The Necessity of Krampus Doubt

Let us begin with a truth that is surely incontrovertible: the existence of Santa Claus. Every year on the night of December 24, he sets out in a flying sleigh drawn by a team of reindeer led by one equipped with a magnificent nasal beacon, and circumnavigates the Earth. In the course of his journey he stops atop each and every house, climbs down the chimney with his bulging sack, consumes whatever seasonal treats are left for him and dispenses whatever is deserved: good girls have their stockings stuffed with goodies, bad ones get their bottoms soundly spanked. And he does it all with such efficiency that the entire job is completed before the dawn of Christmas morning.

Nobody could possibly have any trouble believing that, and in any case there’s a wealth of photographic evidence, some of it available on this site, that puts the matter entirely beyond reasonable doubt. Which is bad news for naughty girls everywhere.

But can we apply the same reasoning to the Krampus? A creature with a long tongue permanently lolling out of a mouth equipped with razor-sharp pointy teeth? Surely he’s perpetually in danger of biting it off – meaning that, by any ordinary law of natural selection, such a creature could never have evolved in the first place. A being whose raison d’etre is to collect up children and take them away in his sack? Be honest, what parent, even of a badly behaved child, would really countenance that? Such a being would not be celebrated but declared a public menace! And as for his other function of spanking naughty grown-up girls, isn’t that a needless duplication of a job already covered by the jolly man in red?

So, unlike Santa, the Krampus is an altogether implausible figure to begin with. And though there are many photos of him doing his duty, he’s obviously just a man in a suit, rampaging around like an underbudgeted monster in an early episode of Doctor Who.

Now, here’s a strange thing: an online search for Krampus pictures will typically return many, many more drawings than photographs, as compared with a similar search for Santa.

There are many different degrees of stylization to be found: some of the artwork is more or less realistic,

some toony,

some sketchy,

some cutesy:

The range goes all the way from precise line drawing to rendered color:

Some are drawn in styles so individually distinctive that they present a real challenge to one’s descriptive powers.

Some people get the Krampus tattooed onto themselves. Here are a couple of the available designs:

He’s a very popular figure in German greetings cards.

And one of those cards starts to unlock the mystery of why, compared with Santa, there are so many Krampus pictures and so few authenticated Krampus sightings.

Now consider the following more recent images:

These are three very different pictures, but you’ll notice straight away the one macabre detail they have in common: just like in the vintage postcard, each of the girls is being spanked with a handful of snakes. A longer look will reveal the way other elements carry over from the original to one or more of the newer pictures, in particular aspects of the pose, but also in one case the tree stump the Krampus is sitting on. As we have seen elsewhere, that is how a lot of art is created: not from observation, but by the imaginative transformation of other works of art.

The conclusion is inescapable: the Krampus is only a fantasy, a mythical being who features in stories and pictures concocted by human beings, transfered from drawing to drawing in neverending series, with no direct basis in anything that exists in real life.

But what about that small but not non-existent number of Krampus sightings, and the photographic evidence thereof?

Well, you know I said he looked like a man in a monster costume? That’s because… he is a man in a monster costume!

So there it is. Naughty girls do still need to beware of Santa.

But they can take comfort in the certain knowledge that the Krampus is nothing but a mere figment of the human imagination.

Er… isn’t he?

6 thoughts on “The Necessity of Krampus Doubt

  1. A Reader says:

    Perhaps there isn’t a ‘one-size fits all’ punishment for these matters. It is well-known (at least where I grew up) that Santa will leave rocks and/or coal in the stockings of the naughty. While doubtless disappointing to the recipient, a truly naughty young woman would, I am sure, consider it mild — rather after the manner of one who, knowing that she ‘deserves what’s coming to her’, is surprised (or disappointed, as the case may be) to find that she is only being scolded.

    I have also heard it alleged in older sources that Santa would sometimes fill the stocking, not with coal, but with switches. I presume that this was either a rather to-the-point ‘warning’ to the recipient or an even more to-the-point ‘suggestion’ to someone else in the household. This would, at any rate, certainly be a more severe punishment, especially if the young lady in question were the first to wake up and check her stocking, only to find herself rather in the position of one sent to stand in the corner and await her fate.

