Father Christmas at the Tribunal

The Kaiser’s assault on Fairyland defeated

Contributed by Julie Moore

father-christmas-at-the-tribunal-north-herts-mail-21st-december-1916-p5-the-kaiser-laughed-loudlyIt seems that even the residents of Fairyland were not exempt from the demands of the Military Service Act during the First World War. In December 1916, a story appeared in the North Herts Mail which told how Father Christmas was enlisted to defeat the Kaiser and his allies when danger threatened.[1]

The story begins in a room in Fairyland Town Hall where the Kaiser, the King of Austria and the Turkish Sultan form the tribunal. In the next room – presumably waiting for their hearing – are several Fairyland residents including Jack the Giant Killer, Wee Willie Winkie, Little Jack Horner and Little Boy Blue. The Kaiser mutters threats about firing the familiar nursery rhyme characters out of a cannon and off to the moon, and is cheered by his fellow members when he declares

father-christmas-at-the-tribunal-north-herts-mail-21st-december-1916-p5-the-kaiser-laughed-loudly2‘We are the tribunal and we shall not exempt any of them. We will make all the Fairies slaves. We will have no Christmas. No presents for the children. The money can be spent on guns, instead, to kill all their fathers’

He then sends a wireless message back to Germany demanding that zeppelins bomb all the Allied countries destroying Fairyland and eliminating Christmas. In an early example of mistakenly pressing ‘Reply All’, the Kaiser accidentally copies the message to the Man in the Moon. He in turn alerts both the Queen of the Fairies and Father Christmas whom he finds loading presents onto his airship which is situated on the planet Mars.

Father Christmas enlists the help of the Gods of Wind and Rain to destroy the zeppelins, and seeing this the Kaiser and his cohorts flee the Town Hall for a destination unknown. When Father Christmas arrives for his hearing at the Tribunal he is given an absolute exemption ‘to fill all the children’s stockings’ by a panel which includes Cinderella, Little Bo-Peep and Little Tommy Tucker, with Jack the Giant-Killer in the chair.

I think it is fair to say that as a story, you can drive a coach and horses through the plot holes – why is the Kaiser heading a tribunal in the first place & why does he call for bombs to be dropped on Fairyland when he is there himself? The Kaiser and his fellow leaders are presented as one might expect – given to loud threats and boasting, but also bickering with each other and cowardly when hearing the noise of Jack the Giant Killer’s axe. However, as a window into that first Christmas after the introduction of conscription it is a fascinating tale which unites pagan gods, fairy-tale and nursery rhyme characters on the side of the British and their allies. How many more examples are there in newspapers, magazines and local journals of the war tapping into cultural icons?

However, the main thing to remember is that Father Christmas was saved by the Tribunal – recognition of his very important work at this time of year.


[1] ‘Father Christmas at the Tribunal’, North Herts Mail, 21st December 1916, p.5.

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