The Beginning – Agar and Nicholas
In early 1349, Agar, the shaman of Nordland in northern section of Norway, foresaw the coming of the Black Death (plague) that would kill a majority of the town’s population. Though filled with passion for the villagers along with his deep connection to the natural and spiritual worlds, he could not stop the coming disease. With this devastating news, Agar became gaunt and sad. He decided to not confide with the villagers this information at first so as not to cause panic while he devised a plan to save the people of the village.
Agar spent the next few days fasting, chanting and drumming. Nicholas, Agar’s best friend and the village leader, grew worried and pressed for Agar to explain his changed behavior. Agar realized he could not keep the devastating future from his friends and told Nicholas what he had foreseen.
Upon receiving the news of the upcoming disaster, Nicholas, though shocked, believed in Agar’s prediction. Being a practical man, he told Agar they needed to find a solution and stop wasting time with worry. Nicholas suggested to Agar to place a magical spell around the people of the village, to protect them like a shield. But Agar explained he did not have enough power to save them all. He didn’t want to decide which ones to leave behind.
Nicholas next suggested that Agar could put the villagers into a deep sleep until the danger passed. Agar explained that since the plague came by fleas from person to person a deep sleep would not protect them and the villagers will become infected. In his vision, the Black Death would sweep across the land causing death to all in its path and only the trees and plants would survive.
Agar pondered on his last statement. Since the Black Death would not kill the trees, Agar could transfer the spirits of the people into the trees until the danger had passed. Though Nicolas thought this as a great plan, Agar surmised that once the spirits transferred from their human forms, they could not transfer back. After Agar dismissed Nicholas to ponder on a possible solution, he came up with the idea to carve replicas of the villagers and transfer their spirits into the woodcarvings. After the plague passed the woodcarvings would exist as living people in the smaller form of the woodcarvings.
Later, Nicholas returned to Agar to see if he had come up with a solution. Before Agar could answer, Nicholas watched Agar carve wood. First surprised in believing Agar no longer took the problem seriously, he picked up one carving, a likeness of Agar’s wife, Astrid. Nicholas caught on.
Though not finished with his carvings he and Nicholas decided that it was time to discuss the situation with the rest of the people. The terrified villagers became distraught about the fate ahead. They wondered what it would be like to live as miniature people. How would they function in the world? Furthermore, who would protect them while in this fragile state? Agar promised that he and his descendants would take care of them through his powers. Those would become the keepers of the villagers to preserve their safety.
After long discussions, most of the villagers agreed. They trusted Nicholas and Agar as great leaders who had led them through many difficult times. Some discussed the time of the great famine twenty years earlier. Nicholas, out of his good heart and charity sent food and much of the villager’s crafted wears to help those in need. As the famine subsided, Nicholas and the villagers’ generosity continued. Decades later, Nicholas gathered the crafts and wears from the villagers to give to the needy. Before the plague, he chose to honor his name-sake and gave on Christmas Eve night with the use of his sleigh of the hardened snow and the use of one villager, Lars’ reindeer.
Nicholas asked if Agar could transfer some of his powers to allow him to continue his Christmas Eve run after the transfer took place. Since Agar knew Nicholas’ desire, he told him the magic will be there for the yearly trek and that the villagers could continue their arts and crafts to give. Lars discovered Nicholas’ request and thought the villagers should come equipped with reindeer and a tiny sleigh. Agar agreed since Lars promised he would carve the reindeer. Though Lars requested up to a dozen reindeer, Agar informed Lars he would only have time to carve eight tiny reindeer. Lars did as Agar suggested.
Only one family in Norlund, the Olufs, who lived on the edge of the village and held themselves apart, disagreed with Agar’s prediction. Years ago, they traveled across the seas as fishermen and known many cultures. Upon their arrival, Agar took on Oluf as his spiritual apprentice. Not yet as strong as Agar, Oluf had often argued against Agar’s beliefs. For him Agar’s shaman ways were outdated. He did not believe the Black Death would come since they were a small village. Also, in all their travels that had not seen the signs of the upcoming death. Nicholas and Agar tried to reason with Oluf and his clan, but failed.
