The Father Christmas Letters by JRR Tolkien, edited by Baillie Tolkien (George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1976). I have had this book for many years, though it was not bought new. Within its pages lurks a newspaper cutting on a new edition of Tolkien’s book from The Birmingham Post 23rd December 1995. I never did get around to buying a newer edition of The Father Christmas Letters…
Tolkien wrote the first letter to his children in 1920, and for over twenty years continued to regale them with the goings-on at the North Pole. Father Christmas’ main helper was the Polar Bear, along with an assorted cast of characters including the bear’s nephews Paksu and Valkotukka.
This is such a wonderful book that it was difficult to select a passage to quote here. I was about to resort to the time honoured tactic of letting the book fall open and picking a piece at random, when my daughter pointed out that it would be a good idea to choose the piece that featured on the back cover. Tolkien’s illustration captures the poor old Polar Bear’s accident beautifully. Parcels scattered down the stairs, Polar Bear sprawled at the foot and a rather vexed Father Christmas at the head of the stairs.
Thursday December 20th 1928
‘What do you think the poor dear old bear has been and done this time?…Only fell from from top to bottom of the main stairs on Thursday! We were beginning to get the first lot of parcels down out of the store-rooms into the hall. Polar Bear would inist on taking an enormous pile on his head as well as lots in his arms. Bang Rumble Clatter Crash! awful moanings and groanings:‘
Never fear, it all turned out right in the end!