Letters from Father Christmas

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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 & Unwin (UK)
Houghton Mifflin (US)
Released2 September 1976 (UK)
19 October 1976 (US)
FormatHardcover; paperback; deluxe edition

Letters from Father Christmas, also called The Father Christmas Letters in earlier editions, is a collection of letters written and illustrated by J.R.R. Tolkien between 1920 and 1943 for his children, from Father Christmas.

The book was posthumously released 2 September 1976, the 3rd anniversary of Tolkien's death. It was edited by Baillie Tolkien, the wife of Christopher Tolkien.

The book was warmly received by critics, and it has been suggested that some elements in the letters carried over to his legendarium.

Overview[edit | edit source]

The stories are told in the form of letters, primarily written by Father Christmas, with letters or parts of letters written by the North Polar Bear and his Elven secretary Ilbereth. The letters document the adventures and misadventures of Father Christmas and his helpers, including the accident-prone North Polar Bear and nephews, Paksu and Valkotukka. Many letters include illustrations drawn by Father Christmas.[1]

The letters themselves were written over over 20 years to entertain Tolkien's children each Christmas. The first letter was written in 1920 when Tolkien's oldest son, John, was three years old, after he'd asked about Father Christmas and where he lived.[2] Each letter included including North Pole stamps and postage marks designed by Tolkien.

Publication[edit | edit source]

The first edition was published by Allen & Unwin, under the name The Father Christmas Letters, on 2 September 1976, three years after Tolkien's death. Artwork from The Letters from The Father Christmas Letters were first displayed in 1976-1976 at the Ashmolean Museum to mark the release of the book.[3] 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. This edition included the artwork and letters not published in the original edition.

Reception[edit | edit source]

The reception to the original publication of The Father Christmas Letters was received very positively though Judith A. Johnson, in his book J.R.R. Tolkien: Six Decades of Criticism has suggested that this may have been partly due to Tolkien's recent death, noticing that the response to The Father Christmas Letters was much more measured and balanced.[4]

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 are not part of Tolkien's legendarium, some shared elements 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".[5]

Publication history and gallery[edit | edit source]

UK editions
1976 hardcover first edition  
1978 paperback  
1993 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  
Miniature set editions (1994)
Miniature set vol.1  
Miniature set vol.2  
Miniature set vol.3  
Miniature set

External links[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]


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
On 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 Adventures of Tom Bombadil · 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 on Arda Short stories
and others
Leaf by Niggle · Farmer Giles of Ham · Smith of Wootton Major · 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 · The Old English Exodus · 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
Letters & poems The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien · The Collected Poems of J.R.R. Tolkien
academic works
A Middle English Vocabulary · Sir Gawain and the Green Knight · Ancrene Wisse
Books by other authors
Books on Arda The Complete Guide to Middle-earth · The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion ·
The Maps of Middle-earth
Tolkien biographies J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography · The Inklings · Tolkien and the Great War
Scholarly books The Road to Middle-earth · The Keys of Middle-earth · The J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide ·
The Ring of Words · A Companion to J.R.R. Tolkien · Tolkien's Lost Chaucer · Tolkien's Library · Tolkien on Chaucer, 1913-1959
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, for a fuller bibliography of Tolkien see here or here. See also a timeline and an index.