As it's that time of year I thought I'd do a Christmas themed question that is a big problem for the old man up north; Why don't the elves rise up and kill Santa? First let us consider the horrible conditions elves are forced to work in;

  • They work every day of every year.
  • Depression would come easy as they do the exact same thing for their entire life.
  • They receive little or no thanks or reprieve for their hard work.
  • They are basically treated as slaves by, Santa.
  • They is no way to climb the corporate ladder.
  • They have no apparent choice of whether or not they make toys.
  • Even though they do all the work, Santa takes all the credit.

Now I don't know about you but if I had to work in these conditions I would revolt very quickly and considering that everything in "Santa's" workshop is run by the Elves, he wouldn't last very long. Assuming that Santa is a glory hog that doesn't want to share, why don't the elves revolt?

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    $\begingroup$ I have to say, do we know that this is true and/or that Santa is unwilling to concede to any of these requests? $\endgroup$
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 23:27
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    $\begingroup$ Not really, it just said that they put up with it for the joy of helping kids, that may be fine for a while but after a few thousands days straight? 'Joy' would fade $\endgroup$
    – TrEs-2b
    Commented Dec 16, 2015 at 23:51
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    $\begingroup$ Don't forget things like seasonal affective disorder and polar T3 syndrome (assuming that elves' physiology includes a thyroid) that would probably afflict them like it does people who winter over at Antarctic research stations. $\endgroup$
    – Wingman4l7
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 1:44
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    $\begingroup$ They could try, but Santa sees them when they're sleeping, he knows when they're awake, he knows if they've been bad or good, so, for goodness sake, don't plan a rebellion against him! $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 12:10
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    $\begingroup$ It's not possible. Elves are inherently revolting. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 0:25

10 Answers 10


Santa's Elves are a distinct species, separate from other species of elves, characterised by their submissiveness, lack of imagination, endless patience, love of stable, predictable environments, and delight in performing repetitive, menial tasks.

So, far from feeling oppressed by Santa, Santa's Elves thank Santa daily for providing them with the environment that they enjoy most - one of servitude, stability and order, where the need to think for themselves and improvise is minimised.

For such beings, thanks is unnecessary - they thank Santa for employing them, and for providing a stable, unchanging environment.

Promotion to a position of greater responsibility - and by logical extension, to a position of less predictability - is seen by the Santa's Elves as a precursor to the end-of-life exile of Santa's Elves who are no longer productive on the barren surface of the arctic icecap where their lives will undoubtedly be brought to a close by hungry polar bears. Fortunately, though, Santa's Elves are a long-lived species, and only a few elves each year become too weak or senile to be useful. Indeed, that a Santa's Elf could become unproductive is a matter of great shame for it and its fellows, and Santa himself doesn't have to intervene, as the Santa's Elves themselves will help their senile, failing relatives up to the surface to die all by themselves, frequently thanked by the exiled Santa's Elf for their assistance in expiating the shame associated with uselessness.

Santa's Elves do not care for glory; their joy is in repetitive labour, predictable environments and usefulness. They care little that Santa gains the credit for their work so long as their work keeps coming. They do not even care what they do, as long as they are useful and that the work is predictable. The greatest horror for a Santa's Elf - aside from uselessness - would be to be forced to improvise, to work with unpredictable tools and materials and to be required to interact with the end-user of the product they make.

This is in distinct contrast to their relatives, the Scandinavian Svart-alfr and Dverge. The former are similar to the Santa's Elves, and while also gregarious and also enjoy subterranean environments, are more chaotic, independent and flighty. The latter are also subterranean, but are more solitary, and while they take a delight in labour, they insist on generous payment and only work on projects that interest them, which are typically different from any previous project.

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    $\begingroup$ When they outlive their usefulness, the elves go for a Long Walk on the ice and don't return? o.O Sounds a bit like Logan's Run. $\endgroup$
    – Wingman4l7
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 1:46
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    $\begingroup$ @Wingman4l7, I don't know how long a walk it would be. With global warming shrinking the pack ice, the polar bears are hungrier than usual, and would also deal with the evidence. $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 2:40
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    $\begingroup$ Dobby wants a sock $\endgroup$
    – Zibelas
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 8:37
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    $\begingroup$ Some companies actually recruit autistic people for dealing with just these kinds of repetitive and unchanging tasks. Perhaps the "elves" are not related to but of the races of svartalfer and dvärgar, with a certain kind of autistic disorder? Sounds like a solution where everyone wins - Santa gets his helpers, the poor autistic elves find a nice and stable environment with meaningful occupation. $\endgroup$
    – gustafc
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 9:39
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    $\begingroup$ Alternatively, Santa's Elves are a Minion subspecies. $\endgroup$
    – JAB
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 13:48

