Novella by Charles Dickens that few people have read, but everyone knows the story of. But for the record...Ebenezer Scrooge, a hard-hearted, crotchety old moneylender living in Victorian London, is visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of his late partner, Jacob Marley. Marley, wrapped in chains and weighted down with lock-boxes that symbolize his obsession with money, warns Scrooge that his life of greed and misanthropy will condemn him to an equally miserable afterlife, and that his only hope for redemption is in heeding the advice of three spirits who will be visiting him that night.The Ghost of Christmas Past is the first to arrive, and shows Scrooge (and the reader) the ups and downs of the life that had driven Scrooge to become the man he is today. Next is the Ghost of Christmas Present, who shows Scrooge that folks who have suffered worse than he has (including Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's overworked and underpaid clerk, and his family, especially Bob's sickly son Tiny Tim) still find a place for happiness in their lives. Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge's future: Tiny Tim will succumb to his illness, and Scrooge himself will die alone and virtually unmourned.When Scrooge awakens to find it's still Christmas day, he makes good on his resolution to change his ways, and becomes a respected and generous figure.Christmas as weknow it is largely the result of the book's wild popularity, having taken what had become, in Anglo-Saxon Protestant countries, a relatively minor and disparaged holiday (due to Puritanical and/or anti-Catholic sentiments) and elevating it in the public consciousness. Before its release, many Protestant churches preached against the drunken debauchery associated with the holiday, and it was even illegal to celebrate Christmas in some parts of the US.Possibly the most widely-adapted story of all time, including versions with the Muppets as well as in The Present Day, resulting in lots of Adaptation Expansion (explaining events and Back Story the book didn't cover). As the era of television wore on, countless shows did at least one episode thrusting a character into their own Christmas Carol-like scenario, with varying levels of quality. In fact, versions with pre-existing characters are so common that they have led to the creation of the Yet Another Christmas Carol trope. It's possibly also the source of the Pensieve Flashback.You can read the original story on Wikisource for freeThe website JimHillMedia.com (which focuses on Disney news and rumors) did a whopping 40-part series in 2007 called "Scrooge U" which examined many adaptations of this story, both famous and obscure, live-action and animated, serious and parodistic, with all kinds of alternate settings.The British Film Institute has posted the earliest surviving (though in-complete) film version of the story on YouTube; for its time it was a very modern undertaking, special-effects wise (1901). The earliest surviving complete film adaption is the Thomas Edison version of 1910.Not to be confused with actual Christmas Carols.
Ambiguous Gender: The Ghost of Christmas Past. Most adaptations make it a child to settle the confusion (it's harder to tell whether someone is male or female if it's a kid).
Ambition Is Evil: The young Scrooge actually lampshades this and attempts to defy it.
“This is the even-handed dealing of the world. There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!"
And There Was Much Rejoicing: One family reacts to Scrooge's death in the alternate future this way, because Scrooge was their lender, and they anticipated either a kinder replacement or at least enough time during the transition to scrape together the money they needed.
Armor-Piercing Question: The Ghost of Christmas Present throwing Scrooge's "Are there no prisons?" line back at him might count as this, but right at the start of the book Scrooge replies to Fred's "Merry Christmas" by asking "What reason have you to be merry? You're poor enough", to which Fred responds "What reason have you to be so dismal? You're rich enough". This is the first time Scrooge is lost for words, and can only reiterate his famous "humbug!". Finding out the answer to this question is the whole role of the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Bad Future: The vision shown by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Inverted, however: It's a bad future only for Scrooge, because his death is shown to make the world a happier place!
"This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate."
Canon Welding: When Marley shows Scrooge the wandering ghosts, Scrooge notices "one old ghost in a white waistcoat," who he realizes is an old friend of his, crying at being unable to assist an unwed mother. It's quite likely that Dickens slyly meant this ghost to be "the gentleman in the white waistcoat" from Oliver Twist, a character who is very harsh to Oliver and denies him food.
Character Development: One of the main points of the story. (The other being that the rich and powerful should help the poor, particularly in Victorian England, which is still somewhat related to this trope, seeing as that's what Scrooge is implied to do after his Character Development. So, you could say that Scrooge's Character Development is the entire point of the story.)
