Public Domain Super Heroes

Santa Claus

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Santa Claus
The (oddly timed) 666 issue of Four Color Comics.

Real Name

Kris Kringle / Father Christmas / Saint Nicholas

First appearance


Original publisher

European and North American folklore

Created by

The World


Santa Claus' origin has been told various ways by various authors. Here is what is widely known about Santa Claus:

Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas) lives with his wife (whose maiden name is speculated to be Mary Christmas) at or near the North Pole where there is always snow (although other Arctic or Subarctic locations are sometimes specified, like Iceland or Lapland). In some stories, the two have offspring. Every Christmas Eve he packs his sleigh and flies around the world delivering gifts to children. His sleigh is usually pulled by eight flying reindeer - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen, a slight variation on Clement C. Moore's original roster. The gifts are made by a group of elves who live at the North Pole with Santa. He keeps a list of which children are "Naughty" and which children are "Nice." He delivers gifts to the children on the "Nice" list by climbing down chimneys and leaving the presents under a Christmas tree or in stockings.

The 1892 play Santa Claus’ Daughter portrays Santa Claus as a king, “Ruler of the Kingdom of the North Pole,” where he lives with his wife and daughter Kitty in a “Snow Castle” or “Snow‐palace” and has a “dude” (dandy) of a male secretary named Gussie de Smythe who prepares the annual directory of gift recipients. The kingdom is defended by “Amazons” composed of a band of “Snow‐fairies” with their own queen, as well as personifications of the holidays (US) Independence Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year. Santa Claus is said to be hundreds of years old and that “one of the conditions of [his] becoming immortal and the Christmas Saint” is his not being allowed to leave the North Pole but once a year.

The 1894 play “The Conquest of Santa Claus” portrays Santa and Mrs. Claus as having two children, Bertha and Fritz.

In “There Was a Boy Who Lived on Pudding Lane,” Santa Claus’ father is both the Baker and the Pieman, combined into one character; his mother is an original character named Nellie Claus; his younger brothers are named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; and his maternal grandmother is Mother Goose. Young Santa Claus, already an adept toymaker, is inspired to give toys away after a heroic episode saving the children of Cole’s kingdom from the Pied Piper, breaking the Piper’s spell by promising them toys. Later, it is King Cole who, on the request of Mother Goose, allows Santa to continue to give toys away indefinitely rather than sell them for a living by granting him a free toy business with free lodging on the condition that he move to the North Country. Santa marries a local woman named Bessie and they leave for the North Country on their wedding day, taken in a sleigh pulled by reindeer to a gorgeous house (“a great, wide, low building, furnished in log furniture and bearskins, and with a fire blazing in every room!”), all of which originally belonged to King Cole, and the two make toys for the children of the world forever thereafter. (No mention is made of elves.)

Ded Moroz is the Slavic counterpart to Santa Claus, but in the most famous tale told of him, he acts more like Jack Frost or the Frost King, and public‐domain stories in English often even translate his name as King Frost. He is, nevertheless, portrayed as distinguishing a nice child from a naughty one, giving gifts (to the nice one), and driving a sleigh pulled by a team of six white horses. In the tale, he springs from one tree to another and has the power to make a young woman who was abandoned by her family in the cold forest become colder and colder. However, he takes pity on her when she does not complain and gives her jewels and a silver‐ and gold‐embroidered robe (or a fur coat with beaver trim in another version). When her family then leave her stepsister in the same spot expecting similar gifts, Ded Moroz literally freezes the rude stepsister to death.

