The Christmas that J.R.R. Tolkien’s son was three, he found a letter addressed from the North Pole. In a shaky, spidery hand, the letter’s writer introduced himself as Father Christmas; he enclosed a self-portrait for Christopher, who had wondered what he was like.
Every year after that one, Tolkien wrote a letter for his children from Father Christmas. He illustrated many of them and, as Father Christmas, described the adventures of the North Polar Bear and the Red Elves, of the Snowmen and the goblins. These stories clearly flow from the same source as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but there is a coziness to them, the warmth of a father writing for his kids alone.
After Tolkien’s death, his children collected and published these letters, as well as the illustrations. Though the original letters were meant only for his children, Letters From Father Christmas is still delightful to those of us outside his household: in our home, it is one of our most beloved Christmas books, the one I often find one daughter or another curled up with while a cat lies draped across her lap. Tolkien aimed for the hearts of his children, but he won our hearts as well.
Letters From Father Christmas
J.R.R. Tolkien; ed. Baillie Tolkien (1976)