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11 Fictional Family Trees

They say you can't tell the players without a program! When a story is an "epic saga" or a long-running series, some kind of guide will help immensely. Plot lines turn on family secrets, and fresh material is injected by the introduction of yet another relative. And sometimes, complicated bloodlines meet as characters marry each other (since a wedding and new babies will always boost ratings). To help you along, TV, movie, and literature geeks will chart out those relationships in family trees. You can click on these images to get a better look, or follow the links to see the full versions.

1. The Weasleys

This is the House of Weasley as rendered by DeviantART member Ms-Wayward. This is the extended family of Ron Weasley, whom you know from the Harry Potter series. You can see Harry Potter's family tree (although not quite as suitable for framing) at the Harry Potter Wiki.

2. Bewitched

You can find out more than you'd ever thought you could know about the classic TV series Bewitched at Harpie's Bizarre, including this family tree that lists all of Samantha's supernatural relatives, as well as Darrin's human relatives.

3. Hobbits

The relationships in the Lord of the Rings trilogy are extensive, but at least they are separated into different species. A Hobbit family tree shows that Bilbo Baggins and Frodo Baggins are distant cousins; the full graphic has more of their relatives. The Hobbit geneology page by Chris Long also has a larger family tree of Hobbits that covers just about every Hobbit mentioned in the Tolkien universe. The Lord of the Rings Wiki has trees for six of the royal families in the story.

4. Idiocracy

The introduction to the 2006 movie Idiocracy features a family tree to show how human evolution stopped selecting for intelligence in our modern world and instead encouraged massive reproduction among people with lower IQs. This family tree shows how Clevon (with an IQ of 84) left many descendants. See the entire sequence at YouTube (NSFW language). The best part of this fictional family tree is that you don't have to remember any of the characters in it to follow the movie.

5. The Game of Thrones

The new HBO series Game of Thrones is based on the book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. Those who haven't read the books immediately knew a family tree was necessary to sort out the relationships between the characters. Others felt that revealing those relationships causes spoilers, so study the full size tree at your own discretion. Only a small part is shown here.

6. Donald Duck

There's a lot more to Donald Duck's family than Uncle Scrooge and the nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie. The complete family includes all the characters introduced in Donald Duck comic books. This family tree differs from the others here, as the ancestors are at the bottom and the later generations branch out at the top. The full tree is much more extensive than the portion shown here.

7. McFlys

The three Back to the Future movies are confusing enough, as Marty McFly skips back and forth through time, encountering family members at various times in history. The McFly family is graphed at the Marty McFly Wiki, and somewhat truncated here for readability. Once you've got the family tree down, you might want to try deciphering the Back to the Future Timeline. Good luck.

8. Simpsons

How well do you think you know The Simpsons family? The TV show has been on for over two decades, but it takes a real fan to stay with it that long. You can take a quiz about The Simpsons family relationships, but you'll have to scroll past the family tree to get an accurate score of your memory.

9. The Sopranos

The HBO organized crime family series The Sopranos is now in syndication for those who didn't watch the show in its first run. To help you keep up with who is beholden to who by family ties, you can consult this handy tree.

10. I'm My Own Grandpa

"I'm My Own Grandpa" is a song first released in 1947 about a man and his father who married a mother and daughter, but not in the order you'd expect. The tangled family tree that results is illustrated in a video set to the Ray Stevens version of the song. There's no incest here, just confusion.

11. Days of Our Lives

The most tangled fictional family trees of all are those of soap opera characters. If a show runs long enough, even the writers can lose track of who is related to who, especially when new writers join the team. I started looking at the long-running show Days of Our Lives, but there are so many families and family members that the trees are split into many sections. The tree shown is for the Horton family only, and you can see how huge it is.

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Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
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holidays
8 Legendary Monsters of Christmas
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The customs of the holiday season, which include St. Nicholas Day, New Years Day, and Epiphany, as well as Christmas, often incorporate earlier pagan traditions that have been appropriated and adapted for contemporary use. Customs that encourage little children to be good so as to deserve their Christmas gifts often come with a dark side: the punishment you'll receive from a monster or evil being of some sort if you aren't good! These nefarious characters vary from place to place, and they go by many different names and images.

1. KRAMPUS

As a tool to encourage good behavior in children, Santa serves as the carrot, and Krampus is the stick. Krampus is the evil demon anti-Santa, or maybe his evil twin. Krampus Night is celebrated on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day in Austria and other parts of Europe. Public celebrations that night have many Krampuses walking the streets, looking for people to beat. Alcohol is also involved. Injuries in recent years have led to some reforms, such as requiring all Krampuses to wear numbers so they may identified in case of overly violent behavior.

