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Santa Claus, Last of the Wild Men: The Origins and Evolution of Saint Nicholas, Spanning 50,000 Years Library Binding – December 1, 1996

ISBN-13: 978-0786402465 ISBN-10: 0786402466

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Gripping...rich...wonderful” --Fortean Times

“Diligent research...excellent study...many rare illustrations...of great interest to folklorists and other researchers and storytellers” --Come-All-Ye

About the Author

The late Phyllis Siefker lived in Lawrence, Kansas.
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Product Details

  • Library Binding: 227 pages
  • Publisher: McFarland & Company (December 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786402466
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786402465
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.8 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,765,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 12, 1999
Format: Library Binding
This book has a wealth of information delivered in a clear, straightforward style. The excellent research draws from sources as varied as Gilgamesh and the Ainu bear ritual and manages to bring in all together in a cohesive history. A treasure trove for those interested in folklore of all kinds.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Emily on November 18, 2009
Format: Paperback
The first time I laid eyes on this book was at my local library, and the title was too intriguing to pass up. I never could quite see Santa as Mr. Nice Guy (except when I met his kindly avatars at the mall), so I was perfectly willing to consider the possibility that the 'jolly old elf' might be more like the old, tricky elves than the new, toy-shop versions.

Phyllis Siefker pursues the Santa legend enthusiastically, but ultimately Santa is not the legend who receives the most illumination. It's the Harlequin who emerges, in all his incarnations, from the Jester in the royal court who is the only one allowed to speak his mind (because everyone thinks he's crazy) to painted, gender-bending rock stars like Alice Cooper and Marylin Manson, to The Joker from the movie THE DARK KNIGHT. The fact that the actor who played The Joker has since died only strengthens his connection to the legendary Wild Man.

Once you've read this book, you'll see that the Wild Man is everywhere -- he makes the evening news almost every night (in one incarnation or another). After I read the library copy, I ordered my own copy on amazon. It's one of the few books I'm willing to pack up and move -- and that's rare praise.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Erik Strommen on April 9, 2000
Format: Library Binding
about Santa Claus. A wonderful book that unearthes a forgotten past where Santa was quite more spooky than he is now, and has ties to our much deeper past than just the current neo-Christian myths we are fed each year. A great book, easy to read, highly recommended.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By L. M Young VINE VOICE on February 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
How did a dour, austere bishop from Turkey evolve into a jolly, fur-trimmed chubby fellow driving a team of reindeer? Most histories of Santa Claus cite a softening of notions of discipline, concepts of various artists over time, and other evolutionary changes. However, Siefker has written an intriguing study that offers us instead Santa's evolution from an older religious symbol, the pagan Wild Man of the forest, who has been embodied in St. Nicholas' European companions (Belsnickel, Pelznichol, Smutchli, etc.) as well as in other iconoclastic figures such as Robin Hood, the Harlequin, and Puck. She digs deeply into pagan traditions and, whether you agree with her theory that the pagan Wild Man became intertwined with the Christian gift giver or not, gives examples of some fascinating ancient traditions revolving around old pagan beliefs, some traditions which lasted well into the 20th century. My big complaint is that most of the illustrations supporting Ms. Siefker's theory are badly printed (some are no more than two-tone outlines that look like badly photocopied illustrations). For instance, a picture of an ancient wagon supposedly dug up from an archaeological site is so bad it could be a 19th century farm wagon. Still, the text is readable and thought-provoking.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Osie Turner on June 7, 2012
Format: Paperback
Overall, the book is very engaging and a quick, enjoyable read. The illustrations and photos are well worth the price of the book on their own. The book will make a nice addition to your library even if only as a curio. It seems well researched, but is lacking references and citations. It does include a decent bibliography though.

I do have a few complaints about the book. Firstly, the ending was too abrupt and awkward; there should have been a final chapter, or even just an epilogue that ties everything together and summarizes the research. Secondly, I think the connection to the Neanderthals deserved more than the brief mention in chapter 9; I think there is definitely a strong connection to the Wild Men, but it was just glossed over. I got the feeling Siefker was too anxious to get to the Ainu and tried too hard to make them fit into the theory. Lastly, I was very disappointed that Olentzero, the Basque Christmas giant (or jentillak as the Basque call them) that slits the throats of bad children with a sickle, was not mentioned. He fits in very well with the overall assertion of the book and the Basque are perhaps the oldest surviving ethnicity of Europe so their traditions are well worth exploring. That being said, it is very surprising that the author failed to research the Basque at all, since she believes that the fairies and wild men were actually the original inhabitants of Europe, and the Basque are believed to be just that. Their language is not related to Indo-European languages and their culture stretches back into prehistory. Strange that Siefker would miss that, only to jump to the Ainu of Japan.

I know my review sounds mostly negative, but I did enjoy the book and I did find it very interesting.
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By Michael G. Bruce on December 16, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
If your looking for a good read on acient origins of Santa Claus I recommend this book. It got me thinking about that the Jolly Old Elf has been around alot longer than most major religions, countries and nations today. This Jolly Elf that flys through the night with reindeer has transformed and evolved for 50,000 years like the title says.
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