Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Have a merry Socialist Christmas
My aunt suggested I watch "Sagan om Karl-Bertil Jonssons julafton," a Swedish Christmas classic that is shown on TV there every Christmas eve. I found it on YouTube and must admit that the animated program was quite a revelation.

Here, in the form of a beloved animated Yuletide special, set to a Vince Guaraldi-like jazz score, was the very heart of Swedish socialism made plain. Karl-Bertil is a schoolboy who has a seasonal part-time job working at the Stockholm post office, sorting Christmas packages. He also happens to be the son of a wealthy man who owns a department store. Karl-Bertil's idol is Robin Hood and he decides to emulate his hero by stealing packages meant for rich people to give to the less fortunate. He finds out who is rich enough to qualify by looking them up in his father's taxeringskalender, a sort of tax yearbook that apparently let Swedes find out exactly who earned how much. Anyone earning over 50,000 kronor per year is deemed rich and thus their Christmas gifts must be given away to more deserving folk.

One of those gifts happens to be a porcelain dish from Karl-Bertil's aunt. When she calls on Christmas to make sure the package arrived, the jig is up. Karl-Bertil's capitalist pig of a father is enraged and demands that his son make the rounds on Christmas to apologize to everyone whose gifts he stole. Luckily, Karl-Bertil had made notations in the taxeringskalender so he knows exactly to whom he must go. The boy is completely unapologetic and matter-of-fact about his crimes -- he was simply taking from people who had so much, and giving to those who had so little. At this point, I figured it was only a matter of time before Karl-Bertil was prosecuted for mail fraud and thrown in prison.

On the contrary, the first person they see is thrilled that the lad took his packages, thus sparing him from having to find room in his mansion for more useless doohickeys from distant relatives. As they continue making the rounds, Karl-Bertil becomes something of a folk hero among the wealthy Swedes.

The rich people, of course, were not asked in advance whether or not they wanted their gifts to be appropriated, or to whom they should be given. (In one scene that proves that this is definitely not an American cartoon, a bare-breasted hooker is thrilled to receive a necktie.) I could not help but think of Astrid Lindgren, the acclaimed Swedish author who created Pippi Longstocking and was famous for being socked with a 102% tax rate. That happened in the mid-1970s, about 10 years after this Christmas special first aired.

Here in the U.S., many of our Christmas specials celebrate the spirit of giving, but not even "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" goes as far as "Sagan om Karl-Bertil Jonssons julafton." Somehow I can't imagine a translated version would catch on here.

God Jul everybody!
posted by 125records @ 5:40 PM  
  • At 5:52 AM, Blogger yellojkt said…

    The animation is very good. It reminds me of a less stylized Triplets of Belleville. And you made me watch the whole thing just for the bare breasted hooker. Very sneaky of you.

    Merry Christmas.

Post a Comment
<< Home
About Me
Name: Sue
Home: San Francisco Bay Area, California, United States
About Me: Email me: talk at interbridge dot com
See my complete profile
Previous Post
Powered by