Ebenezer Scrooge encounters "Jacob Marley's ghost" in Dickens's novella, A Christmas Carol
|Created by||Charles Dickens|
|Portrayed by||See below|
|Title||A Christmas Carol|
|Family||Fanny or Fan (late younger sister)
Ebenezer Scrooge (/ /) is the fictional character of Charles Dickens' 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol. At the beginning of the novella, Scrooge is a cold-hearted miser who despises Christmas. Dickens describes him thus: "The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice, bah humbug."
His last name has come into the English language as a byword for miserliness and misanthropy. The tale of his redemption by the three Ghosts of Christmas (Ghost of Christmas Past, Ghost of Christmas Present, and Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) has become a defining tale of the Christmas holiday in the English-speaking world. Ebenezer Scrooge is arguably both one of the most famous characters created by Dickens and one of the most famous in English literature.
Scrooge's catchphrase, "Bah! Humbug!" is often used to express disgust with many of the modern Christmas traditions.
Several theories have been put forward as to where Dickens got inspiration for the character.
- Ebenezer Scroggie, a corn merchant from Edinburgh who won a catering contract for King George IVs visit to Scotland. He was buried in Canongate Kirkyard, with a gravestone that is now lost. The theory is that Dickens noticed the gravestone that described Scroggie as being a "meal man" (corn merchant) but misread it as "mean man". This theory has been described as "a probable Dickens hoax" for which "[n]o one could find any corroborating evidence".
- It has been suggested that he chose the name Ebenezer ("stone (of) help") to reflect the help given to Scrooge to change his life.
- The surname may be from the now obscure English verb scrouge, meaning "squeeze" or "press".
- One school of thought is that Dickens based Scrooge's views on the poor on those of demographer and political economist Thomas Malthus.
- Another is that the minor character Gabriel Grub from The Pickwick Papers was worked up into a more mature characterization (his name stemming from an infamous Dutch miser, Gabriel de Graaf).
- Jemmy Wood, owner of the Gloucester Old Bank and possibly Britain’s first millionaire, was nationally renowned for his stinginess, and may have been another.
- The man whom Dickens eventually mentions in his letters and who strongly resembles the character portrayed by Dickens's illustrator, John Leech, was a noted British eccentric and miser named John Elwes (1714–1789).
Appearance in the novel
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The story of A Christmas Carol starts on Christmas Eve 1843 with Scrooge at his money-lending business. He despises Christmas as a "humbug" and subjects his clerk, Bob Cratchit, to grueling hours and low pay (giving him Christmas Day off with pay, begrudgingly and considering it like being pickpocketed, solely due to social custom). He shows his cold-heartedness toward others by refusing to make a monetary donation for the good of the poor, claiming they are better off dead, thereby "decreasing the surplus population." While he is preparing to go to bed, he is visited by the ghost of his business partner, Jacob Marley, who had died seven years earlier (1836) on Christmas Eve. Like Scrooge, Marley had spent his life hoarding his wealth and exploiting the poor, and, as a result, is damned to walk the Earth for eternity bound in the chains of his own greed. Marley warns Scrooge that he risks meeting the same fate and that as a final chance at redemption he will be visited by three spirits of Christmas: Past, Present and Yet-to-Come.
The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to see his time as a schoolboy and young man, during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. These visions reveal that Scrooge was a lonely child whose unloving father sent him away to a boarding school. (Some film adaptations say Scrooge's mother died giving birth to him, which is the source of his father's grudge. This would make his sister Fan the eldest of the siblings which, again in some films make her the younger sister.) His one solace was his beloved sister, Fan, who repeatedly begged their father to allow Scrooge to return home, and he at last relented. Fan later died after having given birth to one child, a son named Fred, Scrooge's nephew. The spirit then takes him to see another Christmas a few years later in which he enjoyed a Christmas party held by his kind-hearted and festive boss, Mr. Fezziwig. It is there that he meets his love and later fiancée, Belle. Then the spirit shows him a Christmas in which Belle leaves him, as she realizes his love for money has replaced his love for her. Finally, the spirit shows him a Christmas Eve several years later, in which Belle is happily married to another man.
Scrooge is then visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present, who shows him the whole of London celebrating Christmas, including Fred and the impoverished Cratchit family. Scrooge is both bewildered and touched by the loving and pure-hearted nature of Cratchit's youngest son, Tiny Tim. When Scrooge shows concern for the sickly boy's health, the spirit informs him that the boy will die unless something changes, a revelation that deeply disturbs Scrooge. The spirit then uses Scrooge's earlier words about "decreasing the surplus population" against him. The spirit takes him to a spooky graveyard. There, the spirit produces two misshapen, sickly children he names Ignorance and Want. When Scrooge asks if they have anyone to care for them, the spirit throws more of Scrooge's own words back in his face: "Are there no prisons, no workhouses?"
Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come/Future shows Scrooge Christmas Day one year later (1844). Just as the previous spirit predicted, Tiny Tim has died; his father could not afford to give him proper care on his small salary and there was no social health care. The spirit then shows Scrooge scenes related to the death of a "wretched man": His business associates snicker about how it's likely to be a cheap funeral and one associate will only go if lunch is provided; his possessions are stolen and sold by his housekeeper, undertaker and laundress, and a young couple who owed the man money are relieved he is dead, as they have more time to pay off their debt. The spirit then shows Scrooge the man's unkempt tombstone, which bears Scrooge's name.
Scrooge weeps over his own grave, begging the spirit for a chance to change his ways, before awakening to find it is Christmas morning. He immediately repents and becomes a model of generosity and kindness: he visits Fred and accepts his earlier invitation to Christmas dinner, gives Bob Cratchit a raise, and becomes like "a second father" to Tiny Tim (providing him the medical care he needed to live). As the final narration states, "Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him...it was always said of him that he knew how to keep Christmas well if any man alive possessed the knowledge."
Actors/Actresses portraying Ebenezer Scrooge
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Scrooge has been portrayed by:
- Marc McDermott in 1910
- Seymour Hicks in 1913 and again in 1935
- Rupert Julian in 1916
- Russell Thorndike in 1923
- Lionel Barrymore on radio 1934-1937, 1939-1953
- John Barrymore in 1936 on radio, for ailing brother Lionel
- Orson Welles in 1938 on radio replacing Lionel Barrymore for one appearance only.
- Reginald Owen in 1938
- Claude Rains on radio 1940
- John Carradine in 1947
- Malcolm Keen in 1947
- Taylor Holmes in 1949
- Bransby Williams in 1950
- Alastair Sim in 1951, and again in 1971 (voice)
- Fredric March in 1954
- Basil Rathbone in 1956 and 1958
- Stan Freberg in Green Chri$tma$, 1958.
- Jim Backus (as Quincy Magoo) in Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol, 1962
- Cyril Ritchard in 1964
- Sterling Hayden as Daniel Grudge in Rod Serling's Carol for Another Christmas (1964)
- Wilfrid Brambell in a 1966 radio musical version (adapted from his Broadway role)
- Sid James in the Carry On Christmas Specials, 1969
- Albert Finney in 1970
- Marcel Marceau in 1973
- Michael Hordern in 1977
- Rich Little as W.C. Fields playing Scrooge in Rich Little's Christmas Carol, 1978
- Walter Matthau (voice) in The Stingiest Man in Town, 1978
- Henry Winkler as Benedict Slade in An American Christmas Carol, 1979
- Hoyt Axton as Cyrus Flint in Skinflint: A Country Christmas Carol, 1979
- Mel Blanc (as Yosemite Sam) in Bugs Bunny's Christmas Carol, 1979
- Henk Van Ulzen in De Wonderbaarlijke Genezing Van (the Wonderfull Cure of) Ebenezer Scrooge 1979
- Hal Landon Jr. as Ebenezer Scrooge since 1980, more than 1,100 performances.
- Alan Young (as Scrooge McDuck) in Mickey's Christmas Carol, 1983
- George C. Scott in 1984
- Mel Blanc (this time as Cosmo Spacely) in the Jetsons episode "A Jetson Christmas Carol", 1985
- Robert Guillaume as John Grin in John Grin's Christmas, 1986
- Oliver Muirhead as "Constable Scrooge" in A Christmas Held Captive, 1986
- Bill Murray as Frank Cross in Scrooged, 1988
- Rowan Atkinson as Ebenezer Blackadder in Blackadder's Christmas Carol, 1988
- Michael Caine in The Muppet Christmas Carol, 1992
- Jeffrey Sanzel has appeared in more than 1,000 stage performances since 1992
- James Earl Jones in Bah, Humbug, 1994
- Walter Charles, Tony Randall, Terrence Mann, Hal Linden, Roddy McDowall, F. Murray Abraham, Frank Langella, Tony Roberts, Roger Daltrey, and Jim Dale in the stage version of Alan Menken's musical (1994-2003)
- Henry Corden (as Fred Flintstone) in A Flintstones Christmas Carol, 1994
- Susan Lucci as Elizabeth "Ebbie" Scrooge in Ebbie, 1995
- Beavis as Beavis Scrooge, 1995
- Cicely Tyson as Ebenita Scrooge in Ms. Scrooge, 1997
- Tim Curry (voice) in 1997
- Jack Palance in Ebenezer, 1997
- Ernest Borgnine (as Carface Carruthers) in An All Dogs Christmas Carol, 1998
- Patrick Stewart in 1999
- Vanessa Williams as Ebony Scrooge in A Diva's Christmas Carol, 2000
- Ross Kemp as Eddie Scrooge in 2000
- Dean Jones in Scrooge and Marley, 2001
- Tori Spelling as "Scroogette" Carol Cartman in A Carol Christmas, 2003
- Kelsey Grammer in 2004
- Bill Bourne in The Carol Project, 2006
- Joe Alaskey (as Daffy Duck) in Bah, Humduck! A Looney Tunes Christmas, 2006
- Helen Fraser as Sylvia Hollamby in Bad Girls 2006 Christmas Special
- Morwenna Banks as Eden Starling (Barbie) in Barbie in a Christmas Carol, 2008
- Jim Carrey in 2009 (Carrey also played the three spirits haunting Scrooge).
