Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. by Baillie Tolkien

Tolkien Reading Event 2018Every year on March 25, the anniversary of the Downfall of Sauron, the Tolkien Society hosts Tolkien Reading Day. This year’s theme is Home and Hearth: The Many Ways of Being a Hobbit. The primary goal is to promote the reading of the works of J.R R. Tolkien! To celebrate, Pages Unbound will be hosting two weeks of Tolkien-related posts. In addition to our own thoughts, we will be featuring a number of guest posts!  Check out the complete schedule here.


Information

Goodreads: Letters from Father Christmas
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 1976

Summary

Each year a letter arrived for the Tolkien children from the North Pole.  In it, Father Christmas told of the exploits of the North Polar Bear, who always makes a mess; the battles to protect his workshop from the goblins; and the doings of the elves and gnomes.  The collection includes images of the decorated envelopes and letters (complete with North Pole stamp), as well as the pictures included by Father Christmas.

Review

Letters from Father Christmas is a whimsical collection that highlights the extraordinary magic of Tolkien’s imagination.  The stories begin as comical accounts of the North Polar Bear almost ruining Christmas each year through his accidents.  Over time, however, the stories become darker.  Goblins burrow into Father Christmas’ workshop seeking presents, then ultimately meet the elves and the gnomes in battle.  Tolkien’s skill at worldbuilding and his talent for telling an engrossing tale are evident even in the shortest epistles.

The author’s love of creating a realistic world is evident merely by looking at the collection.  Each letter comes in an illustrated envelope (complete with North Pole stamp and delivery instructions) and is written in various hands–a “spidery” script for Father Christmas and block letters for the North Polar Bear.  Later the elf Ilbereth becomes Father Christmas’s secretary and adds his own hand.  Letters typically include illustrations of the events described.  Later on, the North Polar Bear starts to explain the language of the North Pole and then creates his own language based on goblin scribblings.  He even includes a sophisticated key.  The geography, the languages, the relationships between various races are all carefully thought out and maintain continuity over the years.

And the stories themselves are great fun.  The North Polar Bear is a lovably clumsy fellow who always seems to be getting himself into scrapes.  Father Christmas, however, clearly values him, even when laughing at him.  Readers will delight in anticipating each new exploit of P.B.  The later letters, which see the introduction of the goblins, are also engrossing and show P.B. in a new light–a noble warrior defending Father Christmas and his workshop.  The new tone seems apt as the Tolkien children age, but, if you are enchanted by the earlier letters, Tolkien does retain a sense of humor.  P.B. and his nephews are seemingly unquenchable.

Letters from Father Christmas seems to be a more overlooked work in Tolkien’s oeuvre.  However, it possesses its own magic, reminiscent of The Hobbit, and is sure to appeal to any Tolkien fan.  It doesn’t even need to be Christmas!

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5 stars

9 thoughts on “Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien, ed. by Baillie Tolkien

  1. Samantha B says:

    Great review! I have been thinking of getting this book, but wasn’t sure. Your review makes me want to buy it now 🙂

    Like

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