Jan 10, 2016

Letters from Father Christmas

by J.R.R. Tolkien

Charming, amusing, and a bit sad if you read between the lines. Tolkien wrote some very creative letters from Father Christmas to his children, every year at christmastime, for twenty-three years. The letters are sometimes brief with just greetings and hopes the children will like their gifts, and sometimes much more elaborate, with stories about life at the North Pole and all the mishaps caused by a polar bear, who is very much a central character. Later other characters come in, too- including goblins that break into storage cellars and steal things, penguins that visit from the South Pole, snow-men and cave-bears, and secretary who takes over writing some letters. Tolkien varied the handwriting (including amusing inserts done by the polar bear, interjecting his own comments and little digs at the storyteller) according to which character wrote the letter, included a specific alphabet for polar bears and another for elves, and lots of lovely drawings.
The style of it all reminded me very much of Mr. Bliss (another children's tale Tolkien wrote) but there are also some more sombre undertones to this. Often the letters described some mishap that happened at the North Pole, which explained why the children would receive fewer presents, or not exactly what they had asked for. Statements bracketing the stories of a war between goblins and elves (foreshadowing some elements of Middle Earth definitely) remind one what the atmosphere was like in the thirties. It's a book Tolkien fans will probably find intriguing. I kept thinking as I read it how wonderful it must have been for his kids to receive these messages each year, so carefully crafted by their father.

Rating: 3/5      112 pages, 2004

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bermudaonion said...

That does look very charming indeed.

Jenny @ Reading the End said...

This is the second place I've seen this book reviewed in the past week! And it looks even more charming now that I'm getting a look at some of the illustrations. What a good father he must have been!

carol said...

What a cool book. I may have to suggest it to my daughter next year. She's definitely a Tolkien fan.