This is the first Christmas I’ve had where I wasn’t with my family and there wasn’t snow on the ground. It’s been weird to say the least and overall hasn’t really felt like Christmas. But I came prepared. One of the few books I brought with me down to New Zealand was Tolkien’s Letter’s to Father Christmas.
I made reading this a sort of present to myself. Once December began and I started my new job at Hobbiton I picked this up, even though there were lots of other “more adult” books that I could’ve given my attention to. If you don’t know the premise of the book, basically it is a collection of letters Tolkien wrote to his children as if he were Father Christmas because he’s a BA like that. The letters are hand-written in a flourished, albeit trembling, font accompanied with illustrations.
Like his other works of fiction, there are many characters in these letters, not just Father Christmas. You meet FC’s helper North Polar Bear, his elf secretary Ilbereth, as well as the Snow-elves, Snow-men and less savory characters. Copies of most of the original letters are included, along with typed versions of the text, and most are paired with the related illustrations.
Reading through the books is actually a bit sad. The letters start out simple. Not too long, nothing too descriptive. The earliest letters are addressed to John, the eldest son, and as more of Tolkien’s children are born, their names appear in the text. And just as new names are added, old names begin to fade away. The children grow up and out grow Father Christmas. They no longer hang up their stockings.
The stories begin to become more detailed and we learn more about Father Christmas’ friends as the years go on (he continued to write the letters for over 20 years). Many of the tales Father Christmas relays are about Polar Bear’s misadventures and skirmishes with the goblins. All the stories are fun and light-hearted and sometimes tinged with sadness.
I think I love this book so much because it is such a gosh darn cute thing for a father to do for his children. So there. Another thing that makes me love Tolkien.