|The name Letters refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Letters (disambiguation).
Letters from Father Christmas, also called The Father Christmas Letters in earlier editions, are a collection of letters written and illustrated by J.R.R. Tolkien between 1920 and 1943 for his children, from Father Christmas.
They were released posthumously by the Tolkien Estate on 2 September 1976, the 3rd anniversary of Tolkien's death. They were edited by Baillie Tolkien, second wife of his youngest son, Christopher.
The book was warmly received by critics, and it has been suggested that elements of the stories inspired parts of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
The stories are told in the format of a series of letters, told either from the point of view of Father Christmas or his elvish secretary. They document the adventures and misadventures of Father Christmas and his helpers, including the North Polar Bear and his two sidekick cubs, Paksu and Valkotukka. The stories include descriptions of the massive fireworks that create the northern lights and how Polar Bear manages to get into trouble on more than one occasion.
The letters themselves were written over a period of over 20 years to entertain Tolkien's children each Christmas. Starting in 1920 when Tolkien's oldest son was aged three, each Christmas Tolkien would write a letter from Father Christmas about his travels and adventures. Each letter was delivered in an envelope, including North Pole stamps and postage marks as designed by Tolkien.
Prior to publication, an exhibition of Tolkien's drawings was held at the Ashmolean Museum. These included works from The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and The Father Christmas Letters.
The first edition was published by Allen and Unwin in 2 September 1976, three years after Tolkien's death. The Houghton Mifflin edition was released later that year on 19 October.
The book was revised in 1999 and was retitled Letters from Father Christmas. In this edition all of the Father Christmas letters and artwork not appearing in the first edition were included.
The reception to the first few works of Tolkien published posthumously had been warm, which was subsequently thought to be due to the author's recent death. The response to The Father Christmas Letters was much more measured and balanced. Jessica Kemball-Cook suggested in her book Twentieth Century Children's Writers that it would become known as a classic of children's literature, while Nancy Willard for The New York Times Book Review also received the book positively, saying "Father Christmas lives. And never more merrily than in these pages." In 2002, an article in The Independent on Sunday described the work as rivalling "The Lord of the Rings for sheer imaginative joy".
Relation to the legendarium
While the Letters from Father Christmas do not relate to the Middle-earth of Tolkien's legendarium, some parts of the content can be noted:
Kris Swank has discussed similarities between The Hobbit and the Letters from Father Christmas, noting that they share a couple of story elements and that both works "contain story elements which have common roots in Tolkien's early Lost Tales and poems".
Publication history and gallery
1976 hardcover first edition
1999 hardcover revised edition
2004 hardcover & 2006 paperback
2019 hardcover deluxe edition
2020 hardcover Centenary edition
- George Allen and Unwin hardcover (1976), pp. 48. ISBN 0048231304
- Unwin Paperbacks paperback (1978), pp. 48. ISBN 0048231487
- Unwin Paperbacks paperback (1990)
- Collins Children's Books, hardcover (1995), pp. 48. ISBN 000137463X
- HarperCollins hardcover (1999), pp. 160. ISBN 0261103857
- HarperCollins hardcover (2004), ISBN 0261103865
- HarperCollins paperback (2006), ISBN 0007205228
- HarperCollins paperback (2009), pp. 160. ISBN 0007280491
- HarperCollins hardcover (2012), pp. 192. ISBN 0007463375
- HarperCollins hardcover with slipcase (2019), pp. 208 ISBN 0008327726
- HarperCollins hardcover (2020), ISBN 0008406847
- Letters from Father Christmas Miniature Set (1994)
A three-volume set issued in a slipcase.
Miniature set vol.1
Miniature set vol.2
Miniature set vol.3
Miniature one-volume edition