The Father Christmas Letters

Letters from Father Christmas, by JRR Tolkien, edited by Baillie Tolkien.

John Francis Reuel Tolkien received his first letter form Father Christmas 'postmarked' 22 Dec 1920, at 1 Alfred Street, St Giles, Oxford. Father Christmas apparently overheard John asking his father what FC was like and where he lived, and wrote a letter explaining himself, in neat but shakey handwriting which Tolkien kept up for many years. The letter came with a beautiful watercolour 'self-portrait' of FC with a picture of his house set below. Father Christmas' stamps were of NORTH POLE POST, and Each letter came in a beautifully written envelope.. He sometimes signed himself "Fr.Nicholas Christmas".

On Dec 23 1924, Michael Hilary Tolkien received his first letter from FC, and as each of his sons were born, he added Michael and Christopher. Another character, the North Polar Bear is introduced early on, with each letter containing anecdotes of the problems and logistics of preparing for Christmas. all the letters were illustrated with watercolour pictures, with additional paintings added to illustrate particularly momentous events in the build-up to Christmas. The letters follow the births of the children and their move to Leeds and back to Oxford again

In 1932, when Europe began to get dangerous, Goblins were first mentioned in the letter, which was really a short story about a goblin attack; and in 1933, FC records "Goblins. The worst attack we have had for centuries. They have been fearfully wild and angry ever since we took all their stolen toys off them last year and dosed them with green smoke.." The illustration with this letter shows the North Polar Bear and the Red Gnomes dealing with the goblins (though heavily outnumbered). In 1936, the Goblin alphabet was sent along with the letter.

1934 first mentions Priscilla Tolkien, who have been the reason two small relatives of the North Polar Bear turned up to stay at Cliff House (FC's residence). John and Michael, having grown up, no longer received letters from FC.

Father Christmas was getting old, so he took on a helper - an Elf called Ilbereth. This saved Tolkien having to write in the shakey hand of FC, and 1937's letter had a short phrase in elvish.

By 1939, the problems of sourcing materials for Christmas gifts was a problem for FC. His letters are now addressed to Priscilla Mary R Tolkien only. FC's letters continued through to 1943, and North Polar Bear (now signing himself PB) has improved his handwriting to a mock-runish style.

This collection has been published since 1976. My copy is from Harper Collins(c)The Tolkien Trust 1999. It's 12" x 9" (roughly) format was a good buy, as the illustrations are beautiful - and all by JRRT himself.

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