Torten’s Christmas Secret, by Maurice Dolbier, has been my wife’s favorite Christmas book since childhood. Published in 1951, and surprisingly hard to find for such a good book, it is the story of a gnome at the North Pole who is not happy with the fact that bad boys and girls get nothing but a lump of coal at Christmas. Taking things into his own hands, he devises a plan to get presents to the bad boys and girls in spite of the rule. Smuggling home bits and pieces of leftover toys, he works nights to create his own stock of toys that he plans to deliver in secret on Christmas Eve using one of the reserve reindeer as his transportation. But when bad weather forces Santa to use every single reindeer, it looks like Torten’s plan will never get off the ground.
Torten’s companion during the long evenings of working overtime has been a large white Polar Bear named Drufus. Drufus is not terribly bright, but very good-hearted and will do anything to help. Suddenly Torten gets an idea. “Drufus,” he asks, “Can you fly?”
“No,” says Drufus.
Torten asks, “Have you ever tried?”
Drufus replies; “That’s an easy question. No. I wouldn’t know where to start.”
“I imagine you start by taking your feet off the ground,” recommends Torten.
Looking down at his four heavy white feet, Drufus lifts one of his feet.
“Good!” says Torten. “That’s the way.”
Then another, and Drufus is up on his hind legs.
“It is working,” exclaims Torten. “You are on the right track now!”
A third foot leaves the ground.
“Why, you are wonderful!” Torten cries. “Splendid! Didn’t I tell you, you could do it?”
“Yes,” admits the polar bear, trying to balance on one foot, “But it gets a little more difficult from now on.”
With a few more tries, Drufus does indeed fly and Torten is off on his mission in a small sleigh pulled by a flying polar bear.
I think I know why my wife has always been so drawn to this story. Like Torten, she has always believed in the impossible and encouraging others to do the impossible. As a flight attendant for nine years, she also loves to fly. As a child, she broke her collarbone jumping off the top bunk of her bed after seeing “Peter Pan” for the first time. And that hasn’t stopped her.
But back to our story …
When Torten and Santa bump onto each other at one of the homes he had marked out, he finds out that Santa had gifts for the bad children after all. Had he checked in first, he would have found out that most of his elaborate plan was unnecessary. He would have also found out how he could work with Santa instead of against him to accomplish the same goals. It’s very much like finding out about grace, after we’ve used up everything else on our own; we find out God’s been there for us all along.
“I always thought there was a rule,” he tells Santa. (Bad children don’t get any toys.)
“There is!” Santa calls out, as he flies off to finish his Christmas Eve run. “There is a rule! But Love has never lived by rules since the world began!”