Public Domain Comic Appearances

Public Domain Literary Appearances

  • “Sir Christmas” (“Syre Cryſtes Maſſe”), carol attributed to Richard Smart, ca. 1461–77.
    • Reprinted in Ancient Songs, from the Time of King Henry the Third, to the Revolution, compiled by Joseph Ritson, 1790. (Internet Archive)
  • Summer’s Last Will and Testament, by Thomas Nashe, 1592.
    • Reprinted in A Select Collection of Old Plays …, vol. 9, ed. John Payne Collier, 1825. (Internet Archive)
  • Chriſtmas, His Maſque, by Ben Jonson, 1616.
    • Reprinted in The Works of Ben Jonſon, vol. 6, 1756. (HathiTrust)
  • The Spring’s Glory, a Maſke, by Thomas Nabbes, 1638.
    • Reprinted in The Spring’s Glory, a Maſke: Together with Sundry Poems, Epigrams, Elegies and Epithalamiums, 1639. (Internet Archive)
  • A History of New York, from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty …, by Diedrich Knickerbocker (pseudonym of Washington Irving), 1809. Much of what makes Santa Claus distinct from Father Christmas and Sinterklaas originated in this book. (vol. 1 and vol. 2 on the Internet Archive)
  • A New‐Year’s Present, to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve, part 3, The Children’s Friend, vol. 3, 1821. (Yale U. Library)
  • Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” by Clement Clarke Moore, The Troy Sentinel, 23 Dec. 1823. (page online)
    • Reprinted many times, including in The New‐York Book of Poetry, 1837. (Internet Archive)
  • Up on the House Top” (song), by Benjamin Hanby, 1864.
  • The Slav’s Poetical Views of Nature, vol. 2, by Alexander Afanasyev, 1867.
  • “Mrs. Santa Claus and Jessie Brown,” Harper’s Weekly: A Journal of Civilization, vol. 13, no. 628, 9 Jan. 1869. (Internet Archive)
  • A Letter From Santa Claus (letter, 1870s) by Mark Twain
  • Hidden Treasure; or, The Good St. Nicholas: A Goblin Story for Christmas, by Nathan Boughton Warren, 1872. (HathiTrust)
  • St. Nicholas (magazine, 1873–1922)
  • “The Frost Fairies,” Birdie and His Fairy Friends: A Book for Little Children, by Margaret T. Canby, 1873. Santa Claus does not appear in the story but is said to be the neighbor of Jack Frost (who lives “far to the North”) and is the intended recipient of a large gift of Jack’s gold and gems, although it never reaches him. (Reproduced online)
  • The Snow Maiden (play), by Alexander Ostrovsky, 1873.
  • Lill's Travels in Santa Claus Land (story, 1878)
  • The Daughter of the Snows (ballet), libretto by Marius Petipa, music by Ludwig Minkus, 1879.
  • Jolly Old Saint Nicholas” (song), words by Benjamin Hanby, music by James Pierpont, 1881.
  • “A Song of Saint Nicholas,” Rhymes and Jingles, by Mary Mapes Dodge, 1882. Makes no mention of reindeer, but instead claims that Saint Nicholas is able to visit every child’s home because he travels via their dreams. (Internet Archive)
  • The Snow Maiden (opera), by Nikolai Rimsky‐Korsakov, 1882.
  • Santa Claus and the Mouse (poem, 1883) by Emilie Poulsson
  • “Death of Santa Claus” (poem), in Buttercups and Clover, by Alice M. Ball, 1885. (Internet Archive)
  • Santa Claus and His Works (poem, 1886) by George P. Webster
  • “A Christmas Dream, and How It Came True” (story and play), Lulu’s Library, vol. 1, by Louisa May Alcott, 1886. (Internet Archive)
  • “Says Santa” (rhyme), by P. S. C., Wide Awake, vol. 28, no. 1, Dec. 1888. (HathiTrust)
  • “Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh‐Ride” (poem), by Katharine Lee Bates, Wide Awake, vol. 28, no. 1, Dec. 1888. (HathiTrust)
  • “Santa Claus on a Lark” and “Santa Claus in the Pulpit,” in Santa Claus on a Lark and Other Christmas Stories, by Washington Gladden, 1890. (Internet Archive)
