Letters from Father Christmas

and 20th Century
This edition printed in:

J.R.R. Tolkien's Letter's From Father Christmas features a cover of a hand-drawn Santa Claus walking through deep and blowing snow.

The Year’s First Blizzard

Yesterday we had to take in the car to get a repair and, of course, that was the day that the sky decided to send the first of the severe winter weather. Snow squalls and shovelling, freezing while waiting for the bus in the early dark — there was a lot of inconvenience in the process of getting home and getting to the mechanic that were compounded by the rain of fluffy white cold stuff.

A tortoiseshell cat sits beside a frosty fern in a planter with a trellis shaped like a Christmas tree.

But seeing my lovely spouse gazing up at the beauty of snowflakes falling heavily in the glow of the streetlights seemed to make all of the headaches melt away. I also got a long moment of watching the purples of winter twilight stain themselves deeper on the horizon just above newly hung Christmas lights. I try to slow down whenever I get too stressed, and the easiest way I know of doing that is to look at the trees, and the sky, and the moment around me. Often, even on the worst of days, there’s something that grabs my attention and that I’m grateful that I took the time to actually see and appreciate.

A tortie climbs down a step to sniff at a frosty fern and Letters from Father Christmas.

A Note on the Edition

My lovely spouse has a fondness for the works of Tolkien and, while I don’t share it, I can definitely appreciate his contributions to fantasy literature and literature in general. When I saw Tolkien’s Letters from Father Christmas arrive at the local independent bookstore, I leapt at the chance to read something from a writer that my spouse loves while still enjoying the light, fun Christmas-y content. This Harper Collins 2023 edition is also gorgeous! It’s a hardcover with generous margins and a great design. It also includes full-colour images of the original letters and pictures painted and penned by Tolkien for his children side by side with a text transcription of his handwriting.

It’s the perfect way to read these letters and preserves all of the magic of the original while providing the clarity of type. I also could not imagine the ink images being rendered in anything outside of their original colour.

A book is open to an illustrated page featuring images of the North Pole and Father Christmas' magical life.

The Letters

This volume consists of letters written by Tolkien in the guise of Father Christmas for his four children. They feature some fantastical adventures, including the antics of The North Polar Bear (Father Christmas’ friend and colleague), the elves, some polar bear relatives, and a good deal of goblins.

There are about two letters from Father Christmas a year, some longer than others, and each one mentions the children and the presents coming to them on Christmas morning. They serve as artefacts both of what was going on in the Tolkien household (moves, years of plenty and years of not-so-plenty) and the moment in time they were living in (the Depression, World War II). Each letter is painstakingly written in a deliberately shaking hand. Tolkien often drew pictures and illustrations of the events the letters detailed — such as the goblin war, and Polar Bear falling down the stairs. As a reader, you can feel the love and care that went into writing these missives every year and how much Tolkien enjoyed creating wonder and whimsy for his children.

One of my favourite holiday specials proposes that ‘Santa magic is making people happy’, and these letters are full of just that. A father trying his best to make his children happy.

Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas sits beside a frosty fern in a holiday pot. An orange cat noodles around behind them.

The Stories

I think the actual stories themselves are not really the star of the collection, though there is plenty to love in tales of inept polar bears and elves that write in teeny tiny text. These are simple narratives meant to entertain small children, but they get more complex as they get older which presents a very interesting evolution. Also, you can see the Tolkien’s unmistakable style from his other fiction work echoing even in this small series of stories. The goblin war and the creativity of the North Pole as a separate world with separate vegetation, landscapes and settings are more than reminiscent of his work on The Lord of the Rings and its cycle of novels.

In conclusion, Letters From Father Christmas is a great book if you’re familiar with Tolkien’s work, but it’s also a great introduction for readers who aren’t. Additionally, it can be enjoyed by adults and younger readers alike. That is a rare and wonderful treasure in and of itself.

An orange tabby cat climbs a cat tree. Beside her is a book that has a hand-drawn image of Father Christmas on it.

Digging Out

Shovelling yesterday was actually not that bad despite the miniature snow mountains we had to move in order to disinter the driveway. The snow was the light and fluffy kind that could easily be scooped and then flung away. Today? Different story. We needed to shovel because we got even more snow last night — but it was warmer and therefore everything was a little damper.

While I am still young and have a pretty strong back, my back did not appreciate the more difficult snow moving. I’ll be glad to be spending the next few days mostly inside and have inside chores to do instead of shovelling.


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