Solving the problem of evil in the twenty-first century

The Little Boy at the Savior’s Christmas Tree

Short Story:
Forever ingrained as not just one of the Russia’s most important writers but as one of the most important writers the world has ever seen, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s body of work is some of the most important in literature. Although a well known Eastern Orthodox Christian, his short story, The Little Boy at the Savior’s Christmas Tree (originally published as The Little Orphan in 1887) casts an interesting light on Dostoevsky’s relationship with religion. Taking place in the city on Christmas Eve, the story follows a young child who awakens in a cellar to discover that his mother has died in the intense cold of the night. As the story progresses, the young boy, in an effort to find a home to enjoy Christmas in, collapses behind a pile of wood. As he looks up he notices the spectral figure of Jesus sitting at the head of an enormous Christmas tree, surrounded by orphans and his dead mother. Suddenly jarring the reader away from the fantastical imagery, Dostoevsky ends his story with the statement that the child had died in the cold of the night.

Originally written as a response to Russian utopian theses of the time, the story is reflective of Dostoevsky’s notion that true utopia is unattainable in the world. But what is most fascinating is the way that the story draws religion, Dostoevsky’s own, into question. The child experiences utopian ways of life only at the end of his life. And although one could argue that this is simply reflective of the idea of a Christian heaven, Dostoevsky includes the chilling (no pun intended) ending that reveals only that the child has died a horrible death. Instead of leaving the reader with a hopeful vision of a utopian Heaven, Dostoevsky shows a child who believes he experiences time with Jesus but is abruptly ripped away from him and left in the unforgiving cold.


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