Le Pere Fouettard, which means "The whipping Father" in French, is a character that first originated in Eastern France, in the 12th century. Over the years, this character came to be known by many names in different countries. According to legend, he was an evil and ominous figure who accompanied St. Nicholas, while visiting the homes of children. In contrast to St. Nicholas, who presents good children with treats and gifts, Pere Fouettard, is the "punishing Santa", who either gives lumps of coal or spanks the naughty children. His menacing appearance combined with his ill-nature, frightens children and prevents them from doing bad things. It is also believed that Pere Fouettard tells St. Nicholas, which children misbehaved during the year, and consequently, they are deprived of the treat. Some even say that, he cuts out tongues of children who are caught lying. Scroll down to know more.
While the origin of Pere Fouettard is narrated in several versions, the most popular story, relates to the year 1150. In this version, Pere Fouettard was an inn-keeper/ butcher, who kidnapped and murdered three children, who were lost and could not find their way home. A somewhat reformed version claims that, the three children, all boys, were passing by the inn-keeper's house while they were on their way to a religious boarding school. On realizing that the kids were rich the inn-keeper and his wife, kidnapped the three children and murdered them. Several types of torture, all ghastly, are known to have been inflicted on the children by the inn-keeper and his wife, who were set on robbing them. One grisly version tells that, the cruel inn-keeper, and his wife, lured the children, drugged them by offering wine, slit their throats, chopped them into pieces and cooked them in a stew. Another account states that, the children were chopped, salted and stowed away in a salting tub, to be eaten later. St. Nicholas, on discovering these ghastly crimes, miraculously resurrected the children and returned them to their families. St. Nicholas then, forced the inn-keeper to redress for his crimes. The inn-keeper, after repenting for his sins, became Le Pere Fouettard, who vowed to follow St. Nicholas as his partner forever. Since then, Pere Fouettard accompanies St. Nicholas on the 6th of December, otherwise known as St. Nicholas' Day, on his visits to the homes of children. While St. Nicholas presents obedient children with gifts and treats, Pere Fouettard whips the undisciplined ones.
Pere Fouettard is portrayed as a man with a creepy face, disheveled messy hair and a long white beard. He is often described as clothed in murky robes, covered in soot, wearing a scruffy hat and buckled shoes. In some countries, Pere Fouettard is depicted as a man wearing a black robe while St. Nicholas wears red robes. He carries a whip or a large stick to flog the bad children. Some say, he even carries a wicker back-pack to carry naughty children away.