Krampus may look like a devil, or like a wild alpine beast, depending on what materials are available to make a Krampus costume. In modern times, people can spend as much as they like to become the best Krampus around—and the tradition is spreading beyond Europe. Many cities in America have their own Krampus Nights now.

2. JÓLAKÖTTURINN

Jólakötturinn is the Icelandic Yule Cat or Christmas Cat. He is not a nice cat. In fact, he might eat you. This character is tied to an Icelandic tradition in which those who finished all their work on time received new clothes for Christmas, while those who were lazy did not (although this is mainly a threat). To encourage children to work hard, parents told the tale of the Yule Cat, saying that Jólakötturinn could tell who the lazy children were because they did not have at least one new item of clothing for Christmas—and these children would be sacrificed to the Yule Cat. This reminder tends to spur children into doing their chores! A poem written about the cat ends with a suggestion that children help out the needy, so they, too, can have the protection of new clothing. It's no wonder that Icelanders put in more overtime at work than most Europeans.

3. FRAU PERCHTA


Flickr // Markus Ortner

Tales told in Germany and Austria sometimes feature a witch named Frau Perchta who hands out both rewards and punishments during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 through Epiphany on January 6). She is best known for her gruesome punishment of the sinful: She will rip out your internal organs and replace them with garbage. The ugly image of Perchta may show up in Christmas processions in Austria, somewhat like Krampus.

Perchta's story is thought to have descended from a legendary Alpine goddess of nature, who tends the forest most of the year and deals with humans only during Christmas. In modern celebrations, Perchta or a close relation may show up in processions during Fastnacht, the Alpine festival just before Lent. There may be some connection between Frau Perchta and the Italian witch La Befana, but La Befana isn't really a monster: she's an ugly but good witch who leaves presents.

4. BELSNICKEL

A drawing of Belsnickel.
Lucas, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Belsnickel is a male character from southwestern German lore who traveled to the United States and survives in Pennsylvania Dutch customs. He comes to children sometime before Christmas, wearing tattered old clothing and raggedy fur. Belsnickel carries a switch to frighten children and candy to reward them for good behavior. In modern visits, the switch is only used for noise, and to warn children they still have time to be good before Christmas. Then all the children get candy, if they are polite about it. The name Belsnickel is a portmanteau of the German belzen (meaning to wallop) and nickel for St. Nicholas. See a video of a Belsnickel visit here.

Knecht Ruprecht and Ru Klaas are similar characters from German folklore who dole out beatings to bad children, leaving St. Nicholas to reward good children with gifts.

5. HANS TRAPP

Hans Trapp is another "anti-Santa" who hands out punishment to bad children in the Alsace and Lorraine regions of France. The legend says that Trapp was a real man, a rich, greedy, and evil man, who worshiped Satan and was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He was exiled into the forest where he preyed upon children, disguised as a scarecrow with straw jutting out from his clothing. He was about to eat one boy he captured when he was struck by lightning and killed—a punishment of his own from God. Still, he visits young children before Christmas, dressed as a scarecrow, to scare them into good behavior.

6. PÈRE FOUETTARD

The French legend of Père Fouettard, whose name translates to "Father Whipper," begins with an evil butcher who craved children to eat. He (or his wife) lured three boys into his butcher shop, where he killed, chopped, and salted them. St. Nicholas came to the rescue, resurrected the boys, and took custody of the butcher. The captive butcher became Père Fouettard, St. Nicholas' servant whose job it is to dispense punishment to bad children on St. Nicholas Day.

7. THE YULE LADS

The Jólasveinar, or Yule Lads, are 13 Icelandic trolls, who each have a name and distinct personality. In ancient times, they stole things and caused trouble around Christmastime, so they were used to scare children into behaving, like the Yule Cat. However, the 20th century brought tales of the benevolent Norwegian figure Julenisse (Santa Claus), who brought gifts to good children. The traditions became mingled, until the formerly devilish Jólasveinar became kind enough to leave gifts in shoes that children leave out ... if they are good boys and girls. 

8. GRÝLA

All the Yule Lads answer to Grýla, their mother. She predates the Yule Lads in Icelandic legend as the ogress who kidnaps, cooks, and eats children who don't obey their parents. She only became associated with Christmas in the 17th century, when she was assigned to be the mother of the Yule Lads. According to legend, Grýla had three different husbands and 72 children, all who caused trouble ranging from harmless mischief to murder. As if the household wasn't crowded enough, the Yule Cat also lives with Grýla. This ogress is so much of a troublemaker that The Onion blamed her for the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

A version of this post originally ran in 2013. See also: more Legendary Monsters

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History
84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
Keystone/Getty Images

It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.


A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.


Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.


New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.


American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.


Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
Keystone/Getty Images

A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.


Keystone/Getty Images

Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.

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