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4.6 out of 5 stars
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4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 18 August 2006
My mum used to read this to us when we were children - it really added to the magic of Christmas, especially as 'Father Christmas' then used to write notes to us on the back of beautiful postcards.

Tolkien builds a fabulous picture of Father Christmas's world in a way that shows how he understood children so well - of course there has to be a North Pole, and I never forgot the stories of the North Polar Bear climbing up to get Father Christmas's hat back and breaking it because he had been eating rather a lot and was a bit plump! The goblins were a bit scary, the North Polar Bear a bit scatty (one year he went to sleep in the bath and the cellars got flooded ruining all the presents so that year there nearly weren't any presents at all). So beautifully illustrated and magical, my brother and I would beg my mum to re-read the book every year in the lead up to Christmas and when we got our cards from FC it was always a highlight of Christmas morning. My mum never wrote as much as Tolkien or drew pictures, but a few lines in shaky writing thanking us for the sweets we left out and and telling a small story to explain if we hadn't quite got what we'd asked for was part of the magic of Christmas - it stopped us complaining if we got something different and we always treasured the cards - who says everything about Christmas has to be expensive! Every friend of mine gets a copy when they have their first child.
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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.
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on 8 September 2004
This book is a treasure, and I thank the Tolkien Estate, and Tolkien's own family for allowing their personal letters to be shared with the wider public. The illustrations (all by JRR Tolkien himself) are enchanting. Original calligraphy samples are included with full typesets of each letter. Father Christmas' explanations for shortages (during WWII) and other mishaps (the Goblin's invaded) are a wonderful read. His helpers, a Polar Bear and a secretarial Elf, enter the story and never leave, as the saga continues each Christmas. Never mind the kids - buy this one for yourself.
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on 20 November 2001
This is a fantastic book. The stories of the North Polar Bear are funny and engaging for Children of all ages. The Children in my local library were reading it with obvious delight with lots of "ooooh look at that mummy" "I really like that picture" so I bought a copy and I wholeheartedly agree with them!
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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.
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on 6 November 2001
This book is a must for Tolkien lovers - very much off his usual beaten track with delightful illustrations and wonderful illuminated text. It's also a must-have for anyone who loves Christmas and seeing the effect it has on children - my daughter is not yet one, but she'll be getting a letter from Father Christmas along these lines next year, although I doubt I can match JRRT's beautiful artwork...
I owned an earlier copy of this book - it's good to see it back in print with expanded content and later letters to other children, not just Tolkien's own.
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Reading the reviews for this book didn't give me the information I was looking for - so I bought it a) in the hope it was what I was looking for, and b) because the one that was what I was looking for would take much longer to get here, and I wanted it by Christmas! It is a beautiful book, with letters to ALL of Tolkien's children - even Pricilla (letters that, from what I can gather from the introduction, are previously unpublished). The illustrations in it are brilliant, and the letters within it are completely legible (with typed translation, just in case - and for the ones without a copy of the original). So - what was so "not what I was looking for" I hear you ask? Well - I was hoping to find a copy with PULL OUT letters - that you could take out of the envelopes to read. Ah well - looks like I'll have to order the one that specifies it is...and wait for it to arrive. Not a major problem, but I might wait until next year so it has more relevance.
PS - In case I didn't mention it - I RECCOMEND THIS BOOK WHOLE-HEARTEDLY!!! (The only reason I only gave it 4 stars was because of the letters not being removable).
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on 14 December 2012
Father Christmas sent letters to J.R.R. Tolkien's children every year from 1920 to 1943 when Priscilla Tolkien received the final letter of her childhood. Father Christmas explains the privations of war "This horrible war is reducing all our stocks, and in so many countries children are living far from their homes. Polar Bear has had a very busy time trying to get our address-lists corrected." There are also attacks from goblins, which are fended off by the red elves and the North Polar Bear, who "enjoyed it immensely!" and mishaps galore. All this is delightfully illustrated by J.R.R. Tolkien himself with enchanting watercolours delivered with beautifully calligraphic letters.

I have the previous hardback edition of this book (ISBN 0-261-10385-7) which has a blue cover and is slightly wider than A4 format; and woven throughout with calligraphy picked out from the letters decorating the pages with the plain text. This made it all the more enchanting and Christmassy; using the 'look inside' for this edition, I don't see this; but it may be a limitation of this viewing feature, as when I checked my edition, it looked the same as this one on the 'look inside'.

If you want a book to read to small children; or to pepper a little Christmas magic back into the lives of older children or adult Tolkien fans, this is an excellent book. CAVEAT: Having read this book, my daughter initiated correspondence with Father Christmas herself, which he then had to make time to reply to in amongst his busy Christmas schedule.
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on 2 February 2014
Tolkien is my favourite writer and this book is a wonderful collection to my bookcase. They are such delightfully innocent and fantastical stories about the adventures of Father Christmas at the North Pole and the pesky goblin and comical polar bear. I can't wait to read it to my kids and maybe even do something similar with a written letter every year!
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on 22 December 2010
If you're a fan of Tolkien but haven't read anything other than The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings or the Silmarillion then start now.
This book contains real letters which Tolkien sent to his Children every Christmas over 3 or 4 decades. As they sent letters to Santa, Tolkien would write letters back to them FROM Santa. The letters were inspirational, funny, witty and intelligently written.

They are written lovingly and affectionately, sometimes in different handwriting and sometimes with drawings, paintings or sketches. This book is a physically smaller edition than the previous A4 sized book but it lacks nothing the larger has. Each letter is presented as a large colour scan of the original documents and on the otherside of the page is a typed version of what the writing says if the handwriting isn't very clear to readers with bad eyesight.

With pictures and drawing and fun these are suitable to all readers, especially those who may have children who still believe in Santa.

If you enjoy the book, also available from Amazon.co.uk is an Audio CD of the book read excellently by Sir Derek Jacobi.
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