Unbeknownst to most, Santa is not a single person, but a rotating position. Santa is an elf himself after all. Every year, a new Santa is chosen from among the many elves working at the North Pole. We think it's the same man every time because they actually all look pretty similar. (How else do you think he can be at every mall in the world at the same time?) Their breeding structure is similar to that of bees or ants - Mrs. Claus is the "queen elf", producing thousands of new elves every year. Most elves are "drones", who do the majority of the toy manufacturing. The "worker" elves are the ones you see in the malls, and each year one "lucky" worker gets chosen as the breeding elf - this is the one we know as the true "Santa". In addition to delivering toys to all the children in the world, and fattening himself up on cookies and milk, he also earns the right to be Mrs. Claus's breeding stud, providing the genetic material to produce the next years crop of elf larvae. After his breeding duties have been fulfilled, the queen elf decapitates him and his considerable remains form the food source for the young hatchling elves.

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    $\begingroup$ That is horrifying, yet strangely logical. Though now I'm expecting gifts from Santa to be covered in mucus for some reason... $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 18:18
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    $\begingroup$ Haven't you ever wondered why she's the only female resident of the North Pole? (Other than reindeer of course). She's secretly running the whole operation, I just know it. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 18:22

Santa's not always around

The elves work every day... that Santa sees. Between loading up his sleigh, tending to the reindeer, watching kids, making lists (and checking them twice), and doing normal things (eating, sleeping, etc.), Santa can't keep eyes on the elves 24/7. They can use this time to get some extra sleep, relax, and have fun. As far as Santa's concerned, they're making toys. Plus:

Mrs. Claus is actually a nice woman

You said Santa treats them as slaves. You never said anything about Mrs. Claus. She sees that the elves are mistreated by Santa and helps them out, whether it's in the form of giving a few leftovers to hungry elves or talking Santa into giving the elves a couple of holidays off.

  • $\begingroup$ @TrEs-2b Really, Nat King Cole sang about her in the fifties already: youtube.com/watch?v=deYSj5iTau4 As anyone who spents some though on it must realize that Mrs Santa Clause is the driving force for Christmas in most families.. $\endgroup$
    – Bart
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 19:58
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    $\begingroup$ So you say that he sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake, he knows when you've been bad or good, but the elves can somehow evade his all-seeing eye? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 20:04
  • $\begingroup$ @MasonWheeler I would assume that it only works on kids and not elves. $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 20:13

why do you think Santa is producing at the North Pole? The elves can't escape as they wouldn't be able to stand the polar cold once they leave Santa's workshop. Also, there's not much food growing at the North Pole, so the only food they get is the food they get from Santa. So their only choice is to either work or die.

  • $\begingroup$ So that means the only food they get is cookies and milk... let's hope none of them are allergic to milk. $\endgroup$
    – Kit
    Commented Dec 17, 2015 at 0:31

They work every day of every year.

Elves in Dungeons & Dragons (5th edition) don't need as much rest as Men according to the description of the Trance trait.

they do the exact same thing for their entire life.

Not always.

  • In the film Elf, it is made clear that Santa's helpers are trained in assembling the new toys each year. I specifically remember references to "chipsets" in an electronic toy.
  • Santa's Workshop occasionally needs elves to take care of the other elves. This can be administrative, as shown in parts of The Santa Clause series, or even medical care. The short film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer tells the story of Hermey, an elf who studied dental surgery, opened a dental clinic at the Pole, and eventually was awarded what amounts to an honorary DDS. This sort of echoes the dentist in the TV miniseries The 10th Kingdom who was called the "tooth fairy".
  • Lately, some elves have joined the Scout Elf program, exposed by Aebersold and Bell in 2005, in which elves are sent to watch homes for criminal activity to help Santa refine his naughty list. (Though the U.S. NSA hasn't quite started to outsource its spying to Santa's Workshop, the program does soften kids up to surveillance.)

no way to climb the corporate ladder.

How do you think Bernard, Santa's second-in-command in The Santa Clause, got into his position? He took the job away from the former foreman who looked like Mitch Miller and sounded like Carl Banas. In fact, Curtis took Bernard's job in The Santa Clause 3 when Bernard defected to America to work as a mathematician for the FBI. I'm guessing the Numb3rs gig was his Hermey moment.

They have no apparent choice of whether or not they make toys.

