As always, this review is spoiler-free!
The Father Christmas Letters is a compilation of letters by author J.R.R. Tolkien to his children written under the guise of Father Christmas (Santa Clause). The letters span the years 1925–38 and contain original artwork by Tolkien. Here are some of my impressions of The Father Christmas Letters:
Glimpses of The Lord of the Rings—I have attempted to read The Lord of the Rings several times, but have never made it out of the shire. However, I have read The Hobbit and watched movies based on Tolkien’s writing. While the letters are not LotR cannon, they definitely come from the same mind. I loved the mention of other languages (elvish, goblin, etc.) and the occasional inclusion of runes in the drawings. Certain story elements are also present in the letters—things like mountains with caves and goblins and talking bears and poetry.
Tolkien as a father—My favorite part of reading the letters was to get to see Grandfather Tolkien (as I sometimes affectionately call him) as a father. The letters were not written to be read by you or me; they are meant for his children. They are not polished masterpieces. But they are genuine and full of love. This is especially evident in the way that Father Christmas explains to the children about the hard work that goes into the present delivering process, as well as in the occasional reference to the events of WWII, during which time Tolkien’s children were growing up. My favorite quote from the book goes like this:
“If you find that not many of the things you asked for have come, and not perhaps quite so many as sometimes, remember that this Christmas all over the world there are a terrible number of poor and staring people.”
—Letter dated 1931
Overall, I give the short collection five out of five stars. It is not a literary masterpiece, but it has a sort of innocence and kindness that I really love. The Father Christmas Letters would be a great book to read to children, especially over the course of the week or so leading up to Christmas. Whether or not you are a fan of The Lord of the Rings, there is room for you to snuggle up with some hot chocolate (or perhaps some Turkish delight) and remember what it is like to believe in the legends of Christmas.
Need another book to read to kids? Try out Tell Me When I’m Younger, available now on Amazon.