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Nathan Hansen column: Elfin eyes are full of murder

We’re deep in the heart of the Christmas season as I write this, well past its spleen and so deep the pancreas is just a distant memory.

That seems like an appropriately ominous description for a season in which parents everywhere are filling their Facebook and Instagram and Twitter feeds with pictures of their Elf on a Shelf. They’re probably pinning them to random bulletin boards, too. Apparently adults get really worked up about a socially acceptable reason to pose and photograph their toys.

You know about Elf on a Shelf, right? It’s a doll with a back story, like a Cabbage Patch Kid, or Anna Nicole Smith. In this case, it’s meant to be a scout for Santa Claus. It spies on children, then flies back to the North Pole to mark down every good deed, sister-smack or nose pick.

It’s like the Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer as written by George Orwell.

The elves themselves are terrifying. The Elf on the Shelf website offers a whole multicultural assortment of elf spies, but they’re all basically the same. They have red outfits and pointy hats and the dead eyes of a sociopath. Their mouth is in a permanent smirk that suggests they are just one naughty act from stabbing the entire family with candy canes as they sleep.

The idea, so far as I can gather, is that parents pose these evil imps around the house so the kids can discover them in the morning and know the elf has been moving silently through the house in the night. Like a candy-colored ninja.

Often parents pose the elves in a way that suggests they have been making mischief in the night. Search the Internet for Elf on the Shelf ideas and you will find elves in compromising positions with Barbies, elves who have spread flour all over the floor and a number of bodily function-related poses that is surprising until you remember that it’s, you know, the Internet.

There are probably worse elf photos out there, but there’s only so far down that particular hole I’m willing to go.

I find these photos problematic, and not just because they suggest the holiday’s jolly old marketing icon runs a spy network that puts the NSA to shame. Seeing these elves cause mischief without consequence has to make some kids question the entire notion of naughty and nice lists.

It also raises some uncomfortable questions about Santa’s hiring practices. What kind of HR department allows itself to be represented by an employee that spends his nights wrecking some kid’s house?

I guess it’s hard to find good help when your global headquarters is at the North Pole.

Searching for Elf on the Shelf ideas also turns up a large number of photos in which the elf has been tied up by other toys. Those toys have the right idea.

I haven’t seen nearly as many elf photos this year. I think my friends’ kids are all either too young or too old or too traumatized for the family to continue the tradition this year.

The idea probably isn’t going to go away anytime soon, though. There are entire hardcover books dedicated to elf-pose ideas. There are sites you can visit that are stocked with elf names.

Parenting is more difficult than I realized if people need the Internet to help them pick the right name for the tiny demon that haunts their homes every December.

Oh, well. At least it’s almost over. Then our homes will be free of candy-focused vermin until the Easter Bunny shows up.

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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