Plenty of classics get multiple adaptations, but A Christmas Carol is somewhere in a realm of its own. There are hundreds of film, radio, TV, theater and parody adaptations. (And probably more beyond what I saw on the Wikipedia page.)
The trend continues in 2017. Not only is there a new movie about the story, but there is a new YA retelling of A Christmas Carol as well. Moviegoers this year might see The Man Who Invented Christmas, and YA readers might read The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand. How do these new versions stack up against the rest? Neither is a direct retelling, so for once, the story feels semi-original!
The Afterlife of Holly Chase focuses on Holly, a young Scrooge for the 21st century. Unlike the original Dickens character, Holly does not see her wrongdoing by the end of Christmas Eve. After her death she works at Project Scrooge as the new Ghost of Christmas Past. Project Scrooge picks a new Scrooge every year and works to parallel this person’s life to the original A Christmas Carol to set up a proper ghostly visitation on Christmas Eve.
After years of working for the company, the process quickly changes…not only does she receive an assistant she didn’t ask for, but in the same year the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come picks a very different subject. Like Holly, he is much younger than the usual pick for the role. When Holly breaks all rules to speak to the new Scrooge months ahead of his Christmas Eve visitation, for once the process might have the chance to change her as much as it can change the chosen Scrooge.
In The Man Who Invented Christmas, viewers watch Charles Dickens put the Christmas Carol story to paper as he observes the world around him. His writing process is very interactive, and includes both talking with real people and talking with the fictional characters he imagines to life as “real.” A Christmas Carol is shown to be based in reality as much as it is in Dickens’s imagination.
For The Afterlife of Holly Chase, the story makes its mark as a reinvention of the classic story. (And let’s be honest—many of us wonder if the ghosts ever visited anyone besides Ebenezer Scrooge. Project Scrooge provides the perfect answer to that question.) For The Man Who Invented Christmas, more reflection and thought is provided for the story. Why would Dickens want to tell this story in the first place?
Beyond The Muppet Christmas Carol I’ve rarely enjoyed reading/seeing adaptations of A Christmas Carol. By changing the story to fit new ideas—and for one, the modern century—I find myself appreciating it more. If you like the original story, both 2017 adaptations are worth checking out. The Afterlife of Holly Chase is available at your local library now, and The Man Who Invented Christmas is playing in theaters.