Last summer I began rereading the Ender books again for the oh I don’t know third or fourth time at least. Along the way I found that there were other stories written in the Enderverse, many short stories and one that really caught my attention: War of Gifts. I found this on the library shelf and it was marked as a holiday book. Confusion set in as the setting was the Battle School. Children on the Battle School are not allowed to celebrate or recognize religion in anyway. They’re not supposed to celebrate or recognize their nationality in any way. Once aboard the orbiting station that houses the Battle School they are part of the International Fleet and are supposed to behave as such.
Intrigued I picked up the book and began to read. Zeck is a young boy growing up in a fundamentalist Christian household. His father is the “minister” of their church. Zeck is routinely beaten by his father because he is not pure and no matter how hard Zeck tries he can’t seem to become pure. The irony of this being that while his father is beating him he is also teaching him to live a life of pacifism. Zeck is tested like any other child his age by the International Fleet and taken to Battle School where he refuses to participate in the battles, though he is a member of the Rat army. This story occurs just after Ender is transferred to Rat, but he actually doesn’t play a large role in this story at least not until the end.
Dink Meeker goes to bed one night and sees fellow Dutchman Flip put his shoes out at the end of his bed rather than into his locker. Dink then realizes that it is December fifth, Sinterklass Eve the night that Saint Nikkolas and Black Peter leave their homes and leave presents in the shoes of good boys and girls. Suddenly feeling homesick Dink writes a poem and leaves it in Flip’s shoe. The next day he brings Flip a pancake cut into the shape of an F. Zeck witnesses this and goes to report it to Colonel Graff. If he is not supposed to practice nonviolence as it is for him a religious observance then they should not be allowed to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day.
Graff having no other choice calls Dink and Flip into his office and reprimands them. Dink decides it’s time to do something and begins plotting. Santa Claus he realizes is not Christian it is a national observance and not just of one country but of many. Zeck again tries to go to Graff but is sent away, he instead goes to the Muslim children on board to point out what is happening to them.
Aside from this being a story about one boy finding himself and another building his own morale and that of others, this is just a really sweet story one I never would have expected in this setting. If you haven’t read it go find it!