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December 24, 2003

The Christmas Trolls


Counsel for the North Pole Foundation announced the out of court settlement of a civil suit filed by a group called the Christmas Trolls. Proceedings began in January 1986 when the previously unknown troll alliance claimed discriminatory labor practices. NPF agreed to an undisclosed sum and admitted no wrongdoing. The organization’s longtime CEO Mr. Santa Claus did not attend today’s press conference, citing pre-holiday duties.

Three unemployed trolls from Barrow, Alaska had answered a classified ad. "If you're magical, small, and can build toys there's a job for you at the Workshop" the copy had read. The trolls rented sled dogs and made the trek across thin ice. Fifteen elves applied the same day and were all hired. The trolls were turned away.

60 Minutes ran a segment about their plight. A spokesman for Mr. Claus's organization asserted that the trolls had failed the basic skill test. He showed the camera two of the three toys constructed by the trolls: a jack-in-the-box that contained a lifelike tarantula and a hobby warthog. The trolls countered that their third toy had been a teddy bear. "With fangs!" responded the spokesman. Letters to the program overwhelmingly favored Father Christmas. Wrote one viewer, "Trolls are disgusting."

The controversy continued in the supernatural creatures' trade press, only once again making broader headlines. "It's an outrage!" a reporter overheard Mr. Claus exclaim on encountering picketing trolls outside a Juneau restaurant. "You should crawl back under a bridge and eat billy goats!" Reports of the incident swept across Alaska, becoming an international scandal when six of the troll protesters proved to be Canadian citizens. "Yes, I like trolls in principle," Mr. Claus said in a notorious impromptu interview, "as long as they know their place. Have you ever smelled one of them?"

The Christmas Trolls then formed an unlikely alliance with the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. UPI editors mistook the press release for a prank, but the charges were serious. They asserted not only that Santa was personally prejudiced against trolls but that he had been a Nazi sympathizer. Mr. Claus had delivered gifts to Hitler Youth, rewarded French and Dutch collaborators, and charted an aerial course directly over the Warsaw Ghetto while noting the missed opportunity to provide food drops. "Bad or good my a**," scrawled one troll on a fax cover sheet to the New York Times. This comment may have been responsible for the paper's decision not to run the story.

Despite continuing media blunders the Christmas Trolls were winning in court. Subsequent filings included documentation that 97.2 percent of the NPF employees were elves and that Santa claimed ethnic affiliation as a "right jolly old elf." A disgruntled gnome who once worked in the kitchen came forward to testify. "They'll hire you if you ain't an elf, but you better be cute and you sure ain't gettin' into the union. Dishwasher, janitor, maybe a filing clerk. That's it."

Attorneys for NPF supplied evidence that 30,000 human helpers were hired as independent contractors to represent Mr. Claus each December. "Elves constitute less than 10 percent of the actual work force." Two other gnomes and a leprechaun, all current employees, testified that NPF was an exemplary employer. After a preliminary ruling favored the trolls, NPF's law firm of Grinch, Humbug, and Scrooge won dismissal on the grounds that the North Pole is international territory. The trolls had filed under Alaskan law.

The World Court refused to hear the case, stating that neither side represented a sovereign government. From 1995 to 1997 the case was dead. The trolls of Barrow, Alaska had exhausted their savings. One even took a job with a carnival side show. While on tour she met a Fairbanks attorney who revived the issue as a slander lawsuit.

Although the North Pole Foundation avoided further public scandal, rumors spread and institutional contributions dwindled. Negotiations for corporate sponsorship also ended abruptly. Said a public relations representative from NPF, "We really didn't think a Mattel Christmas sleigh was appropriate anyway."

Leaks from both sides tell that the legal impasse was broken when all three of the original trolls decided they no longer had any desire to work at the North Pole. NPF signed a pledge that future troll applicants would be considered fairly.

In response to a Wall Street Journal reporter's question about waning American corporate donations, the NPF representative answered, "This had nothing to do with our decision to settle the case. Over half the toys we deliver come from Taiwan and Japan."

At that moment a stray microphone picked up one attorney's cellular phone. "That d***ed Ford Foundation. It's a troll front," growled the distinct voice of Mr. Claus.

"Remember your grandmother," his lawyer Mr. Grinch hissed. "She was a troll too." The words echoed from the auditorium speakers.

A long silence filled the hall. "This'll be one for the spin doctors," somebody mumbled.

The visibly shaken elf spokesman then attempted to reassure the press that children around the world would not bear the cost of the settlement. A lone troll at the back of the room interrupted to throw switches and coal, hollering, "'Fess up. Only the really good tykes get goodies this year!"

Authorities booked the heckler for disorderly conduct. Activists called the arrest a fresh outrage and vowed to reveal the ugly truth about Santa's Workshop. "We're gonna troll that ancient yuletide carol, capisce?"

Posted by Peskie at December 24, 2003 03:00 AM