Letters from Father Christmas

By: J. R. R. Tolkien

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Beginning in 1920 and lasting for twenty years, J. R. R. Tolkien related all the things that Father Christmas had been doing throughout each year to his children through letters he wrote to them. In these stories, Father Christmas (aka Santa Clause) had all sorts of adventures with his good friend Polar Bear, sometimes fun and sometimes not. Later they are joined by Cave Bear, Polar Bear's two nephews, and the elf, Ilbereth. Polar Bear always seems to get himself into trouble whether he is falling down the stairs, overflowing the bathtub, breaking the North Pole or turning on two years worth of the Northern Lights all at one time. Luckily Santa is patient with him and Polar Bear eventually saves the day when the North Pole is invaded by evil goblins who want to steal all the presents. Accompanied by original artwork done by J. R. R. Tolkien himself, Letters from Father Christmas is sure to delight readers of all ages.


I can only imagine the excitement of the Tolkien children to receive these wonderful letters from Father Christmas every year, or what it must have been like to have such a talented writer as a father. I, for one, think that it would have been splendid to get letters from Santa each Christmas. Letters from Father Christmas (previously released as The Father Christmas Letters) is a delightful book that is sure to entertain readers both young and old. Starting in 1920 when his oldest son was three, J. R. R. Tolkien began writing letters to his children from Father Christmas telling of his adventures that year with his friend North Polar Bear. Along with each letter was also a picture that made a lovely accompaniment (for some reason I never realized that Mr. Tolkien was an artist as well). All of the pictures and portions of some of the original handwritten messages, penned in a funny spidery scrawl, are reproduced in this book.

The tone of the letters is something different than I had imagined before picking the book up, but this would probably only make it more intriguing to adult readers. Embedded in each one, I could see a certain degree of social commentary on the times. These missives were written between 1920 and 1939. Of course, during that time, there was the aftermath of one World War and the beginning of another as well as the Great Depression. Ofttimes, Santa is befallen by some calamity which is used to explain why he was unable to bring the children all they asked for in their stockings. As the years go by, the stories increase in complexity and become more and more imaginative. Santa finds himself battling goblins who are the denizens of evil, and new characters are introduced with some of the later letters being written in part by Father Christmas's elf helper, Ilbereth. Overall, I believe readers will be able to see shades of Mr. Tolkien's later work in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (there is even a short passage written in Elvish). At the end, there is a letter from Polar Bear written in the goblin alphabet which will keep readers busy for a while deciphering it.

In my opinion, Letters from Father Christmas is a must-have book for true Tolkien fans. I borrowed it from the library but will definitely be acquiring a copy for my keeper shelf. Although our children may be too old now to fully appreciate it, I'm sure my husband and I will enjoy it ourselves for years to come and look forward to sharing it with our grandchildren or any other youngsters who may become a part of our lives. Letters from Father Christmas would make a fabulous holiday gift for children of all ages, and could easily be turned into a family tradition by reading one letter each night leading up to Christmas.


J. R. R. Tolkien