  • “Jack Frost,” in Tales and Legends from the Land of the Tzar: Collection of Russian Stories, trans. Edith Hodgetts, 1891. (Internet Archive)
  • “The Frost King,” by Helen Keller, The Mentor, vol. 2, no. 1, Jan. 1892. Santa Claus does not appear in this retelling of “The Frost Fairies” (above), but is likewise said to be the neighbor of King Jack Frost (who lives “far to the North”) and is the intended recipient of a large gift of Jack’s treasure, although it never reaches him. (Internet Archive)
  • Santa Claus’ Daughter: A Musical Christmas Burlesque in Two Acts …, by Everett Elliott and F. W. Hardcastle, Ames’ Series of Standard and Modern Drama, no. 309, 1892. Santa Claus’ teen daughter Kitty, feeling isolated living at the North Pole, requests that her father bring back a man for her, so on his annual flight, he kidnaps a crass Irishman in the hopes that, after meeting him, his daughter will no longer want any man from the world of mortals. (Internet Archive)
  • “The Story of King Frost,” The Yellow Fairy Book, ed. Andrew Lang, 1894. (Internet Archive)
  • “The Conquest of Santa Claus: A Christmas Entertainment,” by Caroline A. Creevey and Margaret E. Sangster, Harper’s Young People, vol. 16, no. 787, 27 Nov. 1894. (Internet Archive)
  • Is There a Santa Claus?” (essay), by Francis Pharcellus Church, The Sun, 21 Sept. 1897.
  • Mr. Kris Kringle: A Christmas Tale (story, 1898) by S. Weir Mitchell
  • The Mother of St. Nicholas (Santa Claus): A Story of Duty and Peril, by Grant Balfour (pseudonym of James Miller Grant), 1899. (HathiTrust) (Internet Archive)
  • Santa Claus's Partner (novel, 1899) by Thomas Nelson Page
  • “A Messenger from Santa Claus,” in My Mysterious Clients, by Harvey Scribner, 1900. Reprinted in A Messenger from Santa Claus and Other Christmas Stories, 1904. (HathiTrust)
  • A Captured Santa Claus (novel, 1902) by Thomas Nelson Page
  • The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus (novel, 1902) by L. Frank Baum
  • The Surprising Adventures of the Man in the Moon, Showing How, in Company with Santa Claus, Robinson Crusoe, Cinderella and Her Prince, Jack the Giant Killer, Little Red Riding Hood, Old Mother Hubbard, Jack Sprat and His Wife, Tommy Tucker and Some Others, He Made a Remarkable Tour over Land and Sea and Through the Air, by Ray M. Steward (pseudonym of Edward Stratemeyer), 1903.
  • A Kidnapped Santa Claus” (story, 1904), by L. Frank Baum
  • A Defective Santa Claus (poem, 1904) James Whitcomb Riley
  • “A Visit to Santa Claus,” in A Messenger from Santa Claus and Other Christmas Stories, by Harvey Scribner, 1904. (HathiTrust)
  • “A Message to Mother Goose,” by Ellen Manly, St. Nicholas, vol. 32, no. 2, Dec. 1904. (Internet Archive)
  • “Santa Is Coming” (song), by W. A. Hodgdon, in Melodic First Reader, Natural Music Course, 1906. (Internet Archive)
  • A Ballad of Santa Claus (poem, 1907) by Henry Van Dyke
  • “A Perjured Santa Claus,” in Wards of Liberty, by Myra Kelly, 1907. (Internet Archive)
  • The Goblins' Christmas (story, 1908) by Elizabeth Anderson
  • Tommy Trot’s Visit to Santa Claus, by Thomas Nelson Page, 1908. (Internet Archive)
  • The Road to Oz (novel, 1909), by L. Frank Baum
  • “The Story of King Frost,” Childhood’s Favorites and Fairy Stories, vol. 1, ed. Hamilton Wright Mabie, Young Folks’ Treasury in 12 Volumes, 1909. (Google Books)
  • “A Child’s Christmas Prayer” (poem), in Songs with Silver Linings, by James W. Foley, 1910. (HathiTrust)
  • “Santa Claus’s Baby” and “Little Miss Santa Claus,” in Santa Claus’s Baby and Other Christmas Stories, by John Coleman Adams, 1911. (HathiTrust)
