The Father Christmas Letters

The Father Christmas Letters

By: J. R. R. Tolkien
Edited by: Baillie Tolkien
Published by: George Allen and Unwin
Simultaneously published by: Houghton Mifflin Company, Methuen (London)
Publication Date: 1976
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Description

In America, children write letters to Santa Claus, in England, to Father Christmas. But regardless of what name they address him by, not many get letters from him. As Baillie Tolkien explains in her introduction to this book, the Tolkien children were luckier than most.

To the children of J.R.R. 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, and his friends, and the events, hilarious or alarming, at the North Pole. The first of the letters came in 1920, 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. Sometimes the envelopes, dusted with snow and bearing Polar postage stamps, were found in the house on the morning after his visit; sometimes the postman brought them; and letters that the children wrote themselves vanished from the fireplace when no one was about.

As time went on, Father Christmas' household became larger, and whereas at first little is heard of anyone else except the North Polar Bear, later on there appear Snow-elves, Red Gnomes, Snow men, Cave bears and the Polar Bear's nephews, Paksu and Valkotukka, who came on a visit and never went away. Bet the Polar Bear remained Father Christmas' chief assistant and the chief cause of the disasters that led to muddles and deficiencies in the Christmas stockings and sometimes he wrote on the letters his comments in irregular capitals.

Eventually Father Christmas took on as his secretary an Elf named Ilbereth and in the later letters Elves play an important part in the defense of Father Christmas' house and storm cellars against attacks by Goblins.

In this book it has been possible to give only a few examples of Father Christmas' shaky handwriting and of the decoration of the letters and the envelopes. But almost all the pictures that he sent are here reproduced and at the end is given the alphabet that the Polar Bear devised from the Goblin drawings on the walls of the caves where he was lost and the letter that he sent to the children written in it.

In these letters addressed to his own children, we see the early manifestations of the imagination and humor which were to flower in all Tolkien's books, from The Hobbit and Farmer Giles of Ham to The Lord of the Rings and Smith of Wootton Major. Baillie Tolkien, who edited The Father Christmas Letters, is J.R.R. Tolkien's daughter-in-law.

From the dust jacket of American edition
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