Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"Letters from Father Christmas" by J. R. R. Tolkien

Awwwwwwww.  This is a beautiful labor of love from a father for his children.  In fact, what I loved most about this book was imagining Tolkien working on these amazing letters and pictures in secret, laboring on these for hours, sometimes probably days.  

The letters start out fairly simply, just a nice message to Tolkien's three-year-old son, John, who had asked Tolkien about Father Christmas and where he lived.  The letter came with a full-color drawing of Father Christmas himself, and of his home near the North Pole.  It seems John was delighted, because for more than twenty years, Tolkien continued the tradition, until his youngest child was in her teens.  In a way, he became Father Christmas himself, don't you think?

At first the letters are fairly simple, but as the children got older, Tolkien created a whole mythology around Father Christmas and his helpers -- can't you imagine him doing that?  The creator of Middle Earth would not be content with just one old guy in a red suit and some elves.  He gives Father Christmas a helper named North Polar Bear, then an elf secretary named Ilbereth, a gardener named the Snow Man, nephews for North Polar Bear, and so on.  He introduces goblins that keep messing up Father Christmas' storehouses of toys and books and fireworks, and there are whole battles between them.  North Polar Bear gets into lots of mischief, and also likes to add little notes to the letters in the margins.

Overall, this is the most delightful book imaginable, and I will treasure my copy always.  Here are a few of the illustrations (which I totally found on the internet and didn't scan in myself because I didn't want to break the binding on my book to lay it flat):

The first letter, 1920

North Polar Bear causing problems, 1928

Goblin attack!  1933

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  Good for everyone of all ages.


This is my second book read and reviewed for the Literary Christmas Reading Challenge hosted at In the Bookcase, and my fifty-fifth for the Classics Club.

18 comments:

  1. Your Christmas reading list reminded me about this book, and I picked up my library's version of it (though I don't think it has all of the letters). I'm only a few pages in, but I agree that it's absolutely delightful. What a labor of love! And of course Tolkien of all people would do masterful world-building of the North Pole.

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    1. Ashley, I think mine has all the letters, but not images of all of them -- they printed them out to make them easier to read. So it doesn't have all the drawings and the images of all the letters, just the text for some. I'd have to look and see, though -- I already shelved it, and I'm too tired/lazy to go pull it out and see.

      And yes, of course Tolkien would create a whole imaginative world! We could expect nothing less from such a creative mind.

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    1. Natalie, I think you would love it!

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  3. This really is such a wonderful book. It's so sweet. I hope that I can someday read it to my kids. :)

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    1. Laura, yes! I want to share it with my kids at some point too.

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  4. This looks like such a fun and cute book! I love looking at the pictures.

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    1. Ekaterina, YES! The pictures are astonishing. I am agog.

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  5. Wow! This looks like a very festive read! I've never read Tolkien (yet), but this little book here has just about made me want to start right now. Too cute!

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    1. Tarissa, this would be a great way to ease into Tolkien. I read it a letter at a time, here and there throughout my day. You can see how much he loves worldbuilding and details and languages, but it's not like you have to wrap your head around a whole new world.

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  6. Up until now, I really wasn't interested in the Father Christmas Letters, but I think you just changed that!

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    1. RM, cool! I hadn't heard of them before this year, but as soon as I knew this existed, I knew I needed to read it. Santa and Tolkien are two of my favorite things, so a melding of the two? Totally my thing.

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  7. How fun! Looks like I need to find a copy of this. (And yes, it seems exactly like Tolkien to create even more of a story about Father Christmas, rather than just stick with the basics. I mean, what fun would that be for an imaginative writer such as he? :)

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    1. Oh, Kara, you would get such a kick out of it!

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  8. I just ADORE this book!!!!! If I ever have a family I would love to do something similar (though of course it would never compare to this) or at least read it to my kids every year.

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    1. Phyl, yeah, I wish I'd read this when my kids were much littler so I could have started something similar with them.

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