10 Fascinating Facts About ‘A Christmas Carol’

“Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.”

This week in 1843, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens was first published by Chapman and Hall in London. This has become one of the most pervasive, most adapted stories ever written. In fact, it’s so woven into our common cultural thread that I never bothered to read the actually story. Yes, I’ve seen the Muppet version and Scrooged is one of my favorite all-time movies. But when I recently watched the Jim Carrey/Robert Zemeckis version with my oldest daughter, I wondered why I’d never bothered to read Dickens’ words.

This prompted me to download the story, after which I devoured it. A Christmas Carol is a fascinating snapshot of London in the mid-nineteenth century, and it’s easy to see why it was an instant hit. The story is poignant, funny, sad, exciting…everything you want in a novella. And talk about a hero’s journey!

“The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”

So how much do you know about the story? Here are some interesting facts I discovered about A Christmas Carol:

1) Dickens wrote it in just six weeks.

2) It cemented “Merry Christmas” into the popular vernacular, instead of “Happy Christmas.”

3) It sold out its initial run of 6,000 copies in less than a week.

4) The book has never been out of print.

5) Dickens published the work at his own expense.

6) It was pirated in 1844, and Dickens sued the publishers. He won the suit but had to cover the court costs after the publisher declared bankruptcy.

7) It was adapted for the stage almost immediately, with three productions opening in early 1844. Dickens himself performed the tale on stage many times over the years.

8) It was first adapted for film in 1901 with the short British film, Scrooge, or, Marley’s Ghost.

9) The first animated Christmas special ever telecast was Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol in 1962.

10) In the original draft, Tiny Tim was almost named “Little Fred.”

 
Have you read the story? If not, what’s your favorite adaptation?

23 Comments

on “10 Fascinating Facts About ‘A Christmas Carol’
23 Comments on “10 Fascinating Facts About ‘A Christmas Carol’
  1. Saw this post and had to pop in. I bought A CHRISTMAS CAROL last year but actually didn’t get around to reading it this year. I highly recommend! I was amazed to find so many of the details we see in film versions were right there in black and white, just the way Mr. Dickens wrote them. Also, it was great to read some little tidbits that I don’t recall seeing in any of the films before. (The follow up with his ex-fiancĂ©e, for instance.) As for those film versions, The Muppets Christmas Carol is totally my favorite. (And now you’ve got me singing all the songs from it. lol) Merry Christmas and God bless us all!

    • Hi Susan!

      I had the same reaction you did. The details are fascinating. My favorites (obv from the snippets) are the descriptions are Scrooge. I also adore The Muppet Christmas Carol. It’s the best!

      Happy holidays,
      Joanna

  2. I’ve not read the story but was enthralled w/Patrick Stewart’s reading of it. Favorite adaptations: Magoo’s Christmas Carol – the songs are super, and very best film version – the 1953 B/W film w/Alastair Sim as Scrooge. (Honorable mention has to go to my Viewfinder version from the 50’s that scared the bejabbers out of me w/the image of Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.)

    • Hi Judy,

      I recommend reading the story, if you get a chance. First, it’s free. Second, it’s short. And it’s a fun read, if you’re into history.

      I also love the Mr. Magoo version, though I haven’t seen that on TV this year. I hope to still catch it.

      Happy holidays!

  3. I’ve never read A CHRISTMAS CAROL, although I’ve seen many versions on TV. I think part of my reluctance comes from being subjected to Dickens in school at an age where I, perhaps, was unable to appreciate his style. And that still might turn out to be the case. From what I remember, he was paid by the word for his novels, and it showed. ;-) However that snippet you posted is quite lovely and evocative. I may need to give him another try. I share his birthday.

    I should probably add that I have revisited some of the books I was forced to read in English class, and they read far more differently from an adult (and non-forced) perspective. :) I actually enjoyed THE SCARLET LETTER, when I gave it another chance.

    • Hi Ash,

      I had the same reaction you did with regards to Dickens. But the good news is that ACC is a novella, so it’s on the short side. And he published it himself, so I don’t believe he was paid by the word on this one.

      So cool that you share a birthday! He was a fascinating man. I could write a whole post on Dickens and his house for “fallen” women. Pet raven. OCD. Obsession with dead people. I could go on…

      I haven’t re-read TSL since school….maybe I should??

  4. I read it once ages ago when I was in high school. I need to get a copy now and read again.

    I have lots of versions that I like – including the Doctor Who episode – but my all time favorite is Scrooged!

    Love the 10 facts! Thanks.

    Merry Christmas!!

    • Hi Glenda,

      Glad you liked the fast facts. Scrooged is so great. I love Bill Murray, so I may be biased. Thanks for chiming in!

      Happy holidays!

  5. I have not read the actual story, but I think I will now! How interesting that “Merry Christmas” came from Dickens. Who knew?

    • To be fair, it was around before Dickens wrote it. But it wasn’t widely accepted as the norm. If you read it, let me know what you think!

  6. A Christmas Carol is one of my favorite stories. I have many versions on DVD or VHS. My favorite is with Reginald Owner. When I wrote I tried writing Marley’s story to give him his HEA. That’s when I actually read. I still need to see the movie soon.
    Lori

  7. A Christmas Carol/Scrooge is my favorite Dickens work. I even wrote a crossover for an Austen fandom fundraiser featuring Lady Catherine as the villain/heroine redemptive instead of Scrooge :) Like Ashlyn, some of Dickens works were hard to take when I was younger but here in my dotage, I appreciate his turn of phrase, wit and description much more.

    Also, the Alastair Sim version of Scrooge/A Christmas Carol is my VERY favorite version, next to Mr. Magoo :)

    • Hi Pamala,

      Thanks for sharing! Glad to hear you also appreciate Mr. Magoo. :-)

      I love the Lady Catherine as Scrooge idea, too!

      Happy holidays,

  8. I read the original book and loved it. It had some genuinely scary parts with Marley’s ghost, and at the end. It’s a wonderful story of how someone can learn to open his heart and be unselfish. I believe it’s Dicken’s best work.

  9. Fascinating facts, Joanna! I ‘ve been reading it to my little guy this week. Though the language is a little much for him, but so rich in it’s old-fashioned way. I realized I never actually read it either! We were talking about watching the Bill Murray version sometime soon. Forgot about Muppets–he’d like that too! “Happy” Christmas, to you!

    • Hi, Julie! So cool that you’re reading it to your little guy. I hadn’t even thought of doing that, but it’s a great idea. I love Scrooged. It’s my fave of the adaptations, along with the Muppets. Thanks for commenting!

  10. I’ve had the book for several decades, but have yet to read it–I have seen many adaptations in film.

    I have heard of several of the facts.

    • Thanks for commenting, Denise. I hope you make time to read it some day. I think you’ll enjoy it.

      Best,
      Joanna

  11. I never knew any of that! Imagine that kind of success with 6 weeks’ worth of work – that’s awesome! Thank you so much for this fascinating post!!! :)

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