Kathryn Hensch
December 06, 2015 2:26 pm

Charles Dickens described Ebenezer Scrooge as a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner.” He’s a money-obsessed man who hates Christmas and happiness in general, really. The story of A Christmas Carol tells us that he changes his ways after three ghosts appear to help him see how poorly he’s living his life. There’s nothing better than a happy ending, but haven’t you always kind of wondered why Scrooge was such a, well, Scrooge. Fan theories are the Internet’s new favorite thing and one enterprising fan theorist has taken it upon themselves to answer this age-old Christmas question. Their solution: What if Scrooge was so grumpy before that because he lived through the Napoleonic Wars?

Okay, it sounds crazy, but Redditor themightyheptagon might have a point. The theory calculates that Ebenezer would have been a young man when the war began.

“If you had seen thousands of your countrymen starving on the streets while a war with a mad dictator raged across a narrow Channel, wouldn’t you be a little bit afraid of winding up on the streets too? Wouldn’t you probably spend a lot of time scrimping and saving, always making sure you had enough to feed yourself?,” themightheptago writes. “Years later, wouldn’t you probably get a little bit upset at seeing your young nieces and nephews taking their money for granted, heedlessly spending it all on gifts and food every December 25th?”

The Huffington Post reached out to two Dickens experts to see if this checks out. Claire Jarvis, an assistant professor in Stanford’s English department, said that, “Scrooge’s vision of his childhood is a vision of deprivation.” Growing up in that environment could mean that, “his love for money comes from an experience of those boom and bust periods.”

The reddit theory suggests that witnessing such poverty is why he doesn’t end up with his one love, Belle, or with any children: “Considering his country’s dire economic straits, he was probably a bit hesitant about having children, knowing that he and Belle might not have been able to feed and clothe them.”

Judith Flanders, author of The Victorian City: Everyday Life in Dickens’ London, feels otherwise. “Dickens was writing at the time of those historical facts; he might or might not have used the economic situation as a ‘reason’ for his character’s personality,” she said, “but I’ve never checked to see if we know this — if he mentioned it in letters, for example. Otherwise, I don’t think we can ascribe the formation of a fictional character to real historical events.”

We may never know the exact reason why Scrooge such a bah humbug kind of guy, but the countless movie adaptations of A Christmas Carol attest to the why this story is so important. It reminds us to embrace the time we have with the ones we love. Sometimes, that includes Muppets.

(Images via Walt Disney Pictures.)

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