Title: Letters from Father Christmas
Author: J. R. R. Tolkien
Genre: Christmas Fantasy
Rating: 5 of 5
I’m a total Tolkien fanboy (in case you couldn’t guess from the name and About page), but somehow I had never read this before. It was the book of the month over at the Dewey Decimators book club, so I finally got around to it, and I’m glad I did! Tolkien’s pal C. S. Lewis once said, “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest,” and this book passes that test.
Every year Tolkien would write one or more letters from Father Christmas to his children, and this book collects all 24 years’ worth (1920-1943), complete with pictures of the original letters and accompanying drawings. The first few are little more than simple notes, but they soon include little stories about the goings-on at the North Pole…most of which involve the North Polar Bear getting into some kind of mischief. North Polar Bear adds occasional editorial comments (my favorite part of the letters), and later on so does Santa’s elven secretary Ilbereth.
The overall tone is cute and innocent without being sickly sweet. There are occasional mentions of times being difficult (presumably due to the Great Depression and WWII), but the overall tone is always positive. There is also a bittersweet element to the letters as we see occasional mention of each child getting older and no longer sending letters to Father Christmas or hanging their stocking.
Overall, this is a beautiful little book. I enjoyed it so much that I am now reading it aloud to my children (ages 8, 10, and 13) and they are enjoying it immensely…mostly they want to see what the North Polar Bear is going to get up to next.