By Susan Helton
Connection writer Susan Helton is an avid reader – more than 100 books so far this year. This month, she shares a collection of Christmas letters.
Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien is a delightful collection of letters to the Tolkien children from Father Christmas, as Santa Claus is known in England. The letters span the years from 1920 to 1943.
Each fanciful letter is duplicated in the book, showing Father Christmas’ shaky handwriting and accompanying pictures. The text of each letter is copied out for easy reading. The drawings and painted pictures show places and events at Father Christmas’ house at the North Pole. In addition to the fancy writing, most of the letters have small decorative drawings in the margins and sometimes in the body of the letter, too.
The first few letters are brief and chatty. The later letters are full of wonderful tales about life at the North Pole, including the antics and mishaps of Father Christmas’ helper the North Polar Bear, who always seems to be getting into trouble. As the years pass, more of the residents of the area make their way into the tales: The Man in the Moon, North Polar Bear’s nephews, elves, goblins and more. North Polar Bear frequently adds notes and comments in the margins, and even writes a few complete letters of his own.
The tone and content of the letters changes as the years pass. While the recipients of the letters change, Father Christmas still remembers the older Tolkien children who have chosen to no longer write to him. Father Christmas sometimes references the letters the children wrote, and also mentions shortages and rationing and how horrible the war is, without going into great detail. Through and around all of that is the continuing story of happenings at the North Pole.
This book would be great to read aloud with the family for the entertaining tales and a glimpse of those Christmases of almost 100 years ago. For adults, the book provides a peek into the lives of the Tolkien family in the years before he wrote The Hobbit, during its writing, and a few years after its publication. An enjoyable addition to the holiday preparations, the book definitely got me in the mood for Christmas.
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