The Father Christmas Letters, also known as Letters from Father Christmas, are a collection of letters written and illustrated by J.R.R. Tolkien between 1920 and 1942 for his children, from Father Christmas.
The Letters were released posthumously by the Tolkien estate on 2 September 1976, the 3rd anniversary of Tolkien’s death. They were edited by Baillie Tolkien, second wife of his youngest son, Christopher Tolkien. The book was warmly received by critics, and it has been suggested that elements of the stories inspired parts of Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
The stories are told in the format of a series of letters, told either from the point of view of Father Christmas or his elvish secretary. They document the adventures and misadventures of Father Christmas and his helpers, including the North Polar Bear and his two sidekick cubs, Paksu and Valkotukka. The stories include descriptions of the massive fireworks that create the northern lights and how Polar Bear manages to get into trouble on more than one occasion.
The 1939 letter has Father Christmas making reference to the Second World War, while some of the later letters feature Father Christmas' battles against Goblins which were subsequently interpreted as being a reflection of Tolkien's views on the German Menace.
- "Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J.R.R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in a strange, spidery handwriting and a beautiful colored drawing or painting. The letters were from Father Christmas. They told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole: how the reindeer got loose and scattered presents all over the place; how the accident-prone North Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas’s house into the dining room; how he broke the Moon into four pieces and made the Man in it fall into the back garden; how there were wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house, and many more. No reader, young or old, can fail to be charmed by Tolkien’s inventiveness in this classic holiday treat."
- —From the publisher
The letters themselves were written over a period of over 20 years to entertain Tolkien's children each Christmas. Starting in 1920 when Tolkien's oldest son was aged three, each Christmas Tolkien would write a letter from Father Christmas about his travels and adventures. Each letter was delivered in an envelope, including North Pole stamps and postage marks as designed by Tolkien.
Prior to publication, an exhibition of Tolkien's drawings was held at the Ashmolean Museum. These included works from The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and The Father Christmas Letters. The first edition was by Allen and Unwin on 2 September 1976, three years after Tolkien's death. The Houghton Mifflin edition was released later that year on 19 October. It was the third work by Tolkien to be released posthumously, after a collection of poems and the Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings. Edited by Baillie Tolkien, the second wife of Christopher Tolkien, it includes illustrations by Tolkien for nearly all the letters; however, it omitted several letters and drawings.
When the book was republished in 1999 it was retitled Letters from Father Christmas and several letters and drawings not contained in the original edition were added. One edition in 1995 featured the letters and drawings contained in individual envelopes to be read in the manner they were originally conceived to be.
- 1976: The Father Christmas Letters. London: George Allen & Unwin; Boston: Houghton Miflin. (48 pages long, omits the letters from 1920-1924 and from 1939-1942)
- 1995: Letters from Father Christmas. London: CollinsChildren'sBooks; Boston: Houghton Mifflin. (Facsimiles of letters with envelopes, with three previously unpublished pictures)
- 1999: Letters from Father Christmas. London: HarperCollins; Boston: Houghton Mifflin. (Revised and enlarged edition)
- 2004: Letters from Father Christmas. London: HarperCollins; Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
- 2012: Letters from Father Christmas. London: HarperCollins; Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
The reception to the first two works published posthumously had been warm, which was subsequently thought to be due to Tolkien's recent death. The response to The Father Christmas Letters was much more measured and balanced. Jessica Kemball-Cook suggested in her book Twentieth Century Children's Writers that it would become known as a classic of children's literature, while Nancy Willard for The New York Times Book Review also received the book positively, saying "Father Christmas lives. And never more merrily than in these pages." In 2002, an article in The Independent on Sunday described the work as rivalling "The Lord of the Rings for sheer imaginative joy".