Creepy Child: Possibly Creepy Twins, though it's never specified. The Ghost of Christmas Present keeps a silent, wraith-like boy and girl — Ignorance and Want, respectively — under his cloak, telling Scrooge that they are mankind's children.
Cruel to Be Kind: The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge an incredibly disturbing future. However, this is in the efforts to avoid that future.
Dark Is Not Evil: A famous example: the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is deeply frightening, resembles the Grim Reaper in his heartless pallor, is cold, pitiless, and silent as the grave, and shows what is by far the most horrible of Scrooge's visions, but is just as kindhearted as the rest of the spirits and shows him the grim truth only so that he may finally realize what it means and change it for the better
Empty Chair Memorial: The Ghost of Christmas Present foresees Tiny Tim's empty chair and his crutch tucked into a corner by next year's Christmas if things do not change from their current course of events. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come does him one better and shows Scrooge the empty chair, along with Tim's grieving family.
Evil Uncle: Subverted with Scrooge. He's not necessarily evil, but he's truly a bitter man towards everyone, including his only living relative. He gets better in the end.
Fashion Hurts: Peter Cratchit's collar isn't comfortable, but he's still proud to be wearing it.
Good Feels Good: Scrooge is a much happier man when he opens his heart to others.
Good Is Not Nice: The Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come is the most famous example, but all three ghosts are fairly harsh on Scrooge - particularly Present, who is incredibly sardonic.
Ghostly Gape: In most versions, including the original book, Marley's ghost wears a bandage around his head to keep his jaw from hanging down, and at one point takes it off in order to frighten Scrooge even more.
The Grim Reaper: The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come's appearance suggests that he may be associated with this.
Grumpy Bear: Scrooge spends most of the story in a dour mood about Christmas, contrary to everyone else in Dickens' Victorian London making merry.
Ha Ha Ha No: Amusingly inverted at the end of the story. Scrooge pretends he is about to blast his employee for being late, and suddenly laughs and shouts "Merry Christmas"!
Happily Married: Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit, Fred and his wife, The Fezziwigs, and Belle and her husband.
Have a Gay Old Time: Scrooge "had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle." By that, Dickens meant that Scrooge did not have any future interaction or communication with ghosts after his reformation. Meanwhile, "Total Abstinence Principle" was a phrase commonly associated with teetotaling, i.e. never drinking any alcohol or "spirits". (Yes, Dickens is indulging in a pun.) However, the meanings of "intercourse" and "abstinence" have changed to the point where even those who are (old enough to be) grandparents will raise their eyebrows at that particular passage.
Also, when the Ghost of Christmas Present was showing Fred's Christmas, there was this line of narration: "Uncle Scrooge had imperceptibly become so gay and light of heart,..."
Humanoid Abomination: If its physical description is to be believed, the Ghost of Christmas Past certainly qualifies.
I Gave My Word: Belle can see that Scrooge doesn't love her any more and that he intends to stick by their engagement only because he sees it as a contract he's bound to. She decides it's better for them both if she releases him from the obligation.
I Hate Past Me: A classic example: upon witnessing them firsthand Scrooge is decidedly not proud of his past self's actions.
Ill Boy: Tiny Tim. Though the cause of his illness is never specified, tuberculosis or polio seem like good candidates.
I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Belle reasons that Scrooge would only be miserable and filled with regret if he married a poor girl like her, so she breaks off their engagement.
Jacob Marley Warning: Jacob Marley represents what could happen to Scrooge if he doesn't mend his ways.
Jerkass: Scrooge at the start of the story, oh so much.
Kick the Dog: Much of the first chapter is largely an exercise in showing how mean and bitter Scrooge is.
Kill the Poor: Although he doesn't advocate outright killing the poor, Ebenezer Scrooge does advocate the poor offing themselves...
Solicitor for the Poor: Many would rather die than go there [to prison or to a workhouse].
Scrooge: If they'd rather die, then they had better do it and decrease the surplus population.
Lemony Narrator: As with a lot of Dickens' books. Take, for instance, this little digression at the beginning of the story:
"Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don't mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country's done for."
Littlest Cancer Patient: Tiny Tim. Subverted, though, in that his illness is not necessarily fatal, it is just that the Cratchits are too poor to afford treatment, which is why he dies in the alternate future. So when Scrooge has his change of heart and increases Bob's salary, Tim doesn't succumb to his illness.
