Most helpful positive review
51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
on 28 February 2006
J.R.R. Tolkien was best known for his epic fantasy "Lord of the Rings" and his studies in myth and language. But Tolkien was also the proud dad of four kids -- and he didn't just read "Hobbit" to them at bedtime. Over the course of many years, he wrote and illustrated detailed, whimsical letters from Father Christmas, populated with a clumsy polar bear, elves and goblins.
In these letters, Father Christmas kept the Tolkien children updated with stories about the hijinks at the North Pole -- the slapsticky North Polar Bear and all the things he broke, firework explosions, the discovery of ancient caves full of old cave drawings, and battles with the goblins. (When Father Christmas couldn't write, his Elvish secretary filled in)
When reading these letters, it's hard to imagine any luckier kids in the Christmases of the '20s and '30s. After all, how many children gets detailed letters and pictures from Father Christmas -- complete with special stamps? Tolkien's love for his kids is evident in the care he took to create these letters, and the affection that comes from "Father Christmas" that is written in.
Tolkien's old-school style of writing is a bit formal and very correct, but he tosses in comments of exasperation, amusement, and in the last letter, a sort of sad resignation that children will grow up. Maybe it is because they were given to real children, not intended for publication, that the letters are only a little cutesy, and never cloying.
And of course, Tolkien's detailed, colorful, fantastical, intricate pictures are what make the letters come alive; you can imagine the Tolkien kids eagerly examining the pictures as well as the written words. They aren't terribly realistic -- Father Christmas never looks quite real -- but their detailed fantastical charm makes up for it, such as the murals on Father Christmas's walls, with suns, moons, stars and trees.
Tolkien also sprinkles the stories with things that his kids were probably intrigued by, like prehistoric cave paintings, fireworks, and a comic bear who causes all kinds of mayhem. And fans of Tolkien's fantasy works will probably enjoy checking out things like the invented Elf language (as written by the secretary Ilbereth) and goblin language. Tolkien includes a letter from the North Polar Bear in the latter language.
"Letters From Father Christmas" won't exactly make you believe in Santa Claus again, but it is one of the prettiest and most charming Christmas picture books out there. Definitely recommended -- and not just for Tolkien fans too.