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Literature / Nickolai Of The North

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Who filled Santa's stocking when he was a boy?
Izzy Raby, the author’s daughter, whose question became the inspiration for the book

Nickolai of the North is a 2005 children's book by Lucy Daniel Raby. The plot centers around the childhood of a boy who would grow up to be none other than Santa Claus. A sequel, Nickolai's Quest, was published in 2007.

The elfin kingdom, situated underground near the North Pole, is turned to stone by the Wicked Witch Magda (formerly an elf herself, exiled for practicing dark magic), and only a little boy called Nickolai "Nick" survives, thanks to the protection of his Light Fairy Elvina and the help of a flying reindeer Comet, who takes him for a human boy and carries him to a human town Norsk further to the south.

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Nickolai is taken in and raised by a childless couple Joe and Hannah and gets teased by most of the local children for his pointed ears. He is only able to make more friends when he thinks up a sleigh competition game and then when he carves toys for the little kids. One day, he stumbles upon the flying reindeer in the nearby forest and learns he is not Joe and Hannah's biological child, which leads to a huge quarrel in the family.

Meanwhile, back in the far north, Magda builds a city of gold to lure people to her realm. The rumors of the city reach Nickolai's town, and he realizes it has something to do with his own origins. Together with the family of his best friend Anneka, he goes to the Golden City. Magda is only too happy: she needs to get Nickolai's Light Fairy for her power to become supreme.

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The book provides examples of:

  • Age Without Youth: Downplayed with Nickolai, who becomes immortal but continues to age. However, there are no usual horrors associated with the trope: Nickolai just grows up to old age and then lives on as a happy and healthy Elderly Immortal.
  • And Now You Must Marry Me: A rare villain-to-villain example. At one point Volpo, The Dragon to Magda, tells her he won't help her further unless she marries him. It's left ambiguous whether he wanted her for her (magically-induced) beauty or her power (or both).
  • An Asskicking Christmas: The main events take place around Christmastime, because Magda's magic is at its strongest during the Winter Solstice.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: The belief in the trope is constantly exploited by Magda. Played straight in the sense of "natural beauty equals goodness".
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  • Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Nickolai's mother Ella becomes the first woman to compete in the elf kingdom's sleigh races and the first woman to win them. Other elves are skeptical about her at first, but when she wins, they cheer for her heartily.
  • City of Gold: Of false gold, actually, but nonetheless.
  • Crapsaccharine World: The Golden City. A breathtaking fairytale realm, covering a totalitarian regime and built on dark magic.
  • Disappeared Dad: Nickolai's birth father dies in an avalanche when Nickolai is just a baby.
  • Fairest of Them All: Magda wants world domination all right, but she also wants to be a perfect beauty. Justified, since, after her exile, she has become hideous.
  • Iconic Outfit: Even Santa's classic red outfit gets a backstory – it was originally given to his mother for winning the sleigh races.
  • Innocent Blue Eyes:
    • The elves have them.
    • Subverted with Finn, who's got blue eyes but is anything but innocent.
  • Leaving Food for Santa: When Nickolai plans his Christmas mission, he specifies people should leave food for him and for the reindeer.
  • The Marvelous Deer: The flying reindeer tribe. They get their flying abilities from aurora borealis.
  • Our Elves Are Better: The beautiful humanoid race, able to live in the coldest region. They draw their magic from the Earth's magnetic field. They were created from ordinary stones (see Our Fairies Are Different below).
  • Our Fairies Are Different: The Light Fairies (tiny Winged Humanoid females made of golden light) originate from aurora borealis, and each elf has their own Light Fairy (friend, companion and guardian). The Elfin Kingdom came to be when the first Light Fairies effectively created the first elves by bringing stones to life. When Magda devours the Light Fairies, the elves get turned to stone again.
  • Pointy Ears: They come with the ability to control the Earth's magnetic field, as Nickolai learns in Norsk already.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Magda, impatient and fiery-tempered sometimes to the point of hysteria, is Red to calm and calculated Soft-Spoken Sadist Volpo's Blue.
  • Secret Santa: Nickolai's first gift-bringing round (sans the reindeer, limited to his little town and performed with the other children's help).
  • ¡Three Amigos!: Nickolai, Zak and Anneka.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Most blurbs of the book make no secret of the fact that Nickolai is going to become Santa in the end.
  • Vain Sorceress: Magda mainly wants: a) herself to be eternally young and beautiful; b) everyone around to gush over her beauty.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: Set several decades into the future. Nickolai is now the Santa we all know and love, Zak and Anneka are married with children and grandchildren, and Louise lives with them too.
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