Bruzilla was an old witch who lived deep in the forest. There was something particular about her: she hated children. All children! Babies, kids, teenagers, both little girls and little boys, twins, youngest siblings, gifted children — she couldn’t stand any variety of young ‘un.
It was for this reason that she hid away deep in the forest, where no children ever came around. But even in the depths of her hideaway, the mere thought of a chubby, innocent face, which might also break into a smile, sent her into a mad rage.
One day, she decided to be done with it once and for all. “The best defense is a good offense!” her mother, the cruel Rogomma, used to sneer, a witch who was well known for her evil deeds and chronic nastiness.
So Bruzilla got to work. She began sketching a creature of unheard-of cruelty: her pencil scraped the paper while she sketched the scoundrel that would scare these scatterbrained kids like the bogeyman. She skipped with joy over the result: the scope of her creature's scandalous acts would scare the children’s socks off, and they would scamper away forever.
She decided to dress her monster in a blood-red suit, with a big coat and baggy pants. He would hide his face under a big hat, with only a bushy beard peeking out.
She was very happy with this idea: children hate beards, they’re scratchy and scary. She added gloves, in order not to leave any fingerprints behind, and, to complete the picture, a dark bag on his back, where he’d toss his victims. The monster would have an impressive build in order to scare the unfortunate children who dared glance at him at their very first glimpse.
She rubbed her dry, claw-like hands together and started gathering the ingredients to prepare the dreadful mixture from which her monstrous plan would burst forth.
During a freezing night, she put the final touch to her masterpiece. Tossing the last pinch of evil seasoning into the pot where her creature was simmering, she shouted:
“And now, come out of there, you marvelous horror!”
In a cloud of acrid-smelling steam, she glimpsed a gigantic silhouette. Then the monster stepped out of the pot and stood up before her, making a disturbing sound:
“Hooo ho ho!
She was jubilant. He was even better than in her sketches. That dense beard! That paunch! She was very proud of the heavy black boots that matched the big belt. What an idea! Ogre's boots!
Unfortunately for her, Bruzilla was very mean, but she was not as gifted in black magic as she thought. She realized this when the monster, coming closer, gave her a friendly smile. She backed away fearfully. Then he grabbed her in his arms before she could say a word. And when he asked her if she had been a good little witch, she almost fainted from indignation. Still determined to complete her project successfully, she began her creature’s training.
“Listen closely,” she told him. “Repeat after me. Children are terrible, you have to scare them off!”
“Children are terrific, I have to scoop them up!” the bearded creature repeated, nodding his head to show that he had understood.
“Nooooo!” Bruzilla shouted. “To start with, you’ll give each brat a big punch.”
“I’ll give each one a big present,” the red giant obediently replied.
Bruzilla tore her hair. She persisted: “Don’t be stupid! Children are a waste, they must be destroyed!”
“Yes, children are wonderful, they must be enjoyed,” he agreed, with a look of great concentration.
Bruzilla banged her head against the wall.
“Your mission is to scare the rude tots,” she insisted.
“My passion is to scale the rooftops?” the creature exclaimed. “I’ll have to get back in shape!”
Bruzilla turned bright red. She almost had smoke coming out of her nostrils. She was not a very patient witch. Yet she tried one more time:
“I want you to eradicate all the kids, every one!” she spluttered.
"I can disseminate gifts to everyone!” the monster exclaimed, hugging her once more. “Oh, thank you! I love this job! When do I start?”
This time, Bruzilla was out of patience. She opened the door of her cottage and pushed the giant out, without a thought for the snow that was falling thick and fast. Before slamming the door, she shouted a volley of insults at him, to which he replied pleasantly by thanking her for her kindness. Then he went on his way, without really knowing where he was headed.
His path took him straight to the North Pole. There, he met an old man with a beard that was just as bushy as his own, dressed in a suit that looked like the one he wore. It was Santa Claus, of course! Seeing he was frozen, Santa invited him to have some hot chocolate in his cabin. He was thrilled to meet him. He was starting to feel old and tired, and he thought that the monster resembled his younger self.
So he jumped for joy when the creature offered to help out and take over, continuing the work that he had accomplished for so many years.
“You’ll have to meet lots of children, scoop them up to sit on your lap, and even pat their cute little heads if they’re sweet,” he explained.
“I'm well aware,” smiled the bearded creature.
“You know, children are nice,” Santa Claus insisted. “You must enjoy them!”
“I know,” the candidate answered, overjoyed.
“You only work one month a year, but it's hard!” the old man sighed. “The easiest part is meeting the children and asking them if they've been good. But on the big day, you have to climb up the rooftops, go down the chimneys, and leave presents without making any noise, so that the surprise will be perfect the next morning."
“I’ve already been informed of all this,” said the monster, who was not so monstrous after all. “When can I start?”
They shook hands and came to an agreement: for the upcoming deliveries, which would take place the next day, Santa Claus would go along with the candidate so he could explain everything he would need to know.
The monster was a very gifted student — patient, smiling, and careful not to scare the children (sometimes very young children can be afraid of Santa Claus). He also had lots of imaginative ideas for hiding presents.
And in this way, he became the nicest, the most considerate, and the gentlest Santa Claus there ever was. His reputation spread throughout the world.
When, deep in her forest, Bruzilla got wind of her creature's fame, she became so angry that she fell into her pot and turned into a...but that's another story entirely!
Translated by Kate Deimling