Krampus, the Myths and Legends

I said I’d be keeping things light this month, and since I just wrote two books in a Krampus series, I thought it might be fun to go over the history and lore of this mythological figure. It surprised me how few people had heard of Krampus before my books and I thought readers might be interested in learning a bit more about him.

Krampus is known for a couple of things. One is his devilish looks. There is a lot of fun old artwork out there depicting him looking quite scary, which is, of course, a bit different from how I’ve written him in my books.

The other… is punishment.

Krampus is the embodiment of punishment. It’s pretty much his whole gig and purpose for existing. That, to me, made him the perfect character to base a BDSM series around. I love that he’s an actual ‘real’ legend and I did my best to work as much of his canon lore into the books as possible.

My own ideas came first, and I was perfectly fine with changing his backstory to match where I wanted him to go, but surprisingly little of that was necessary.

The truth is there have been so many historical versions of him that it was easy to pick and choose what I wanted from among them. While those little tidbits are a tiny part of the books, I think they were important for the structure because I wanted to stay true to the mythos of Krampus.

Let’s be honest Krampus is the one guy you don’t want to insult by writing him wrong, okay?

So, in Daddy Krampus and Krampus Sir I’ve created a background where there are twelve Krampus figures, each one unique. All twelve are punishers naturally, and Dominant. They are shapeshifters who look human to fit in with society, so they don’t generally look like the old-time art, at least not anymore.

They can still take those older forms, or any other forms, when they choose and at times find it useful to incorporate pieces of the old look.

The origin of Krampus is in Central Europe, possibly in Germany though it’s difficult to pin it down with any surety. The name Krampus derives from Krampen, which means claw. He is typically depicted as looking like a devil man who is half-goat. With horns, and hooved feet he seems right out of hell, but he pre-dates Christianity and was most likely based on a Horned God, such as Pan.

Oh, did I forget he also has a tail and an extra long tongue? He does and they’re very useful so I couldn’t help writing that into my books. Okay, to be blunt, in my stories they find some…interesting uses for those tails and extra-long tongues. I’ll let your imagination fill in the blanks.

Anyway, while his origins aren’t entirely clear he’s thought to have been part of the pagan ritual for Winter Solstice. Some historians think that he was the son of Hel, the Norse god of the underworld. However, as Christianity spread Krampus was co-opted into being Santa’s alter-ego.

While Santa brought gifts for the good children, Krampus came to punish the bad ones. He is usually shown as carrying switches or a birch to whip people with, as well as a basket on his back where he shoves the really bad people to carry them back to his lair. Some of the specifics vary from country to country so there are quite a lot of contradictory tales about him.

Some stories have him only dealing with children. Others have him punishing adults as well. It’s said in some legends that those he takes away never come back because he eats them, or that his realm is hell so they are damned—but that seems a bit harsh, especially for the kids.

I prefer the legends that say he takes them for a year of punishment and then returns them to be better people, and that’s the one I chose to base my Krampus Collective on.

Krampus punishing an adult man while his girl cries. A saint watches on.

The original stories seem to have been more aimed at children because they were useful to get kids to behave in December, but during the Victorian era Krampus lore took a turn, especially in art. Suddenly we had Krampus being depicted as a ladies’ man. There are quite a lot of postcards from that time which show him flirting with women, and they seem pretty happy about it.

In keeping with the switch (heehee) we see a lot more adult themed Krampus lore showing up. And turn about is apparently fair play because female Krampuses started to appear in this art. Sexy lady Krampuses knew exactly how to handle rogues and cheating men. Though… they don’t seem to mind.

Lady Krampus with men she’s carting off to punish.

The legends of Krampus are still very much alive and well in Europe. Krampus even has his own holiday on December 5th, Krampusnacht. In a number of countries people (mostly men) dress in Krampus costumes and run around chasing and/or hitting others (mostly women) with switches and birch rods. It’s done in fun and not meant to do more than maybe sting a little. Some women will even get caught on purpose… shocking, I know.

In very recent years we’ve seen a rise in Krampus horror in movies, and in books. It makes sense really. For a large part of his history he’s been the boogeyman so it’s only natural that they’d use him as the monster, but he wasn’t always evil and I admit that I like other versions of him better.

The Horned god of the witches that may have inspired his original creation was not evil. He was primal and at times harsh, but not evil. And of course, I have a fondness for the Victorian ideal Krampus. He was dapper, sophisticated, and a charmer; the women loved him. That was part of the idea in my head when I formed the Krampus Collective.

Dapper Victorian Krampus flirting with a lady.

I think myths like this prove humanity has always had an interesting relationship with punishment. Love it, like the Victorians did, or hate it, but you can’t deny that these legends stick out in people’s memories. And let’s be honest a horned goat-man with a birch rod is a lot more motivating towards good behavior than just being put on a naughty list and getting no present from Santa.

Positive reinforcement works well for some. Others need sterner measures and who could be sterner than Krampus?

If you’d like to read more about the legends of Krampus, here are a few sources to get you started:

I hope you enjoyed finding out a little bit about the background of this fun character.

Remember Krampus knows if you’ve been naughty so… stay safe, stay healthy, and stay home if you can!

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