Monday, December 12, 2016

25 Days of Creepy Christmas - Père Fouettard

Père Fouettard

Old St. Nick has some pretty creepy and sadisitic enforcers working for him. We always thought that it was just cute hardworking, toy-making elves that worked for the jolly guy, but as we look at the folklore of the Christmas season, we find that countries around the world have legends of characters who either accompany Santa Claus or follow behind him doing the dirty work for him of punishing children. And these unique characters are not filling stockings with coal or passing over naughty children and not bringing them presents. One of these enforcers is Pere Fouettard who is the French version of the whipping father.

The original story of the whipping father is about a man named Hans Trapp. He was a creepy old butcher. The children in town steered clear of him and they told each other tales of him torturing children. Finally, one day it would seem that he lost his control and killed several children. He cut their bodies into pieces and incorporated the flesh into meat that he threw into a barrel of brine. He later sold the meat as ham. Saint Nicholas was very angry and he brought the children back to life when he figured out what had happened. This freaked Hans Trapp out and he repented of his crime. St. Nick wrapped him in chains and sentenced him to wander the Earth as a whipping father. That meant his job was to whip children into being good. We're not exactly sure how this is punishment for a man who enjoyed torturing children.  

There was more entailed here than just whipping children. This character would cut out the tongues of children who lied to him as well. So Santa gave out treats and presents to the good kids and Hans Trapp would give out the beatings to bad kids. The French call him Père Fouettard and he is said to be gray in appaearance because of his travels down the chimney. We're not sure how St. Nick stays clean, but that is beside the point. His face is sinister with a long beard and he dresses in dark robes that have a hood to cover his unruly hair. He carries a whip, switches or a large stick. He tends to show up on December 6th, so his legend is similar to that of Krampus. The association of Pere Fouettard with St. Nicholas dates back to fourth century.

Another legend associated with Pere Fouettard dates to 1552 and the Siege of Metz. During that siege, the people burned an effigy of King Charles Quint and dragged it through the streets. Tanners used leather to create a grotesque creature that they claimed punished children during the siege as well. When things calmed down, somehow the tanners' creature and the burned effigy came together and became known as Le Pere Fouettard. St. Nicholas is said to have passed away at this same time and this monster became associated with him as a bad counterpart.

Whatever might be the true legend, such a character is indeed terrifying and very creppy to think about during Christmas. So we guess you better be good!

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