Letters from Father Christmas – JRR Tolkien

“To the Children of JRR Tolkien the interest and importance of Father Christmas extended beyond his filling of their stockings on Christmas Eve; for he wrote a letter to them every year, in which he described in words and pictures his house, his friends and the events, hilarious or alarming, at the North Pole. The first of the letters came in 190, when John, the eldest, was three years old; and for over twenty years, through the childhoods of the three other children, Michael, Christopher and Priscilla, they continued to arrive each Christmas.”

This collection of letters to the Tolkien Children shows the beautiful imagination and classical storytelling of JRR Tolkien. At first there was just Father Christmas and North Polar Bear, then over time the Christmas household grew to allow elves, gnomes and polar bear cubs. The letters from Father Christmas cover North Polar Bears amusing accidents, wars between Father Christmas and the horrible goblins in the North Pole and even go as far to talk about World War Two and poor children who don’t expect much for Christmas.

Letters to Father Christmas was both very cute and yet also very serious. I loved the passion that Tolkien obviously put into these letters to make his children happy but you can also see the sadness in the writing every time one of the children got too old to believe in the jolly old man writing the letters.
The tales that come from Father Christmas are brilliant, especially those involving North Polar Bears accidents… Polar bears little interruptions in the letters really amused me too. The tales of polar bear setting his fur alight and flooding the cellar were the best! Of course I don’t mean harm to come to polar bear but they had me in giggles. The pictures that accompanied the letters were brilliant and some of them were so full of detail, I could just stare at them for ages. Some of them weren’t great but Tolkien covered that in his letters, explaining the mishaps – blotting caused by Polar Bear spoiling the paper – and also some of the images of the letters themselves were great, I would never have been able to read that writing though so I’m surprised the Tolkien Children could!
The letters were so sweet, but I think some of the information in them was lost because of the lack of the letters the children sent to “Father Christmas” themselves. Father Christmas replied to the lists of presents wanted and the questions that the children sent to him so sometimes things didn’t quite make sense and I think the book could have really done with including some of the letters sent to Father Christmas. But I guess they might have been harder to get hold of!
I read this on the run up to Christmas to get me in the mood for the festive season and it really did, it filled my heart up with joy to know that the children obviously read these and believed that Father Christmas was sending the letters himself and the tales had me smiling so much. I probably looked like a fool sat around grinning to myself. The book isn’t very long but still really good and I was impressed that you don’t find much of Tolkien’s tendency for going overboard with description in this book – perhaps because the letters were aimed at the children…
I would recommend this to everyone because it is so cute, I thought before I read it that it might be good to read to children but I think it would have to be read and edited as some of the bits don’t really make sense without knowing what has been said in the children’s letters… Other than that though it really is a great festive tale!
Letters from Father Christmas was first published in 1976; my copy was published in 2009 by Harper Collins. The collection was edited by Baillie Tolkien, JRR Tolkiens daughter-in-law and was previously his secretary. My copy was a gift from my other half for Christmas in 2010.


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