Cris was a carpenter by trade. He lived in Oslo with his wife Marta and his children Karl and Maria. In his spare time, Cris would teach his son carpentry but Karl would often ask his father to make toys. Cris would gather his woodworking tools and teach Karl how to take a piece of wood and give it a doll's face, or turn it into a wagon. Jul was fast approaching so Cris decided to make a couple of trinkets for the children to pass the time waiting for Julesvenn to come.
"Maria, make sure you help Mama keep this house spotless. Don't you want Julesvenn to leave us lucky barley stalks?" says Cris.
The children clean up and Marta takes a knife out. "I'm off of to get the pig ready. He's gotten plenty fat, he'll make a good supper."
The winter solstice was a community affair. Everyone in the village gathered in the big stone barn and each family brought their own yule log to throw into the fire. The pig was succulent and pastries were delightful. Cris adored the children, playing with the trinkets he made. They looked so happy. The night was getting bitterly cold and everyone bid farewell. As Cris and his family stepped inside their home, Maria cries, "Papa, I forgot my doll! We must go back for it."
"Now, dear it's cold and it's time for bed. Papa will collect it in the morning," says Marta.
"No, I'll get it. It's not too far. You must promise to go to bed and I'll have it for you in the morning," Cris replies.
"I will." says Maria.
Cris kisses his children and wraps his wool tight against his body and braces for the cold. As he enters the barn, he notices that the yule logs are still burning. "The embers must have started it up again," he thought. Cris finds the doll and decides to gather up some snow to snuff out the last of the flames.
As Cris walks towards the exit, the barn door slides shut.
"Who's out there? John? Good joke, come now it's freezing." Cris moves to slide the door open. It doesn't move. "John?"
The flames kick up again and a roaring fire shoots flames to the ceiling. It startles Cris and he falls backward. Looking towards the fire he hopes that the hay in the lofts above are moist enough from the cold that they won't catch fire. Looking back at the base of the flames, Cris sees a figure. As if a man is standing in the fire. The man steps out and smells of barley. He wears a long coat and his beard touches the ground. The flames turn into a faint glow and the bearded man steps closer.
"Come unto the flames or burn on the ground."
"What?" says Cris.
"Come unto the flames or burn on the ground." The man points and fire starts alongside Cris. Cris shoots up and tries to run but the line of fire chases him until he is face to face with the man. The man's eyes meet Cris's and Cris faints.
The barn burns to the ground in the night, somehow containing itself. No one knows how it burned while the snow built up around it. Karl and Maria wake up the next morning to find that their parents are not in the house. Maria walks over to the door, opens it and there in the snow is the little wooden doll. The villagers gather the children, asking for their parents.
"Papa left to the barn last night to get my doll. Here it is, he must be working in the back with Mama," says Maria.
When Cris and Marta are not found, the people rush to the barn. There, outside was Marta. Cris was no where to be found. The people carefully looked in the ash for anything but to no avail. Marta was buried in a hillside overlooking their home. Karl, who was 15 picked up his father's work and Maria tended to the house. The doll stayed on a shelf, as a reminder of her father's love.
Cris wakes up in a bright white room. Confused he walks around. The bearded man appears. "I am Julesvenn. I have collected you and you will serve. My time is drawing near and you will do the work."
"What about my family, my wife, children, I-"
"YOU WILL DO THE WORK. THERE IS NO FAMILY."
"What work will you have me do? Leave barley? Turn the sun for the solstice?" Cris said, with anger rising. Scoffing, Cris says, "My work is my family."
Julesvenn grabs Cris by the neck, dragging him to a wall. Julesvenn takes his finger and draws a circle of flames and step through it. "What family do you have?"
Cris sees Marta's grave. Karl's grave, marked a few years later, then Maria's grave with fresh dirt. A young girl cries over it, almost hugging the mound.
"Where am I you evil spirit? What have you done? My children, my loves." Cris weeps.
"I have prepared you for the work. It must be done every hundred years. A man without ties, good in heart, mind and spirit must take the work of the other, so that the one who has worked a hundred years may be born again, " replies Julesvenn. "You will have your chance to come back to the earth or take your place in the upper realms. I must go, my wife she bids me home."
Julesvenn makes another fire space and walks through, Cris follows after but is taken to another home. All around him is white snow, his woodworking tools and stacks and stacks of wood. The walls are covered with maps, marked with places he's never even heard of. He slumps into a chair. The fireplace roars. The old man's wools are neatly folded on a table. Cris grabs them and contemplates throwing them into the fire but in a split second he changes his mind. He has a sudden urge to wear the wools. His hands feel hot...not like a heat like a flame but like his hands should be working. He looks over to the stacks of wood. Cris, with a tool in one hand starts to carve. His fingers are nimble and quick. Before he realizes it, he's made over 4000 figurines but his hands still feel active. He forces himself to rest. Looking at the white wools, he thinks of his pure children, so loving. His wife.....his wife......he could not remember her name or her face.
"Why did I receive this curse? Why did he have to sacrifice them? I would have gone willingly," Cris thought. "I cannot live without them."
Cris then grabs his awl and pierces his heart with all of his strength. As he lay there bleeding...he becomes weak and drifts of to eternal slumber....at least he had hoped. The burning grows stronger in his hands and awakens him. The wools have dried with the help of the fire giving them a new shade of oxidized red blood. The awl is in his lap and there is no wound. Disappointed and out of tears to shed, Cris thinks to himself, "My children are still, sleeping with the angels of heaven, yet I have so much work to do. Who will receive all of my trinkets?" Cris continues to carve and shape toys until one day, his hands stopped burning. He is surrounded by toys and a door opens. The toys organize themselves and a wind comes in. It lifts Cris high above cities and he realizes it must be winter solstice again.