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Monday, December 17, 2012

A Writer's Gift

(source)

In a creative, magical gesture J. R. R.Tolkien began sending letters to his children in 1920 addressed from Father Christmas. Writing as the jolly elf, he described his home and duties at the North Pole and often mentioned his number one assistant, a polar bear with a habit for getting into trouble. Later the fantasy world he created had grown to include Snow-elves, Red-gnomes, and Cave-bears. Tolkien continued the tradition with his children for over twenty years, often including illustrations he'd done, like the one above, to go along with the letters.

The letters and drawings were kept safe, and many years later they were collected and made into a book titled, Letters From Father Christmas, which you can find here. Below is a copy of one of the letters along with the plain text version, since it is somewhat difficult to read the shaky handwriting Tolkien used to express his inner Santa...





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. Good-bye.

Father Christmas


What a wonderful gift to give a child. No batteries, no assembly required, and no box to recycle. It's something only a storyteller could give. Such a treasure. 

Have you ever written a story for the children in your life? 


* * *
And now I'm off to do Christmas-y things, maybe see The Hobbit and Les Miserables at the theater, and enjoy the season. Merry Christmas! I'll be back again after the New Year.





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63 comments:

  1. I never knew he did that!
    Go see The Hobbit - fun film.
    And have a wonderful Christmas.

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  2. he pretty much lived in a fairy tale. Imagine knowing him while he was alive, a man whose mind is always in some fantasy worlds.... such imagination.

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    1. and I don't recall you asking My Intergalactic Imperial Padishah Dezzy for permission to leave us for the rest of the month!

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    2. Too much red tape, which is actually pretty this time of year, but I was afraid you would make me stay and man the blogosphere all on my onesies through the holidays. I will, of course, continue to harass you at your site. :))

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    3. Padishah's Dezzy privy council will consider your request but do not raise your hopes up :)
      I expect you to be here on Thursday especially since I will be posting DEZZY'S CHRISTMAS MAGIC at a friend's blog, there's a banner at my place out today :)

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    4. *Ahem* And when exactly did you get this promotion in the intergalactic realm to Padishah? I don't think I authorized THAT. :P

      You know I'll be over to see Dezzy's Christmas Magic (though I know it will be SO naughty). :)

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    5. pffft, you are clearly uninformed in intergalactic royal traditions and rules. Padishahs padishize themselves :)

      Sadly, there will be no naughtiness in my Christmas Magic but I shall make up for that in my own Christmas day post at HOLLYWOOD SPY with scantily clad Santa hunks and Santa babes :)

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  3. I adore this! My heart melt when I read this just thinking of him doing this for his kids. I write my kids a letter every Christmas letting them know how awesome I think they are and get specific for the reasons throughout that year. My 13 year old daughter has hers hanging up from last year. I'm not that great - I just started the tradition a few years ago LOL

    Have fun seeing The Hobbit; I'm a bit jealous. Just a tad. =)

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  4. Alex - I never knew he was such a great artist!

    Dezzy - I can't imagine a better way to live some days. :P

    Elsie - Isn't that such a great thing to do for his children. Of course, he wasn't a famous writer when he started doing it, just a father who wanted to do something magical for his kids. Love it. :)

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    1. That makes it even more awesome! A dad being a dad. How very cool, indeed.

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  5. That is sweet. Telling stories to my kids is my favorite thing. Too bad the older ones have earbuds constantly attached.

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  6. That's really quite nice. Happy Christmas and New Year!

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  7. That is so lovely. I've thought about it, but haven't done it. Have a wonderful holiday, L.G. and we'll see ya next year!
    Karen

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  8. Tonja - Yeah, those pesky teenagers. *shakes fist* Don't think Tolkien had to worry about ipods in his day.

    Jeff - Merry Christmas! Isn't that an awesome gift for a writer to give his kids?

    Karen - I used to write Santa letters to my son, but he never got wrapped up in the magic of it much. Too smart for his own good. :P

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  9. I didn't know about the Christmas letters either. That IS a wonderful and special gift :)

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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  10. Oh, this is so wonderful! I never heard about these letters. What a treasure.

    Merry, Merry Christmas to you and your family Luanne! See you after the holidays. Take care and have a Happy New Year! :)

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  11. What a fabulous story! I never knew he did that and what strange handwriting he had, all swirly. He filled in all his "o's" in red too. Thank you for that, I'm going back to read it carefully. Have a great Christmas too, Luanne, and see you in the New Year. X

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  12. Marcy - And, of course, the children had to continue enjoying the letters long after becoming grown. So glad they kept them all.

    Julie - Merry Christmas, Julie!! And what a happy new year awaits you with your book release!

    Susan - Yes, Father Christmas says his handwriting is so shaky because he is 1925 years old! :)

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  13. What a great story, and he knew exactly what would delight the kids.

