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Literature: The Father Christmas Letters
Between 1920 and 1942, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote a series of letters to his children purportedly from Father Christmas, in which he told them about his life at the North Pole and his helpers and acquaintances - most prominently the good-hearted but accident-prone North Polar Bear. The letters were illustrated by Tolkien himself in his idiosyncratic style.

With the public appetite for more Tolkien writings after his death in 1973, the Letters were collected and published in 1976. An expanded version with more material, re-titled Letters from Father Christmas, was released in 2004.


This work provides examples of:

  • Art Shift/Unconventional Formatting: Used by Tolkien to make it seem as though more than one person contributed to the letters. Father Christmas' handwriting is particularly trembly, although his hand usually steadies up when he has to draw anything; his secretary's notes in the margins are written in a neat, flowing hand and in a different color of ink; the North Polar Bear writes with vaguely runic block letters, and draws in a similarly bold and angular style.
  • Badass Santa: Father Christmas leads his elves into battle against the goblins in the later letters (he writes that the goblins' strength is proportional to the rise of strife due to World War II.)
  • Bears Are Bad News: Inverted, although the NPB does manage to upset quite a lot of things by accident.
  • Crossover Cosmology: Father Christmas refers to his own father, Grandfather Yule, who represents the pre-Christian pagan winter solstice festival. He also mentions his 'Green Brother', whom we learn little about, but some people have speculated is the symbol of the summer solstice.
  • Cypher Language: The North Polar Bear invents one based on goblins' cave drawings and sends his own letters to the children in it.
  • Let's Get Dangerous: The North Polar Bear when he fights the goblins, being usually rather hapless and accident-prone.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: The North Polar Bear's real name is Karhu, but this rarely comes up.
  • Our Elves Are Better: Unlike Tolkien's usual Elves, these are more the traditional Victorian version, gnome-sized. This doesn't stop them kicking arse.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: The goblins here are also very small, essentially the elves' Evil Counterpart.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Father Christmas says he is as old as Christmas itself, giving his age as the year (around 1,930).
  • Shout-Out: One of the letters (written when Tolkien had started writing The Hobbit) contains an image showing both Smaug (as a cave painting) and Gollum (peeking round the corner of a cave).
    • Father Christmas's elf secretary, who often adds notes in the margins of the letters, is named Ilbereth — which should amuse anyone who's read The Lord of the Rings.
  • The Stars Are Going Out: A mild example, when the North Polar Bear breaks the North Pole (literally), the Pole Star turns red until it is repaired.
  • Theme Naming: The polar bears have Finnish names, either because Finland is appropriately northerly or just because Tolkien liked the language.
  • Yes Virginia: Of course, the existence of such elaborate missives in Real Life proved to Tolkien's children that Father Christmas was real. They were even mailed with meticulously crafted North Pole "postage stamps" (thanks to the collusion of the local postman).

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alternative title(s): The Father Christmas Letters
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