Scrooge has been one of our best-known and best-loved fictional characters for over 150 years. His name had been adopted into the English language as a term for miserliness and meanness. His trademark phrase "Bah, humbug!" is still used to express scorn for Christmas traditions.
Yet, Scrooge is more than a mean-spirited old miser who hates everybody. He is transformed by his Christmas Eve encounters with the three ghosts of Christmas to become a kindly, warmhearted man whose generosity enriches the lives of everyone around him.
It is this transformation that makes us love Scrooge. He is an enduring symbol of the possibility of change. We love him as much in the 21st century as Dickens's readers did in the 19th.
A Christmas Carol
Ebenezer Scrooge is the main character in A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens. The book was first published on December 19, 1843 under the title A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. It was illustrated by Punch cartoonist John Leech.
Dickens referred to it as his "little Christmas Book," but it was actually an immediate success. It sold 6,000 copies within a week, and was received as enthusiastically by both critics and the general public. Thomas Hood's review, published in January 1844 in Hood's Magazine and Comic Review, noted "If Christmas, with its ancient and hospitable customs, its social and charitable observances, were in danger of decay, this is the book that would give them a new lease." The book helped reinvigorate Christmas celebrations in Victorian England.
A Christmas Carol has been in print continuously since its publication in 1843, and it is available today. The Bantam Classic edition is a paperback copy. A hardcover edition is also available. The Annotated Christmas Carol includes wood etchings, some from the original 1843 text, as well as an introduction giving the history of the book. An ebook version can be downloaded from Project Gutenberg or read online.
You can even download a copy to read on your handheld PC! Scroll to the bottom of the page to download the zipped file.
Jim Dale read A Christmas Carol for Listening Library. This unabridged edition is available on cassette.
You can download an mp3 version from Librivox.
A version that can be played on RealPlayer is available from Wired for Books, an audio archive maintained by Ohio State University. Joe Balding is featured as Scrooge in this recording.
Scrooge on Stage
Stage versions of A Christmas Carol have been produced throughout the English-speaking world every Christmas season for the last century. Whether it is the holiday favorite of a community theater group or a dazzling Broadway production, a straightforward play or a musical extravaganza, the story of Scrooge's transformation has a special place in our holiday traditions.
The largest community theater in the United States, the Omaha Community Playhouse, has a legendary production of A Christmas Carol. Dick Boyd has played Scrooge there for 30 years -- 818 performances before 425,770 people. Boyd retired at the end of the 2005 production, at the age of 83. "You can't act it. You have to be it," said Boyd in an interview on playing Scrooge for so many years.
In 2005, Scrooge - The Musical opened at the London Palladium. This award-winning musical included specially created illusions by magician Paul Kieve.
Scrooge on Film
There have been over 70 film versions of A Christmas Carol. Whether it was the Muppets or Mickey Mouse, everybody has wanted to produce this classic Christmas story.
A silent film was produced as early as 1901, under the titles Scrooge and Marley's Ghost. Other silent films followed, though many no longer exist. One exception is a 1910 version included on a DVD titled Christmas Past. The silent 1913 Scrooge starred Seymour Hicks, who recreated the role in the 1935 British "talkie" with the same title.
The first black-and-white television version aired in 1947, and the first TV version filmed in color was made in 1954. In 1962, Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol told the story with animation, and in 1971 Alastair Sim was the voice of Scrooge in a more traditional animated version. The 1999 version was the first production to use computer-generated graphics.
Many of these films are available on DVD today.
Whether you read Dickens's original story, listen to an audiobook, attend a play, or watch a movie, enjoy Scrooge this Christmas!