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Real Scrooge 'was Dutch gravedigger'

Real Scrooge 'was Dutch gravedigger'
A Dutchman in costume at the 17th Dickens festival in Holland

He is synonymous with the traditional image of the Victorian English Christmas but Ebenezer Scrooge may have his roots much further afield.

According to Sjef de Jong, a Dutch academic, the Charles Dickens character may have been inspired by the real life of Gabriel de Graaf, a 19th century gravedigger who lived in Holland.

De Graaf, a drunken curmudgeon obsessed with money, was said to have disappeared one Christmas Eve, only to emerge years later as a reformed character.

While Dickens never travelled to Holland, he may have heard of de Graaf, who attributed his transformation to visions from dwarves, through his friend Hans Christian Andersen.

It has been widely accepted that Scrooge was an expansion of an earlier Dickens character, Gabriel Grub, from The Pickwick Papers.

Grub almost mirrored the life of his namesake in Bronkhurst, 20 miles from Arnhem, Holland.

"According to local people, the real Gabriel was a terrible man, unpleasant, addicted to alcohol and violent to children. Because he was so keen on money, he even dug graves on Christmas Eve. Then he disappeared. All he left was an empty bottle of gin in the grave," Dr de Jong said.

"Years later, Gabriel showed up saying he had changed after dwarves showed him a vision of a poor young child that died because nobody cared."

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