So I am convinced after watching a myriad of Christmas Carol adaptations this year (of which my favorite is, of course, the Muppets). How many adaptations are there? Movies and TV show episodes add up to over fifty, though there may be many more. There are plays, an opera, books...Dickens's structure has been imitated so often it feels almost cliche. And yet, before Dickens, IT DIDN'T EXIST. He done thunk it up all himself.
Of course he had influences: fairy tales, Washington Irving, Shakespeare, the Greeks, etc. He read, he listened, he took those elements of story and human nature that existed out there and wove something entirely new. IT's such a familiar story that I forget sometimes to give credit to the man who made it happen. I also read somewhere that Dickens, who was concerned about the state of the poor in Victorian England, meant to write a political tract encouraging people to do something about it. He changed his mind and instead wrote the novella The Christmas Carol, convinced fiction could do far more to inspire. 150 years later his story is still vibrant. I doubt we'd ever see a Muppets version of the essay on caring for the poor.
One of the things that fascinate me about The Christmas Carol is that we think of it as a feel-good tale, because of the ending. But of course it is actually a horror story. It's a haunting. Ghosts visit a man and scare him nearly to death. Some of them are really quite frightening, while the others are disturbing at best. The main character sees horrific and sad things. This is a visceral and psycological horror tale that Dickens coupled with Christmas and made up his own slipstream genre that resonates a hundred and fifty years later. Like Shakespeare and Austen, Dickens wrote a story that can be retold again and again, remain relevent and not get tiresome. Genius, my friends.
And as Gonzo says at the end of the movie, "If you liked this, you should read the book."