Love Makes You Evil: Scrooge's miserliness stems from trying to have a comfortable future with his impoverished fiancee, but he then stopped caring about that, and just the money itself. Could also double as Start of Darkness.
Massive Numbered Siblings: The Ghost of Christmas Present had more than 1,800 siblings (presumably all deceased), each representing a year of Christmas. On the mortal level, Scrooge's former fiancée's house is overflowing with children, and the Cratchits have more children than the narrator can be bothered to name.
Meaningful Name: The word "scrooge" was originally slang for "to squeeze", as in Scrooge's tight-fistedness.
Mind Screw: The Ghost of Christmas Past's physical appearance, which was allegedly so confusing that the book's original illustrator didn't even attempt to draw it.
Mistaken Age: Scrooge is usually depicted and/or played as an old, withered man, but going by certain aspects in the story - his nephew Fred's age, for instance - by modern standards he's probably only middle-aged at the most. Then again, in the early Victorian era being middle-aged was quite likely considered to be old anyway.
"Scrooge said that he would see him—Yes, indeed, he did. He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him in that extremity first."
Neologism: The term "Scrooge" for a miser, especially a bitter one.
Nothing Is Scarier: The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, who is completely shrouded, his true form always just out of sight. It makes sense in that he's the embodiment of a man's blindness toward his own future.
Erroneously expecting the Ghost of Christmas Present to come on the second night at 1 o'clock, it's stated that nothing between a baby and a rhinoceros would have surprised him much. When nothing happens, he freaks out. (It turns out the Ghost was actually waiting for him in Scrooge's living room.)
One Mario Limit: Any fictional character from after this story's publication named Ebenezer will be a reference to Ebenezer Scrooge.
Opinion Changing Dream: Before four ghosts visit him in his dream Scrooge is a mean person who hates Christmas and helping the needy. After the dream his opinion is changed completely and he becomes a good person.
Parlor Games: The guests at Fred's party play some; the original story used both Blind Man's Bluff and Twenty Questions.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: After delivering his Ironic Echo to Scrooge, the Ghost of Christmas Present takes him to task for presuming he has the right to refer to some people as a "surplus population."
""Man, if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child. Oh God. To hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust."
Right on the Tick: Subverted. The spirits are supposed to come on three consecutive nights, at specified times. They arrive at the specific time, but all the visitations somehow happen in one night.
Robbing the Dead: The Future spirit shows Scrooge a scene where his possessions are callously sold off just after his death.
Rule of Three: Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet To Come.
Scare 'Em Straight: Both Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come do this. In some adaptations, Marley makes one last appearance in Scrooge's mirror when Scrooge shows signs of reverting.
The Scrooge: Although Scrooge has money, and is always making more, he's stingy in his home life and ungenerous to others.
The Social Darwinist: Scrooge is your typical Malthusian aristocrat of the time. Suffice to say that another of Dickens's fictional followers of Malthus, Filer in "The Chimes", says the poor "have no earthly right or business to be born. And that we know they haven't. We reduced it to a mathematical certainty long ago!" Scrooge's battlefield is more market than campaign.
Temporal Mutability: Scrooge desperately asks the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, "Are these the shadows of the things that will be, or are they shadows of things that may be, only?" The Ghost does not answer; the closing narration confirms that he was able to change his destiny.
Time Passes Montage: Broadly the entire visit to the past, but most especially the moment in the schoolroom when Scrooge sees his entire childhood pass in moments.
Truth in Television: By the standards of his time Scrooge wasn't a particularly harsh employer aside from the pittance he paid in wages. Many people worked right through Christmas—note that when "reformed," Scrooge expects to find a poultry shop open on Christmas Day itself, and is not disappointed. At one point, Dickens uses a conversation between Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Present for an Author Tract about blue laws prohibiting bakeries from being open on Sundays.
Trying Not to Cry: Mrs. Cratchit wants to show a strong face for her husband when he comes back from arranging Tim's burial.
Used to Be a Sweet Kid: The main focus on Scrooge's childhood is on his loneliness rather than any acts of kindness, but he deeply loved his sister and seems to have been very fond of Dick Wilkinson.
A Very British Christmas: One could make a pretty good case that this story is practically the Trope Codifier; it certainly helped popularize the celebration and even the phrase "Merry Christmas" (which, ironically enough, became much more popular in America than the UK, where "Happy Christmas" is the more common greeting).