Paul H. Kocher, whilst writing for the journal Mythprint, suggested that the creatures in The Father Christmas Letters may have been a precursor to those which appeared in Tolkien's later works such as the Lord of the Rings, a view which was shared by Laurence and Martha Krieg in a review in the journal Mythlore (issue #14). For example, the 1933 letter features an attack on Polar Bear by a band of goblins. The Kriegs suggested that the wizard Gandalf may have been developed from Father Christmas.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Afrikaans||Die Vader Kersfees Briewe|
|Albanian||Letrat e Krishtlindjeve të Atit|
|Amharic||የገና አባት የገና ደብዳቤዎች|
|Arabic||الأب رسائل عيد الميلاد|
|Armenian||Հայր Սուրբ Ծնունդ Նամակներ|
|Azerbaijani||Ata Milad Məktubların|
|Basque||Aita Gabonetako gutunak|
|Belarusian Cyrillic||Лісты Святога Мікалая|
|Bengali||পিতা ক্রিসমাস অক্ষর|
|Bosnian||Otac Božićna pisma|
|Bulgarian Cyrillic||Отец Коледните писма|
|Catalan||Les cartes del Pare Noel|
|Croatian||Oče Božićne pisama|
|Czech||Otec vánoční dopisy|
|Dutch||Brieven van de Kerstman|
|Esperanto||La Patro Kristnasko Leteroj|
|Estonian||Isa jõulud tähed|
|French||Lettres du Père Noël|
|Galician||As cartas do Pai Nadal|
|Georgian||შობის ბაბუის წერილები|
|German||Die Briefe vom Weihnachtsmann|
|Greek||Γράμματα από τον Αϊ-Βασίλη / Ο πατέρας Χριστουγεννιάτικα γράμματα|
|Gujarati||પિતા ક્રિસમસ લેટર્સ|
|Haitian Creole||Papa Nowèl lèt yo|
|Hausa||Uba Kirsimeti Haruffa|
|Hebrew||האותיות חג המולד אבא|
|Hindi||पिता क्रिसमस पत्र|
|Hungarian||Apa Karבcsonyi Levelek|
|Icelandic||Faðir jólin bréfum|
|Indonesian||Surat Natal Bapa|
|Irish Gaelic||An tAthair litreacha na Nollag|
|Italian||Le Lettere di Babbo Natale|
|Javanese||Sang Rama Surat Natal|
|Kannada||ತಂದೆಯ ಕ್ರಿಸ್ಮಸ್ ಲೆಟರ್ಸ್|
|Kazakh Cyrillic||Әкесі Рождество хаттары ?|
|Korean||아버지 크리스마스 편지 ?|
|Kyrgyz Cyrillic||Аяз ата тамгалар|
|Latvian||Tēvs Ziemassvētku burtus|
|Lithuanian||Kalėdų Senelio laiškai|
|Luxembourgish||De Papp Chrëschtdag Bréiwer|
|Macedonian Cyrillic||ׂТаткото Божиќни писма|
|Malagasy||Ny Ray Krismasy Taratasy|
|Malaysian||Bapa Surat Krismas|
|Maltese||L-Ittri tal-Milied tal-Missier|
|Marathi||पिता ख्रिसमस अक्षरे|
|Nepalese||पिता क्रिसमस पत्र|
|Norwegian||Brev fra julenissen|
|Pashto||سانګ رام سورت نالټ|
|Persian||نامه های کریسمس پدر|
|Polish||Listy Świętego Mikołaja|
|Portuguese||Cartas do Pai Natal|
|Punjabi||ਪਿਤਾ ਜੀ ਦੇ ਕ੍ਰਿਸਮਸ ਵਾਲੇ ਅੱਖਰ|
|Romanian||Scrisori de CrÄ ciun tatăl|
|Russian||ֿПисьма Рождественского Деда|
|Samoan||O le Tusi o le Kerisimasi Tama|
|Scottish Gaelic||An t-Athair Nollaig Litrichean|
|Serbian||Отац Божићна писма (Cyrillic) Otac Božićna pisma (Latin)|
|Sindhi||پيء جو ڪرسمس خط|
|Slovak||Otec vianočné listy|
|Slovenian||Oče Božična pisma|
|Somalian||Masiixiga Aabbaha Waraaqaha|
|Spanish||Las cartas de Papá Noel|
|Sudanese||Rama Natal Sastra|
|Swahili||Barua za Krismasi za Baba|
|Swedish||Breven från Jultomten|
|Tajik Cyrillic||ֿПадар Мактуб Мавлуди|
|Tamil||பிதா கிறிஸ்துமஸ் கடிதங்கள்|
|Telugu||ది ఫాదర్ క్రిస్మస్ లెటర్స్|
|Turkish||Baba Noel Mektupları|
|Ukrainian Cyrillic||Різдвяні листи батька|
|Urdu||والد کرسمس خطوط|
|Uzbek||Ота Рождество мактуби (Cyrillic) Ota Rojdestvo maktubi (Latin)|
|Vietnamese||Sách Giáng sinh của Cha|
|Welsh||Mae'r Llythyrau Nadolig Dad|
|Yiddish||דער פֿאָטער ניטל אותיות|