A Brief History of Krampus
While the demonic-looking Krampus has seen something of a boom as of late, oftentimes as counterprogramming to cheery holiday fare, the reality is that this cloven-hooved character has been around for hundreds of years in the folklore and traditions of the Alpine region of Bavaria in Germany and Austria. In fact, in those stories, Krampus is actually not an “evil” character per say, but actually a partner to Saint Nicholas, dolling out punishment to misbehaving children while “Saint Nick” rewards the good ones. You can see in this image from the early 1900s, both Krampus and Nicholas visiting a child and seemingly working together.
While there have been many variations on the appearance of Krampus over the years, a few constants can be found. He is often depicted as a devilish-looking character with dark fur, a long tail, cloven hooves, and large horns. A long, red tongue is often found sticking out of his mouth, and he typically carries a bundle of birch branches and a sack or basket on his back. The stories explain that Krampus uses the branches to whip misbehaving children, while the sack/basket is used to carry children to some foul punishment. Chains are another commonly seen element in depictions of Krampus, as are bells. These later elements are especially prominent in modern depictions of the character and the “Krampus runs” that still take place in many small Alpine towns.
The evening of December 5th has become known as “Krampusnacht” of “Krampus Night.” Held the day before the Feast of St. Nicholas, Bavarian traditions see individuals in hairy Krampus costumes take to the streets in parades and other celebrations. These elaborate costumes and masks are handmade by those who wear them, and in many cases are handed down over the years as part of a heirloom-like family treasure. Participants take to the streets rattling chains, loudly clanging bells, and making a general sense of mischief. Krampus Runs, or “Parades” as they are also called, can now be found in a number of large cities in Bavaria, including Munich, Germany and Salzberg, Austria.
In other parts of Europe there are other Krampus-like characters who are a part of various regional traditions. Of course, the character has also been prominently featured in many modern forms of media, including a 2015 holiday horror movie that has become seasonal viewing for many looking for a darker sampling of the Christmas season.
For additional reading on the history and traditions of Krampus, check out “The Krampus and the Old Dark Christmas: Roots and Rebirth of the Folkloric Devil” by Al Ridenour.
While we clearly love the work we get to do with both Mythic and Cosmic Legions, there is something exciting about being able to break out of these worlds every now and again. This is where "Figura Obscura" comes in.
It was some time ago that we began talking about doing small side projects that do not exactly fit within our existing properties, but which we believe fans of those properties would also love. By using the same figure aesthetic, build system, and in some cases the same actual parts as Legions do, these new releases will feel as if they perhaps exist on the fringes of our other worlds – and they will certainly work well alongside your Legions displays!
The first release from this new Figura Obscura idea is a perfect example of the kind of projects we hope to do. This figure certainly fits in with Mythic Legions, but it is also a character steeped in history and tradition that we expect will appeal to non-Legions collectors as well as our die-hard fans. Most importantly, he is just an awesome looking toy!
The creation of our Krampus figure was a bit different than our normal development process. On our Legions lines, we have storylines and characters planned out well in advance, and some of the figures introduced are even sculpted years prior to their eventual release. With Krampus, the birthing process was much faster, inspired by a suggestion from Four Horsemen Studios founder, Jim Preziosi, that we should do a holiday figure. A conversation between Jim, Eric Treadaway and Cornboy followed, and the idea of a Krampus figure was hatched! Later on, we roped in one of our painters, Cameron Smith, to get his input on the project. Cameron is incredibly knowledgeable on the history and traditions of Krampus, having even given a lecture on the topic at a college some years ago.
Eric often begins his design process with some rough sketches to work out ideas and general shapes, but for Krampus he jumped right into the digital sculpture, so there are actually no rough design process images to share for this character because Eric was so excited to get started!
The figure of Krampus uses a fair number of existing Mythic Legions parts, including the main body, hooves, hands, armor, and chain. To turn those parts into Krampus, Eric sculpted a new head and neck piece, a new tail, and some character appropriate accessories in Krampus’ switch and woven basket.
Upon finishing the sculpture and preparing the parts for printing to create the paint master sample (which is seen in the photos above), we began to discuss how we would release Krampus, since he was clearly too cool to keep to ourselves! We considered adding him into a Mythic Legions All Stars wave, or even working him into a standard Legions wave, but he had so much personality that we really felt like he needed to be on his own. This is where the idea of putting him out as a special release came from – as a stand alone figure that was not Legions-branded.
A special release like Krampus deserves some special packaging, so as always we turned to the amazing Nate Baertsch to lend his talents to the project. The end result is a box unlike any we have ever done – something that really helps set this special release apart!
Regarding the release itself, we considered doing a typical preorder on the figure, but we also loved the idea of fans being able to get these in hand this holiday season and we really wanted to drop this as a surprise on December 5th – which is “Krampusnact”! In the end, we decided to run this special figure as an “In Stock” item, which means it would be a surprise drop for fans and orders would begin shipping days after the items went up for sale! All information and details on Krampus were kept super-secret at the studio, and no advance teasers were leaked. As 9am EST rolled around on December 5th, the figure hit StoreHorsemen.com, this page on our website went live, and slowly but surely the news that Krampus had come made its way through the Legions community.
In addition to the figure, this sale also included a Krampus coffee mug, greeting cards, and pins! Plus, our partners at Retro Rags offered a Krampus shirt available in multiple festive colors! You can buy that shirt from them here.
The figure photos on this page come courtesy of Trevor Williams, aka One-Six Shooter, who continues to make our products look absolutely amazing.
There Are More Surprises to Reveal
The Krampus figure is only the first of our new "Figura Obscura" projects that we are unveiling. While these releases will not be anywhere near as frequent as our Legions lines, we do have some additional surprises in the works. Look for them to appear and surprise you when the time is right.