Read J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Letter From Father Christmas” To His Young Children

tolkien letter

J.R.R. Tolkien is best known for the sweep­ing fan­ta­sy land­scapes of Lord of The Rings and The Hob­bit. Apart from being a cel­e­brat­ed author, the Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty pro­fes­sor of Anglo-Sax­on was also a devot­ed father who dot­ed on his chil­dren.

In 1920, a few short years after Tolkien returned from World War I, he began an endear­ing fam­i­ly Christ­mas tra­di­tion that would con­tin­ue for the next 23 years. After the birth of his first­born son, John, Tolkien began to write his four chil­dren let­ters from Father Christ­mas. These North Poles tales chiefly con­cern Father Christ­mas’ strug­gles against the north’s bat-rid­ing gob­lins, as well as the mis­chie­vous hijinks of his helper, North Polar Bear. An adept illus­tra­tor whose orig­i­nal draw­ings accom­pa­nied many of his writ­ings (see his book cov­er designs for Lord of the Rings), Tolkien includ­ed with many of his Christ­mas let­ters a set of charm­ing pic­tures.

tolkien xmas letters

The many let­ters were even­tu­al­ly col­lect­ed in a beau­ti­ful vol­ume called Let­ters From Father Christ­mas. Thanks to the good work of Let­ters of Note, we bring to you a sam­ple let­ter from 1925:

Cliff House

Top of the World

Near the North Pole

Xmas 1925

My dear boys,

I am dread­ful­ly busy this year — it makes my hand more shaky than ever when I think of it — and not very rich. In fact, awful things have been hap­pen­ing, and some of the presents have got spoilt and I haven’t got the North Polar Bear to help me and I have had to move house just before Christ­mas, so you can imag­ine what a state every­thing is in, and you will see why I have a new address, and why I can only write one let­ter between you both. It all hap­pened like this: one very windy day last Novem­ber my hood blew off and went and stuck on the top of the North Pole. I told him not to, but the N.P.Bear climbed up to the thin top to get it down — and he did. The pole broke in the mid­dle and fell on the roof of my house, and the N.P.Bear fell through the hole it made into the din­ing room with my hood over his nose, and all the snow fell off the roof into the house and melt­ed and put out all the fires and ran down into the cel­lars where I was col­lect­ing this year’s presents, and the N.P.Bear’s leg got bro­ken. He is well again now, but I was so cross with him that he says he won’t try to help me again. I expect his tem­per is hurt, and will be mend­ed by next Christ­mas. I send you a pic­ture of the acci­dent, and of my new house on the cliffs above the N.P. (with beau­ti­ful cel­lars in the cliffs). If John can’t read my old shaky writ­ing (1925 years old) he must get his father to. When is Michael going to learn to read, and write his own let­ters to me? Lots of love to you both and Christo­pher, whose name is rather like mine.

That’s all. Good­bye.

Father Christ­mas

via The Paris Review

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lis­ten to J.R.R. Tolkien Read a Lengthy Excerpt from The Hob­bit (1952)

C.S. Lewis’ Pre­scient 1937 Review of The Hob­bit by J.R.R. Tolkien: It “May Well Prove a Clas­sic”

Down­load Eight Free Lec­tures on The Hob­bit by “The Tolkien Pro­fes­sor,” Corey Olsen

Dis­cov­er J.R.R. Tolkien’s Per­son­al Book Cov­er Designs for The Lord of the Rings Tril­o­gy

Ilia Blin­d­er­man is a Mon­tre­al-based cul­ture and sci­ence writer. Fol­low him at @iliablinderman.

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