  • “The Christmas Conspiracy: A Christmas Play for Boys and Girls,” by Elizabeth Woodbridge, St. Nicholas, vol. 39, no. 2, Dec. 1911. (Internet Archive)
  • The Children's Book of Christmas Stories (story collection, 1913)
  • Mrs. Santa Claus, Militant: A Christmas Comedy (play), by Bell Elliott Palmer, 1914. Mrs. Santa Claus waits for Mr. Santa Claus (whom she calls “Jolly”) to take a nap and then steals his sleigh and attempts to deliver the Christmas presents herself. (Google Books)
  • “King Frost,” More Russian Picture Tales, by Valery Carrick, trans. Nevill Forbes, 1914. (Internet Archive)
  • “Santa Land” (song), words by Harriet D. Castle, music by J. A. Parks, in Second Year Music, Hollis Dann Music Course, 1915. (HathiTrust)
  • “A Story of Saint Nicholas” and “Elijah the Prophet and St. Nicholas,” in Russian Folk Tales (Translated from the Russian), by Alexander Afanasyev, trans. Leonard A. Magnus, 1915. (Internet Archive)
  • Christmas Island (poem, 1916) by Katharine Lee Bates
  • Santa Claus' Riddle (poem, 1916) by Katharine Lee Bates
  • Santa's Stocking (poem, 1916) by Katharine Lee Bates
  • A Reversible Santa Claus (story, 1917) by Meredith Nicholson
  • “Anita’s Secret or Christmas in the Steerage,” in The White Christmas and Other Merry Christmas Plays, by Walter Ben Hare, 1917. (Internet Archive)
  • The Luck of Santa Claus: A Play for Young People, by B. C. Porter, 1918. (Internet Archive)
  • Santa's Helpers (poem, 1918) by M. Nora Boylan
  • A Christmas Dilemma, by Katharine Van Etten Lyford, 1920. (Internet Archive)
  • Raggedy Andy Stories (1920) by Johnny Gruelle
  • The Christmas Chain (play), by Lilian Pearson, 1921. (Internet Archive)
  • The Christmas Dinner (play, 1921) by Shepherd Knapp
  • Down the Chimney (play, 1921) by Shepherd Knapp
  • Up the Chimney (play, 1921) by Shepherd Knapp
  • “There Was a Boy Who Lived on Pudding Lane: A True Account, if Only You Believe It, of the Life and Ways of Santa, Eldest Son of Mr. and Mrs. Claus,” by Sarah Addington, The Ladies’ Home Journal, vol. 38, no. 12, Dec. 1921. (HathiTrust)
  • Queen Christmas: A Pageant Play, by Carolyn Wells, 1922. (Internet Archive)
  • “The Great Adventure of Mrs. Santa Claus,” by Sarah Addington, The Ladies’ Home Journal, vol. 39, no. 12, Dec. 1922. (HathiTrust)
  • The Christmas Forest, by Louise Fatio, 1950. In the public domain from failure to renew copyright. (HathiTrust)

Public Domain Film Appearances


  • The songs Here Comes Santa Claus, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, and Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer are NOT public domain, so avoid using details from those songs which are original to them.
  • In Russia, he is known as Ded Moroz, the literal translation of the name would be "Old Man Frost," although the name is often translated as "Father Frost" in light of the modern usage of "ded" to refer to a grandfather. Ded Moroz is said to bring presents to children, however, unlike the secretive Santa Claus, the gifts are often delivered "in person," at New Year's Eve parties and other New Year celebrations.
    • In a Russian story, the Snow Maiden is the daughter of Spring the Beauty and Father Frost, and yearns for the companionship of mortal humans. She grows to like a shepherd named Lel, but her heart is unable to know love. Her mother takes pity and gives her this ability, but as soon as she falls in love, her heart warms and she melts. This version of the story was made into a play The Snow Maiden by Aleksandr Ostrovsky, with incidental music by Tchaikovsky in 1873.


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