Making the Grades
The saying, “It takes a whole village to raise a child,” was never truer than in this Christmas Story about a young boy named Nikolas (Jonas Rinne at age 7 and Otto Gustavsson at age 14).
When his parents and sister tragically die, the community where the orphan lives tries to find a suitable home for the youngster. Unfortunately, the poor fishermen in the frozen town have barely enough to feed themselves, let alone an extra mouth. The best solution they can come up with is taking turns caring for the child. And so it is decided Nikolas will stay one year with each family, moving to his new home on Christmas Day. The system works quite well, and the thankful tike expresses his appreciation by making, and then anonymously giving, small wooden toys for all of his adopted siblings.
Then comes a season went the fishing fails and the small Finnish settlement faces the possibility of famine. Unsure what to do with Nikolas, the desperate citizens reluctantly agree to send him with a travelling merchant who wants an apprentice in his carpentry shop. But the biggest problem with Iisakki’s (played by Kari Väänänen, and voiced in English by John Turturro) offer is the man has a wicked temper and often threatens to drown the homeless lad (who isn’t convinced he’s joking). With no other options, the boy climes aboard the sleigh and heads off to start a new life.
Over the years as Nikolas grows (now played by Hannu-Pekka Björkman with the English voice of Noah Emmerich), both his size and woodworking skills increase. Yet each Christmas, he still makes a pilgrimage back to village of his youth to distribute toys to the little ones. While Iisakki is at first gruff and annoyed by this sentimentalism, it doesn’t take long for his cold heart to melt.
This beautifully crafted tale of the origin of Saint Nicholas is also sure to warm the spirits of those lucky enough to find this movie. Made in Finland, then dubbed in English for North American audiences, this Scandinavian look at the legendary man in red is a real Christmas treat.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Christmas Story.
What are some of the reasons Iisakki is so mean to young Nikolas? How does the young boy respond to this unkind treatment? How does his reaction affect the old man? What can you learn from his approach?
Although counties all over the world celebrate Christmas, each has their own stories and traditions. What are yours? How are they similar or different from the tale presented here?