I tracked this book down out of curiosity over a Christmas story written by the mind that created The Wizard of Oz. What I found was a gem of a story with a current moral, even though the story originally appeared in a magazine in 1904. It was first published in book form in an anthology of Christmas tales in 1915.
The Demons of Selfishness, Envy, Hatred and Malice live in the mountains surrounding Laughing Valley, home of Santa Claus. Naturally, they dislike Santa for his example of happiness and generosity, so they vist St. Nick one by one, attempting to lure the kindly man into their habits.
When this plan fails, they conspire to kidnap Santa on Christmas Eve so that he can not spread cheer, thus leading the world's children into the cave's of the Demons. Santa's helpers - fairies, ryls and knooks in this version - work together to deliver the Christmas gifts even without Santa to guide them, then set out to rescue their leader.
Before they can complete their mission, the Demon of Repentance begins to feel shame for his part in the crime and arranges Santa's escape. Even after being reunited with Santa, the rescue team wants to continue their hunt for the Demons to mete out their vengence. Santa intercedes and warns them, "It is useless to pursue the Demons. They have their place in the world and can never be destroyed. But that is a great pity, nevertheless."
The message of how our sins compound - selfishness leads to envy, envy leads to hatred, and hatred leads to malice - as well as Santa's illustration of contentment and happiness in the face of deliberate attack, is a great one for all ages.
The language of the book may be a little advanced for younger readers - demon spelled daemon, for example - and few kids today are familiar with ryls and knooks. The edition I was able to borrow was published in 1969 and the illustrations are not very good (my apologies to the illustrator) - pencil drawings done in black, white and red. If I were to purchase this book for my grandkids, I would look for an updated version with more attractive pictures, but I still recommend it for all children.