I wonder what Charles Dickens would say today if he saw just how popular A Christmas Carol has become.
This well-liked story of Ebenezer Scrooge is haunted by ghosts from Christmas’ past, present and future have been gracing both the big and small screens since 1901, giving it the honour of being one of the longest-running, most adapted stories of all time.
Although maybe Charles Dickens did have a suspicion that people would like this classic little novella. After all his first edition (just 6,000 copies) did sell out by Christmas Eve and whilst this doesn’t sound like much, we do need to remember that firstly, it wasn’t published until the 19th December and secondly, it was 1843 – not an era renowned for its literacy abilities.
The Story of ‘A Christmas Carol’
Set in Victorian London on Christmas Eve, we are introduced to the miser, Ebenezer Scrooge. A miserable, selfish man who hates Christmas and the joy it brings. It even pains him to give his underpaid, overworked clerk, Bob Cratchit, Christmas Day off but decides he must to conform to social custom.
That night, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley, who explains that the cheerless gent has just one chance to change his fate. If he continues on his current path, he too will be condemned to an afterlife of wandering the Earth as a Spirit in chains.
He is then visited by three ghosts. The ghost of Christmas Past transports him back in time to his childhood. The ghost of Christmas Present shows him the joys that can be had during this festive period as well as showing him the pain that he has helped to cause in the poor living conditions of his worker and terribly ill son, Tiny Tim. Whilst the ghost of Christmas Future shows him the death of a disliked businessman before showing the compassion connected to the death of someone much loved.
Pleading, Scoorge promises to change his bah-humbug ways in order to create a better future.
Afterwards, we see a very different man – one that is kind and generous, wanting to embrace the happiness of the Christmas period.
How Has ‘A Christmas Carol’ Been Adapted Over the Years?
From silent films to feature-length TV dramas, cartoons, musicals, and even puppets, A Christmas Carol has been turned into a film on 19 different occasions and a TV adaption more than 28 times. It is clear that this is possibly the most remembered story of Victorian times and most definitely Charles Dickens’s most popular.
The Most Memorable Adaptations
Let’s remember that the telling of this Christmas story started in the 1900s, a time where the sound was non-existent, colour had not even been thought about and film quality was poor. It is therefore easy to understand why modern versions of A Christmas Carol are potentially more popular.
It is important to remember that those creating these masterpieces have also injected their own creative flair into the story. So it is not unusual now for example for this Charles Dickens Classic to be filmed in the US rather than in Charles Dickens’ home city of London. Something that I am sure puritans of the Classics hate.
Our Top Five Scrooge Moments
#5 Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988)
Whilst not as popular in America, Blackadder has become somewhat a household name here in the UK. However, the cast – including Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson – have taken full poetic liberties with their creative licensing, turning it into a British comedy often repeated on TV screens around the country each Christmas, probably not one to watch however, if you don’t get the dry British sense of humour.
#4 Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
Scrooge McDuck might be a cartoon character, but he has to be one of the most memorable Scrooge characters of all time. With Mickey Mouse starring as Bob Cratchit, Goofy taking on the role of Jacob Marley and Jiminy Cricket being the Ghost of Christmas Past, this is a full line up of all your favourite Disney characters all rolled into one animated feature.
Which child wouldn’t love to watch this at Christmas time?
#3 The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
For those of us that love a musical, this US fantasy-based is adaptation you should be watching. With the much loved British Actor, Michael Caine starring as Ebenezer Scrooge, alongside the likes of Kermit the Frog and Ms. Piggy, The Muppets have managed to create an upbeat comedy with a dramatic twist.
#2 Scrooged (1988)
Bill Murray stars in the modernised version of the classic that, unlike the others also features the Charles Dickens Original story. As a TV producer, Bill Murray aims to broadcast a live production of A Christmas Carol on his show but before he can complete it is visited by his very own haunted ghosts.
#1 Scrooge (1951)
I know I am not alone in thinking that this is one of the best Scrooge films of all time. Alastair Sim plays Scrooge perfectly demonstrating just the right amount of humbug behaviour to be disliked by all that watch the film. This particular version still pops up on our TV screens, making it by far one of the most viewed adaptations in British history.
Regardless of which film or TV adaptation you prefer, it is clear that when the title of ‘The Man Who Invented Christmas’ was given to Charles Dickens, it was because of his now famed Christmas Classic, A Christmas Carol.
Have you got a favourite version of ‘A Christmas Carol’? Perhaps you feel that the ones suggested above deviate too far from the original story-line and have a different edition you would like to draw peoples’ attention to.
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Looking for a Dicken’s themed stay? Then book into The Angel at Bury St Edmunds where he once stayed while writing The Pickwick Papers.