Letters from Father Christmas

From Tolkien Gateway
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
Father Christmas 1976.png
AuthorJ.R.R. Tolkien
EditorBaillie Tolkien
IllustratorJ.R.R. Tolkien
PublisherGeorge Allen and Unwin (UK)
Houghton Mifflin (US)
Released2 September 1976 (UK)
19 October 1976 (US)
FormatHardcover; paperback; deluxe edition
Pages48
ISBN0048231304

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.

Overview[edit | edit source]

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.

Publication[edit | edit source]

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.

Reception[edit | edit source]

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[edit | edit source]

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".[1]

Publication history and gallery[edit | edit source]

1976 hardcover first edition  
1978 paperback  
1990 paperback  
1995 hardcover  
1999 hardcover revised edition  
2004 hardcover & 2006 paperback  
2009 paperback  
2012 hardcover  
2019 hardcover deluxe edition  
2020 hardcover Centenary edition  
2023 hardcover  
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  

External links[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References

The world of the Letters from Father Christmas
Main characters: Father Christmas · North Polar Bear · Ilbereth
Other characters: Mr Cave Bear · Green Brother · Grandfather Yule
Man in the Moon · Paksu & Valkotukka · Snow Man
Races & Peoples: Goblins · Green elves · Red Elves · Snow-elves · Snow-men
Other concepts: Arktik · Goblin Alphabet · Windbeam
A J.R.R. Tolkien book guide
Books by or mainly by Tolkien
Of Arda Authored by
J.R.R. Tolkien
The Hobbit · The Lord of the Rings
(i.The Fellowship of the Ring · ii.The Two Towers · iii.The Return of the King) ·
The Road Goes Ever On · Bilbo's Last Song
Edited by Christopher Tolkien The Silmarillion · Unfinished Tales · The History of Middle-earth series
(i.The Book of Lost Tales: Part One · ii.The Book of Lost Tales: Part Two · iii.The Lays of Beleriand · iv.The Shaping of Middle-earth · v.The Lost Road and Other Writings · vi.The Return of the Shadow · vii.The Treason of Isengard · viii.The War of the Ring · ix.Sauron Defeated · x.Morgoth's Ring · xi.The War of the Jewels · xii.The Peoples of Middle-earth · Index) ·
The Children of Húrin · Beren and Lúthien · The Fall of Gondolin
Edited by others The Annotated Hobbit · The History of The Hobbit · The Nature of Middle-earth · The Fall of Númenor
Not of Arda Short stories
and poems
Leaf by Niggle · Farmer Giles of Ham · Smith of Wootton Major · The Adventures of Tom Bombadil ·
Letters from Father Christmas · Mr. Bliss · Roverandom ·
Tree and Leaf (compilation) · Tales from the Perilous Realm (compilation)
Fictional works The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún · The Fall of Arthur · The Story of Kullervo · The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun
Translations and academic works Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo · Finn and Hengest ·
The Monsters and the Critics, and Other Essays · Beowulf and the Critics · Tolkien On Fairy-stories ·
Beowulf: A Translation and Commentary · A Secret Vice · The Battle of Maldon
Less known academic works A Middle English Vocabulary · Sir Gawain and the Green Knight · Ancrene Wisse · The Old English Exodus
Letters The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien
Books by other authors
Biographies J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography · The Inklings · Tolkien and the Great War
Reference works The Complete Guide to Middle-earth · The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide
Scholarly studies The Road to Middle-earth · The Keys of Middle-earth · The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion ·
The Ring of Words · A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien · Tolkien's Lost Chaucer · Tolkien's Library
Scholarly journals Tolkien Studies · (The Chronology)
Other works by Tolkien
Linguistic journals Vinyar Tengwar various issues · Parma Eldalamberon issue 11-22
Collections of artwork
and manuscripts
Pictures by J.R.R. Tolkien · J.R.R. Tolkien: Life and Legend · J.R.R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator ·
The Art of The Hobbit · The Art of The Lord of the Rings · Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth ·
Tolkien: Treasures · J.R.R. Tolkien: The Art of the Manuscript
This list is only a selection of works, for a fuller bibliography of Tolkien see here or here. See also a timeline.