For a time, this was true; Hermey was put under intense peer pressure to make toys instead of becoming a dentist. But Hermey eventually succeeded in getting the foreman to let him open a dental practice, and this likely led to wider acceptance of Innovation Time Off at Santa's Workshop.

Santa takes all the credit.

This has changed as more films depict elves' work.


Santa uses cult mechanics to keep them in place. After all, they live isolated from the rest of the world, serving their leader, in a Manichean view of the world (nice or naughty).

The equivalent of their god is Christmas. Everything waking hour revolves around serving the next one, and every minute they are reminded of the unlucky children of the world. With the recent overpopulation, the elves cannot longer provide toys for every child; so if they slack off, even more children will be sad and toyless; and it will fall on their consciences. Constant guilt.

They are offered a routine that offers security (work, work, and work). This calms the bad feelings about the poor children. Also, doesn't let them too much time to think. They are also forced to wear uniforms to strip them of their personal identities.

They are assured shelter from the cold and wild beasts and naughty children that lurk around the North Pole, as Santa very kindly reminds them every chance. Also, Santa being all-knowing, will get his own elves in the naughty list if they even think of misbehaving. Their punishment is more outdoors duty: they have to collect twice as much firewood and other materials.

Furthermore the diet, based on sugar cane and gingerbread, is very deficient in proteins, that affects the thought process.


Hmm, lots of unwarranted assumptions here.

•They work every day of every year.

No, they get a long vacation right after Christmas every year.

•Depression would come easy as they do the exact same thing for their entire life.

What are you talking about?! Toys change radically over time. When I was a boy, the elves were mostly making toy cars and trucks and GI Joe's. Now they make video games.

•They receive little or no thanks or reprieve for their hard work.

No, they are honored and respected all over the world. Hundreds of millions of people know who Santa's elves are and what they do. How many people know anything about the people who work on coal slurry pipelines or at the derivative section of a stock brokerage?

•They are basically treated as slaves by their owner, Santa.

The definition of a slave is that you're not allowed to quit. Elves are perfectly free to quit Santa's workshop and get other jobs. Some get jobs making cookies in a hollow tree, or bringing good luck to orphans.

•They is no way to climb the corporate ladder.

The elf workforce is based on co-operation and self-actualization. They pioneered the concept of quality circles long before the Japanese stole it. So there is very little hierarchy.

•They have no apparent choice of whether or not they make toys.

Of course they do. Santa also has to deliver gifts to adults, like neckties for men and vacuum cleaners for women. Many elves work in the adult gifts division.

•Even though they do all the work, Santa takes all the credit.

Santa is an elf himself -- "He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old ELF, and I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself" -- so this is a non-sequiter.


"Elves" are really the souls of deceased dyslexic devil worshippers. As they are already dead the don't need to stop to eat or sleep. They really should have been more careful when signing their soul away with virgin blood.

Although they are contractually compelled to do the infernal bidding of Santa for all eternity, they also serve since it is promised that one especially loyal elf will be allowed to come back to life as Zuthulu: The Perry Bible Fellowship.

  • $\begingroup$ This answer is plausible. The people who thought they were worshipping Satan instead have given their souls to Santa. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 18, 2022 at 17:42

Everyone knows that Santa has a mean streak, when things do not go his way.

Elves live in terror with Santa at the helm of toy production.

The real Santa Claus had been known to publicly loose his cool in splendid fashion. Some even call him St. Nicholas. In any case he has a bad temper.

One tradition has him actually attending the Council of Nicea in A.D. 325, when Arian doctrine was rejected. The story goes that he got into a heated debate with Arius himself about whether there was a time when the Word did not exist. Nicholas strongly disagreed.

The debate ended suddenly when Nicholas punched out Arius then and there on the floor of the council! This gives new meaning to the ditty: "He's making a list and checking it twice, he's going to find out who's naughty or nice!"

The mental image of Santa Claus punching out Arius on the floor of the Council of Nicea with Emperor Constantine looking on has to fundamentally change the way one would ever see Santa Claus again. While I might not agree with his methods, I certainly admire his passion for Christological orthodoxy and doctrinal purity! - Persecuted, Jailed, Passionate - That's my kind of Santa Claus


Santa uses blackmail to keep his elves in line. If the elves want to rebel, Santa will threaten to feed them all to the Lindwyrm king. My second answer is that Santa is the alpha of all the elves. By the way, alpha gorillas, lions, and orangoutangs look different from the other lions, gorillas, and orangutans. So it would make sense for Santa to be the alpha elf.

  • $\begingroup$ Blackmail takes too much individual effort. Just get them addicted to drugs. $\endgroup$
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Dec 23, 2020 at 23:49

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