- Catherine Tate as Nan in Nan's Christmas Carol, 2009
- Matthew McConaughey as Connor 'Dutch' Mead in the movie Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, 2009
- Christina Milian as Sloane Spencer in Christmas Cupid, December 2010
- Eric Braeden as Victor Newman in "Victor's Christmas Carol" on The Young and the Restless, December 2010
- Michael Gambon as Kazran Sardick in "A Christmas Carol" on Doctor Who, December 2010.
- George Lopez as Grouchy Smurf in The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol (2011)
- Emmanuelle Vaugier as Carol Huffman in the 2012 TV movie It's Christmas, Carol!
- Zach Sherwin in the 2013 Donald Trump vs. Ebenezer Scrooge Epic Rap Battles of History video.
- Robert Powell in Neil Brand's 2014 BBC Radio 4 adaptation of A Christmas Carol.
- Ned Dennehy in the BBC drama Dickensian, 2015
- Jason Graae in the musical Scrooge in Love!, 2016
- Kelly Sheridan as Starlight Glimmer (playing Snowfall Frost) in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "A Hearth's Warming Tail", 2016
- Christopher Plummer in The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)
In popular culture
The name "Scrooge" is used in English as a word for a person who is misanthropic and tight-fisted despite the fact Ebenezer Scrooge reformed later.
The character is most often noted for exclaiming "Bah! Humbug!" despite uttering this phrase only twice in the entire story. He uses the word "Humbug" on its own on seven occasions, although on the seventh we are told he "stopped at the first syllable" after realizing Marley's ghost is real. The word is never used again after that in the book.
- "When A Christmas Carol, one of Dickens’ finest works, was published in 1843, it featured Ebenezer Scrooge, a "mean man" erroneously based on Ebenezer Scroggie." "He won the catering contract for the visit of George IV to Edinburgh in 1822... ", The Scotsman, 24 December 2004
- "BBC Arts - That Ebenezer geezer... who was the real Scrooge?". BBC. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
- "Mr Punch is still knocking them dead after 350 years". Telegraph.co.uk. Retrieved 2017-06-16.
- Kincaid, Cheryl Anne. Hearing the Gospel through Charles Dickens’s "A Christmas Carol" (2 ed.). Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 7–8. Retrieved 24 December 2014.
- "Scrouge - Define Scrouge at Dictionary.com". Dictionary.com.
- ""Ebenezer Scrooge" – The Meaning of the Name". Mark D. Roberts.
- Frank W. Elwell, Reclaiming Malthus, 2 November 2001, accessed 30 August 2013.
- Nasar, Sylvia (2011). Grand pursuit : the story of economic genius (1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. pp. 3–10. ISBN 978-0-684-87298-8.
- "Real-life Scrooge was Dutch gravedigger", 25 December 2007, archived from the original 27 December 2007.
- "Fake Scrooge 'was Dutch gravedigger'", 26 December 2007, archived from the original 6 December 2008.
- Silence, Rebecca (2015). Gloucester History Tour. Amberley Publishing Limited. p. 40.
- The Letters of Charles Dickens by Charles Dickens, Madeline House, Graham Storey, Margaret Brown, Kathleen Tillotson, & The British Academy (1999) Oxford University Press [Letter to George Holsworth, 18 January 1865] pp.7.
- Fleming, Michael. "Jim Carrey set for 'Christmas Carol': Zemeckis directing Dickens adaptation", Variety, 2007-07-06. Retrieved on 2007-09-11.
- "Doctor Who Christmas Special – A Christmas Carol". Retrieved 22 November 2010.
- "Christmas Day". Radio Times (volume 347, no. 4520): 174. December 2010.
- "ERB News - Epic Rap Battles of History #39". Erboh.com. December 19, 2014. Retrieved May 19, 2014.
- "BBC Radio 4 - Saturday Drama, A Christmas Carol". BBC.
- Heymont, George (29 January 2016). "Rule Britannia!". Huffington Post. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
- "Scrooge, Ebenezer - definition of Scrooge, Ebenezer in English from the Oxford dictionary".
- "Curiosities of Biological Nomenclature". Archived from the original on 2011-06-17. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
- Fountain, Henry (2005-02-20). "Ba Humbugi! Let's Nameus That Speciesus". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-12-23.