghosts and ghostly tales have long been a mainstay of European holiday tradition. In fact, the most famous Christmas story of all time, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, features no fewer than four ghosts: Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. Jacob Marley is not only the former business partner of A Christmas Carol’s central grouch, Ebenezer Scrooge, he’s also the dad of Ruprecht’s best friend: Viviana Marley.
“The door opened right in time with our approach to reveal a beautiful witch. She wore a resplendent red-velvet hooded cape, black boots, and a warm smile. She had wavy white hair and held a tall, knotty wooden staff. At the top of the staff rested a glowing green orb with brilliant curtains of greens and blues and purples swirling inside.”
In Krampus Confidential, Frau Perchta is a powerful Christmas witch, a beloved icon of holiday magic, and one of Yuletopia’s biggest celebrities. The run-up to Winter Solstice is her busy season, the time of year when the veil between worlds diminishes and evil-hearted creatures run amok. While she’s busy protecting the realm, she must be very careful with her public appearances—many elves can’t handle the rush of holiday spirit her presence inspires.
Our Frau Perchta is based on folklore’s Frau Perchta: a goddess from Alpine paganism in upper Germany. Traditionally, she comes in one of two forms: a beautiful goddess of purity and light who rewards the deserving, or a monstrous, haggard being who punishes the naughty. Her name and origin are related to the Perchten: hairy Alpine devils that stalked through towns in winter and served as a precursor to Krampus.
“[Marley] pointed up above the rooftops on the other side of Partridge Street. It was those piercing green eyes again, but this time they were connected to a gigantic white cat. It was about the size of a one-horse open sleigh, horse included.”
In Krampus Confidential, Jóla is a colossal kitty shadowing Ruprecht atop the snowcapped rooftops and fire escapes of Tinseltown. As she silently stalks, her emerald eyes radiate through the dark winter gloom. Is she looking for a snack in the form of a 12-year-old krampus, or is she looking for something else?
Jóla is based on Jólakötturinn, the Icelandic Yule Cat. In Icelandic folklore, the enormous Yule Cat hunts down any child who hasn’t received new clothes for Christmas. When author Kyle Sullivan learned of the terrifying, fastidious Yule Cat from an episode of Monstrum on PBS, he knew he had to make (a lot of) room for the creature in the winter-monster-rich world of Krampus Confidential.
The Yule Kids
“As if waiting for the perfect cue, a black shape peeled off the shadow of a street lamp near the alley’s entrance […] The shape loosely resembled a small human. White eyes blinked into existence, looked at us, and narrowed. Then, at once, the shape shot away so quickly I actually flinched.
Marley didn’t have to say what she said next, but she said it anyway: ‘Yule Kids.’”
In Krampus Confidential, the Yule Kids are the shadowy hench-creatures of Grýla, Tinseltown’s top crime boss. These shadow beings creep through the city nights, doing Grýla’s bidding and otherwise causing mayhem. But who are they really, and how does Grýla control them so completely?
The Yule Kids are based on the Yule Lads from Icelandic folklore—13 tricksters who visit misbehaving children each of the 13 nights leading up to Christmas. Though the Yule Lads show up in a variety of folktales over the years, they are popularly known by their names as canonized in a 1932 poem by Jóhannes úr Kötlum. And with names including Window Peeper, Meat Hook, and Door Sniffer, we imagine Iceland had some very well-behaved children in the run-up to Christmas 😳