J. R. R. Tolkien was not only the author of the best-selling novel ever written, but a fierce Catholic whose Faith was pervasive in his work: even in Christmastime letters to his children.
Known as The Father Christmas Letters, the collection of letters was written and illustrated by Tolkien from 1920 – 1943 for his children from Father Christmas.
The series of letters tell stories from the point of view of either Father Christmas or his elvish secretary, documenting the adventures and misadventures of Father Christmas, his helpers, the North Polar Bear and his two sidekick cubs.
As his wife Baillie said:
“In the course of the 23 year period, Snow-elves, Red Gnomes, Snow-men, Cave-bears, and the Polar Bear’s nephews joined Father Christmas and the North Polar Bear, and the adventures developed elements obviously emanating from the same imagination as that which created Middle-Earth.”
The Father Christmas Letters include tales of massive fireworks creating the northern lights, elves fighting goblins, and how the talking polar bear gets into (and out of!) trouble on more than one occasion.
Released posthumously in 1973, The Father Christmas Letters were received well by critics. Some say the stories inspired parts of Lord of the Rings, and the wizard Gandalf may have even been developed from Father Christmas.
One such letter reads:
Top of the World
Near the North Pole
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.
See selections of illustrations and stories from The Father Christmas Letters below: