Date of Publication: 2004, Houghton Mifflin Company
Number of Pages: 111
Synopsis: “Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J.R.R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful colored drawing or some sketches.
The letters were from Father Christmas.
They told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole: how all the reindeer got loose and scattered presents everywhere; how the accident-prone Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas’s house; how he broke the Moon into four pieces and made the Man in it fall into the back garden; how there were wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house.
Sometimes the Polar Bear would scrawl a note, and sometimes Ilbereth the Elf would write in his elegant flowing script, adding yet more life and humor to the stories.
This updated volume contains a wealth of new material, including letters and pictures missing from early editions. No reader, young or old, can fail to be charmed by the inventiveness and “authenticity” of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas.” ~blurb from back cover
Review: This is a charming book, full of wonderful illustrations drawn by Tolkien himself. The cast of characters is wonderfully amusing, especially North Polar Bear, who gets into all sorts of mischief every year. There are even descriptions of wars between Father Christmas and the neighboring Goblins, reminiscent of the Goblin wars depicted in The Hobbit and The Silmarillion.
The book is also bittersweet, as it spans almost 20 years, and Tolkien begins to address his letters to fewer and fewer children, until only his youngest, his daughter Priscilla, still awaits her letter from Father Christmas. It shows how his children have grown, and Father Christmas himself seems sad as his children stop believing in Christmas magic. The last letter is especially poignant, as Father Christmas says goodbye to the children.
This is a great book to read during the holiday season, but it can really be enjoyed any time of year. It’s funny, magical, and made me feel like a child again. I recommend this book not only to fans of Tolkien, but to anyone who wants to get into the Christmas spirit.