    My point being, if Santa also takes it upon himself to actually spank some of these young women personally, then we have already enumerated (at least) three separate possible punishments of varying severity. Therefore, your assertion that Krampus’s alleged role is redundant cannot be maintained, as it remains entirely within the realm of possibility that he represents an even more severe punishment, one sent only to the worst offenders, or perhaps to repeat offenders.

    You further assert that one of Krampus’s roles is to stuff those he punishes (or some of them) into a sack for the purpose of abducting them for (per the usual sources) some dire but generally vague fate and that, were this really the case, he would be considered a public menace; your point being, I take it, that, since he is not considered a public menace, he does not really do such things. This argument is entirely valid, but it does not prove the non-existence of Krampus.

    While I will admit that I am not well-versed in such lore, I am not aware of any instance of Krampus actually doing such a thing, rather than being accused of having done such a thing in the past. My suspicion (which I cannot prove, but, doubtless there is some dusty medieval manuscript lurking in an archive somewhere that would shed some light on the matter) is that, in times past, he did, in fact, “take” some of those he visited — not for some horrible fate, never to be seen again; but rather to be paraded down the street and spanked in public. This humiliation would, I am sure, be reserved only for the very worst-behaved of the badly-behaved women of the town, or perhaps for those whose misdeeds were of a nature that justice could not be served unless the punishment were a well-known public fact.

    Over time, of course, this became increasingly socially unacceptable and Krampus (who, having survived for so many centuries, cannot be as unaccommodating or inflexible as he may seem) ceased to apply this extreme punishment. As a result, it gradually became a confused memory that resulted in the current lurid folklore. Speculatively, this may have been encouraged by anti-Krampus propaganda, almost certainly spread by the aforementioned worst-behaved of the badly-behaved exactly in the hopes that their menfolk would consider their nemesis a public menace and conveniently run him out of town before he could give them what they richly deserved.

    Finally, you assert that natural selection would preclude the evolution of a creature with Krampus’s known (or claimed) attributes. If you will pardon me saying so, this is the weakest of your arguments. Whatever his actual origin, I have never heard that he was born or otherwise developed after the manner of an ordinary biological animal. You might as well reassure people that it is perfectly safe to walk through graveyards on Hallowe’en night, since it is well established that ghosts, being incapable of biological reproduction, could never have been born, much less evolved as a ‘species’ into their present form!

    I notice that this comment has become somewhat excessively long, but I cannot help but to add more: It seems to me that it would be possible to conduct a semi-scientific experiment relevant to this matter. All one would need to do is find a (preferably attractive; whether scientific ethics also require that she be forewarned is left as an exercise to the experimenter) young woman and explain to her that, in the remaining days leading up to Christmas, she is not only permitted, but required, to misbehave as much as possible. Then, when you finally get fed up and decide to spank …. er, that is to say … when the mysterious Christmas-related being finally appears to spank her, all you have to do is pay attention to whether you are … sorry, what I mean is, pay attention to whether he/it has the aspect of a jolly old fellow or a spitting-angry demon. I hypothesize that your mood during the spanking … pardon me, I meant to say that I hypothesize that whether the spanking is administered by Santa or by Krampus depends on the severity of the misbehavior, thus supporting my speculation at the beginning of this comment, which by now feels like I typed it several Christmases ago.

    My apologies for the length of this comment, but no doubt everyone will agree that it is extremely important that we carefully seek the exact truth in such matters.
    — A Reader

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Marcus Herminius says:

    I think you fail to consider the fact that the Krampus is a new introduction to America as opposed to their native European habitats but introduction efforts are slowly but surely cultivating the Krampus population. I myself am actually putting together some resources to cultivate a Krampus population here in Florida


  3. maitrefesseur says:

    Congratulations on this splendid and intriguing article, which is not only superbly illustrated, but sparkling with delicious irony. It manages to be unabashedly sexy and hilariously funny as well as intellectually enticing all at once. It’s the kind of stuff which happens to make this blog so unique and special.


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