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There are many legendary myths that tell of the origins of Santa Claus, the jolly lord of the North who bestows gifts of alleged Elven-craft throughout the world to the children of Christendom. Whence came these 'elves' into his service at the North Pole, if indeed the light of the Eldar left the world long ago? Of what race is old Santa himself (and if he is indeed, as some claim, an Elf himself, how did he come to have the mastery over other Elves)?

The truth lies back in the Fourth Age of Middle-earth, nearly five centuries after the War of the Ring. The year was 497, and the last of the Eldar had long ago departed for the Undying Land in the West. The power of the Three Rings had utterly waned, and the once-beautiful refuges of Rivendell and Lothlórien had faded into ruin with the long years, and now stood only in the memories of a few very old Men.

Men! The Kingdom of Gondor had become a vast empire, its peoples multiplying and spreading out in every direction throughout Middle-earth. Without the wisdom and natural beauty of the Elves, Men became a race even more obsessed with power and control, and they built great factories that smoked beneath the blue sky, and their delight turned to industry, metal and machines. King Elessar, last of the Elf-friends among the rulers of Gondor, had passed 377 years ago, and his great-great-grandson Anaradan now ruled. Anaradan gave little consideration to anything but the conquering of new lands, and under him the very last of the foul Orcs were routed from their mountain holes, and their race was extinguished in Middle-earth. Sadly, it did not stop with the Orcs. The Ents, whom the Elves named the Onodrim, the tree-shepherds, were felled and burned alive in their forest by Anaradan's men, and despite their ancient strength, they were at last outnumbered and destroyed to make room for sprawling cities. The Dwarves for a long time were untouched and ignored, but their numbers dwindled as they lay hidden under their mountains, until at last there remained only a small colony in Erebor.

Hobbits were most drastically affected by the takeover of Men. Frightened by what they perceived to be happening in the world, they fled their green Shire into the wilderness. Many were taken captive, to provide entertainment in circus shows, whereas others became lifelong servants in Gondorian households. Still others were never caught, but slowly diminished in the wild, and they grew to have a dreadful fear of the Big Folk, for most Men had lost their understanding of the different races and treated them with cruelty and contempt.

Biffo Bracegirdle was the leader of a band of strange Hobbits that was exiled far into the North, past the bitter cold of Forochel and into what Men today call the Arctic Circle. Even among his own people he had been an oddity, for he had been the firstborn of the Perianedhel, the 'Elf-halflings.' His mother had been Almandine Bracegirdle, who had shared a secret night of torrid passion with Lindor, an Elf of Rivendell who became intoxicated with wine in the Shire on his way to the Grey Havens. It was particularly hard for Biffo growing up, especially since his immortal father had abandoned Middle-earth forever, and the other Hobbit children had often made fun of his height (he grew to be almost five feet tall).

Now Biffo married Lily Smallburrow, and they had many children, all whom shared (along with Biffo) the choice given to the half-elven descendants of Lúthien: to be counted among the Elves and share in immortality; or to die as mortals. Biffo made the choice to live as an immortal, but he became very sorrowful for this when his wife Lily died 70 years after their marriage (which had taken place in the year 44). By the time the Elf-hobbits had been expelled from the Shire in 497, Biffo was very old indeed, and he led his people ever on through the harsh eternal winter in the North.

One day, however, the wandering Perianedhel clan came upon a great icy fortress in the snow, and when they went forth to knock at its doors, they were all captured and brought inside by its lord. He resembled in stature a very fat man, though he was tall, and his beard of white curls fell over a shimmering cloak of red and gold, lined with fur. What his name was, he would not reveal to them, saying only that he had jobs for them to do. Biffo, being the oldest of his group, took him for a wizard, for in his younger days back when the world was still wholesome, he had heard the Old Mayor Gamgee tell of his adventures with a wizard named Gandalf. This red-clad lord fit the description, but he seemed greedy, somehow, more akin to the fallen wizard Saruman, whom the Mayor had also told tales of, and Biffo guessed he must be a Maia, one of those angelic spirits who came as wizards to Middle-earth to contest the evil of one of their own, who became the Lord of the Rings..

Therefore Biffo called him Saurondil, for he thought him to be related in some way or another to Sauron, the legendary Dark Lord. Saurondil's plan was to enslave them in his forgeries, for he deemed them to be of Elven kind, and therefore capable of the fine skill that had all but passed into myth since the end of the Third Age. Dwarves he enslaved as well, but their fiery tempers caused them to revolt against him, who they named Khalâz in their own tongue, eventually leading to their annihilation.

The Elf-halflings, however, endured, making many things, but most of all toys, and they were clad by their master in flamboyant pointed caps, red-and-green tunics, striped tights and long, curly-toed slippers; a far cry from the subtle greys and greens that had been worn among the true Elves during their time in Middle-earth. Ages passed, and Saurondil Khalâz, who eventually became known by the Anglicized form of his name, Santa Claus, discovered in time the ancient secrets of ring-lore, and in the deepest forgery of the North pole, he crafted the greatest and the last of the Rings of Power to be seen in this world, and its might outmatched even that of the One Ring made by Sauron millennia ago. It was set with a single frosty diamond, but around its gold band it read: "Ho ho ho."

Enamored of his seeming omnipotence, Santa took the eight fastest caribou he could find and cast spells on them, bestowing on them the ability move like lightning through the sky, and yoked them to a great sleigh, built by his 'elves.' His Ring he used to bend the barriers of Time itself, and he founded an annual day during Winter in the rest of the world when he would come among each and every household with items of 'elven' fashion for the children, ever seeking to lure to his army the majority of mankind throughout the ages, for the easily-commanded race of the Orcs was now extinct, and Lord Santa -- or Saurondil, should we say -- still looks to have an army of Men with which to rule the modern world.

Now if only he could get more people to celebrate Christmas...

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