Villain with Good Publicity: Dickens touches upon this with Marley's donations to the charity. One doesn't necessarily need to be altruistic to donate; at the most cynical end of the scale, it's a way of keeping the company in good public standing. But when the story begins, Scrooge is so far gone that he doesn't even consider the more cynical side of giving. Subverted at the same time—Marley expresses true remorse at his lack of genuine altruism in life.
Writer on Board: Quite a bit, and not only for the social commentary. Dickens infused most of his own childhood into the Christmas Past story, particularly an extended discussion on the Arabian Nights and the importance of fantasy in childhood. Uniquely, the story would be much poorer without Dickens getting on board.
Adaptations with their own trope pages (year of release and actor playing Scrooge in parentheses):
In Dickens' book, the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to see the Christmas celebrations of an isolated group of miners, a pair of lighthouse keepers, and the crew of a ship at sea. These scenes are rarely included in film or television adaptations, though Scrooge (1935) and the Patrick Stewart TV version (1999) has them, and the 1951 Scrooge has the miners.
Another scene from the book that is rarely included in adaptions is the scene where Christmas Future shows Scrooge the family that was in debt to him celebrating his death. The 1999 and 2009 version include it, however, and the Albert Finney version takes that aspect Up to Eleven with the coffin-dancing "Thank You Very Much" song.
Marley's Ghost takes this Up to Eleven - it's so short, the other ghosts don't appear, and it falls to Marley to show Scrooge the past, present and future.
"Bah, humbug!", thanks to Lost in Imitation — the phrase is uttered only twice in the original work. "Humbug," on its own, is said seven times, however, all in the first chapter. They even Lampshade it with "He tried to say “Humbug!” but stopped at the first syllable."
And in "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol", there's Tiny Tim's fondness for "Razzleberry dressing".
Cicely Tyson in Mrs. Scrooge There is also a sibling Gender Flip and her brother dies in the Vietnam War.
Tori Spelling in A Carol Christmas
Vanessa Williams in A Diva's Christmas Carol Another sibling Gender Flip
Barbie's Christmas Carol
The 2009 Rod Espinosa comic has Eliza Scrooge, but is still set in the Victorian era, requiring a few other changes.
Happily Ever Before: Inverted. A theatrical adaptation added Book Ends that showed Marley and the Spirits talking to an unseen figure (presumably God). This shows that rather than being sent back, Marley begged for a chance to help Scrooge, knowing no one else would. At the end, seeing his selflessness, the spirits ask permission to remove Marley's chains. God says no...he (God) will do it himself!
Informed Attribute: Several adaptations show the "poor as churchmice" Cratchetts living in a house that actually looks like a pretty nice, middle-class home, although some, like the Patrick Stewart telefilm, portray their poverty more believably.
Large Ham: The Ghost of Christmas Present, since Christmas itself is supposed to be an obviously joyful time. Depending on the actor, Scrooge and/or Jacob Marley may be this in adaptations.
Scrooge, after his redemption, is this in some adaptations.
The Musical: Many musical versions exist; among them are:
The 2004 TV movie starring Kelsey Grammer (which was an adaptation of a stage musical production that ran at Madison Square Garden from 1994-2003; music by Alan Menken)
Pretty in Mink: Not in the book, but in many of the adaptations, at least one or two furs, like a muff or fur-trimmed cape, will show up at some point. And of course there is the robe worn by the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Show Within a Show: The framing story of "Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol" is of Magoo playing Scrooge on Broadway. On stage, he plays the role straight; offstage, he the same old, nearsighted Magoo.
The Voiceless: The common depiction of the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
In Mickey's Christmas Carol, he appears to be voiceless for most of his appearance, but when Scrooge asks "whose lonely grave is this?" he lights a cigar, revealing himself to be Pete, and says: "Why, yours, Ebenezer. The richest man in the cemetery! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!"
Also subverted in the Beavis And Butthead episode "Huh-Huh-Humbug" when Coach Buzzcut poses as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and threatens Beavis of what will happen.
In the original novel, there's one scene where Scrooge hears lines of poetry being recited in his head which definitely did not come from himself, but it never outright states that Yet To Come actually spoke (telepathically).
In the George C. Scott movie, the spirit of Yet to Come doesn't speak, but every time it "responds" to Scrooge, a weird metallic wail is heard in the background.