clock menu more-arrow no yes

This Christmas letter that J.R.R. Tolkien sent his children will warm your heart

If you buy something from a Vox link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Father Christmas reads a letter.
Father Christmas reads a letter.
(Kiselev Andrey Valerevich/Shutterstock)

J.R.R. Tolkien has created some of the finest characters of 20th-century literature: Frodo, Bilbo, Gollum, Arwen, Legolas.

But equally masterful, though lesser known, is his Father Christmas. The character doesn't make an appearance in any of his published fiction, but for more than two decades, Father Christmas provided joy and entertainment to the readers Tolkien loved most: his children.

Beginning in 1920, Tolkien began writing letters from Father Christmas to his four children. These letters, writes Open Culture, primarily deal with "Father Christmas' struggles against the north's bat-riding goblins, as well as the mischievous hijinks of his helper, North Polar Bear." He also included beautiful illustrations with his annual letters. (As every Tolkien fan knows, the writer was a fantastic illustrator.)

Here is a picture of his 1925 Christmas letter.

Tolkien letter

And here's a transcript.

Cliff House
Top of the World
Near the North Pole

Xmas 1925

My dear boys, 

I am dreadfully busy this year — it makes my hand more shaky than ever when I think of it — and not very rich. In fact, awful things have been happening, and some of the presents have got spoilt and I haven't got the North Polar Bear to help me and I have had to move house just before Christmas, so you can imagine what a state everything is in, and you will see why I have a new address, and why I can only write one letter between you both. It all happened like this: one very windy day last November my hood blew off and went and stuck on the top of the North Pole. I told him not to, but the N.P.Bear climbed up to the thin top to get it down — and he did. The pole broke in the middle and fell on the roof of my house, and the N.P.Bear fell through the hole it made into the dining room with my hood over his nose, and all the snow fell off the roof into the house and melted and put out all the fires and ran down into the cellars where I was collecting this year's presents, and the N.P.Bear's leg got broken. He is well again now, but I was so cross with him that he says he won't try to help me again. I expect his temper is hurt, and will be mended by next Christmas. I send you a picture of the accident, and of my new house on the cliffs above the N.P. (with beautiful cellars in the cliffs). If John can't read my old shaky writing (1925 years old) he must get his father to. When is Michael going to learn to read, and write his own letters to me? Lots of love to you both and Christopher, whose name is rather like mine.

That's all. Goodbye.

Father Christmas

(H/t Open Culture)