The rest of the villagers went ahead with Agar’s plans and knew they had to hurry along. They also worried about where they would live since their homes would no longer be usable in their smaller size. Agar’s wife, Sigrid, who also loved her people, came up with a solution. Since she and Agar had a larger home than most of the others but had no children to share, they would convert the largest room of their house and set up a new village, a replica much of their own. Sigrid organized the woodworkers into building a smaller version of the village complete with houses, furniture, and even wagons, and sleds. Not only would they would have everything they would need to live as smaller people, but the project helped the villagers’ minds to focus away from the approaching doom.
As Agar finished the carvings of those who believed, he once again tried to convince Oluf to join them. He expressed he had time to carve figures of Oluf’s family. However, he refused and made fun of him for what he believed were unnecessary preparations. Oluf tried to convince the rest of the villagers that Agar was not in his right mind. Since Oluf and his family did not believe the magic would not work with them even if he carved their image and attempted to evoke the magic. The villagers did not waiver in their belief in Agar’s powers and continued.
Datter Som Tar seg av Landsbyboerne – ‘The Daughter Who Cares for the Village’ (Later Americanized as ‘The Santa Keepers’)
As the Black Death approached, the villagers began to die, one by one, Agar transferred their spirits. As Nicholas and Astrid, they realized in horror that no carving of Agar or Sigrid remained. Agar explained that he and Sigrid would not join them as miniatures. Sigrid would survive the plague, but he would need to use the rest of his magical powers to transfer the rest of his powers to Sigrid, powers to protect and care for the villagers. Furthermore, this power would give Sigrid the power to bring them back to life after the danger of the Black Death had passed.
Sigrid agreed to her husband’s decision. Her love for him gave her the strength she needed to succeed. She decided not to bother Agar with her recent discovery of her pregnancy. But Agar knew her secret and was ecstatic. He would not only transfer his magic to Sigrid but also to his child to continue to keep the villagers safe. This power would transfer down to the eldest daughter throughout the generations.
Moments before Nicholas and Astrid’s bodies died from the plague, they expressed to Agar they will honor him by doing good deeds for others in any way they could, Christmas Eve night and throughout the entire year. Filled with joy over Nicolas’ and Astrid’s promise, and finished transferring them to their woodcarving form, Agar then told his wife he would not join them, the all his powers now spent and fell into a trance and vanished. Sigrid wept, then strengthened herself to begin her tasks.
Though the Black Death wound down, the last spread across the land of the Olufs. Oluf came to Sigrid’s door to beg Agar to help them. Sigrid told them he died and that there was nothing she could do. She did not have the same powers that Agar had possessed. He became angry despite Agar had given him several opportunities to save him and his family. As members of their family died, they blamed Agar and Nicholas for not forcing them to take part in the spirit transfer.
Since the Black Death struck his family, and Oluf hastily carved figures for them, he discovered that not only the task was too late, but he did not have the magic to save all or some of his family. At a last-ditch effort, Oluf used all his magic to save himself in hopes to figure a way to save them. But most of his family perished. Oluf became more determined to save his dead family and devised a solution – to rob Agar’s magic from the villagers – if he could find them. His magic gave Oluf the ability to never die and find the magical villagers.
Sigrid discovered Oluf’s plan to hunt and destroy the villagers. She used some of her new powers to cast a spell on the villagers not only to become masked, even if in front of Oluf, but also by preventing anyone else who ever spotted them from telling others. Oluf became even more enraged but could not break Sigrid’s spell.
Once the danger of the Black Death had passed Sigrid brought the villagers back to life. They had many adjustments to make but with help from Sigrid and her daughter, Ragna, they soon established a new life in the miniature village. To add to Agar’s protective magic, Sigrid moved her family and the villagers south to Rognan, a town near a northwestern fjord in Norway. The gift giving tasks that started in Agar’s memory continues.
With Nicholas’ leadership, the villagers and the ‘granddaughter’s’ family did all they could to fill his pouch. Though Nicholas did all he could to keep hidden from view, many people have spotted the small wood carving, his sleigh and eight tiny reindeer but could not report the sight. Agar’s magic prevented the exact scene, but only can come up with their own version. Thus, the legend gave birth to the ‘Santa Claus’ legend and shaped by new visions after each who spotted Nicholas (such people as Clemet Clark Moore, Thomas Nast and Robert L. May to name a few.) Today, little does anyone know that everything they’ve been taught and know about ‘Santa Claus’ lay in an attic of a house in Duluth, Minnesota.