    Especially like the polar bear with a habit for getting into trouble, and how they've had a spat. I can just see him there, with a cast on his leg, crossing his arms and saying, "Nope - that's it! Next time you lose that stupid hood, I won't help again!"

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  14. My first reaction was to say, wow, I wish I had a dad like that. Then I realized I've never done anything like that either. And since I'm so broke, this would be a great gift to give my son.

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  15. MC - I wonder if the kids swapped Father Christmas stories with their friends, and their friends were like, "Um, that's not how I heard it." :)

    Nancy - Tolkien had such a whimsical side. I'll bet he was a very doting father.

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  16. That is incredible, and I had no idea! What a beautiful gift.

    I make up bedtime stories. Every night. It's not easy.ha
    And we do the big Santa fake-out every Christmas Eve, mess up the living room, put footprints from the fireplace to the tree, and leave a lot of crumbs. My kids think Santa is way messy. Well, the 4 yr old does, the bigger one just thinks we are crazy.

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  17. That book was a huge part of the inspiration for "Christmas on the Corner." I can't believe you didn't mention the goblins!
    I read from that book to my kids every year, and we leave letters from Santa for my kids every year.

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  18. Great post and a great find! What an amazing gift. I've never written a story for my daughter but I've tried to improvise them on occasion. I'm no good at all but she finds them amusing. There was one about a panda named Sam which gained a little traction.

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  19. Marsha - Oh, I'm so envious of you having a little one in the house still. That is pure magic. :)

    Andrew - Oh, cool. And I was reading about how a lot of the stuff he first came up with in these letters later showed up in LOTR, like those goblins. What a world he lived in.

    Squid - Well, you know you must write it down now! It could be a classic some day. :)

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  20. I love his letter!
    Merry Christmas :)
    See you next year.

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  21. I wasn't aware he did this. How wonderful!! He was such a talented man.
    Merry Christmas, Luanne.

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  22. Carol - What a neat thing to do for his kids, right? Makes me wish I'd done more of that when my son was young.

    Lynda - You know, I hadn't heard of these letters either until my friend, Maine Character (the guy with the moon avatar up there) showed me a sample of one of the letters about a year ago. I just love the artwork and stories.

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  23. He's left his family a billion dollar empire and this is the thing you highlight? Okay I guess.

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    1. You are so bad, Michael. LOL. Take a touching gesture and just toss it aside to focus on the billions!!! Those children will tell you these letters were a most precious gift...and, okay, they did eventually sell the letters to a publisher, but whatever. Don't spoil my happy holiday post!! :P

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    2. I can guarantee that this touching gesture did not outweigh the billions they have made from the Tolkien estate.

      Let me ask you, "Luanne in one hand I have a touching Christmas gesture with hand drawings. In the other I have a billion dollars with which you can secure everything you have ever wanted for you, your family, and all earthly desires for your children, grand children, etc. Healthcare? No problem. Education? No problem. But you can only choose one. Which do you choose?"

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    3. Merry Christmas, Michael. May your stocking be stuffed with tens and twenties.

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  24. What a magical letter! It's a letter to treasure always.

    Merry Christmas, Luanne!

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  25. Oh, Luanne, thanks for sharing this. I'm embarrassed to say I had no idea. I should have known this, I'm going to pass this along. Thanks!

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  26. So, so, SO fascinating. Pure magic. :)

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  27. Emily - Nice when your father is a well known writer, but even so, what a neat thing for any parent to do, right?

    Joylene - I think the book would make such a great gift for a Tolkien enthusiast, or anyone really.

    Morgan - Yes, magical, which is what Christmas should be for kids. :))

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  28. Enjoy your holidays! That information about Tolkien was new to me.

    Hubs did write each of our kids a story when I started getting their baby books together. It's a great idea.

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  29. What a wonderful gift for him to give to his children. I used to make up stories for our kids every night at bedtime, but I never wrote them down. Closest I came was writing each of them a sentimental keepsake letter a couple years ago for Christmas.

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  30. D.G. - Good for your husband. And enjoy your holidays as well. I know you've got your place decorated and ready to go. :)

    Susan - Letters are powerful things. I still have a few from my grandmother, in her handwriting, that I'll never toss out.

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  31. How fun. I'd never heard of those. Merry Christmas.

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  32. Aww! That's such a neat idea! I hadn't heard he did that either.

    Merry Christmas!

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  33. Hi Luanne ... written lots of letters and no doubt a few to Santa many moons ago, but no children relieves that extra burden!... but just lovely to see his actual letter and see his thoughts ... his Christmas book of letters must be a joy to read ...

    Cheers Hilary

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  34. Cherie - I just love that painting of Father Christmas at top. Very neat gift to give your kids.

    Hilary - The letter is so creative. It kind of lets you see into his working mind a little, right? Very whimsical.

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  35. SO cool -- and something I never knew about Mr. Tolkien! I'll have to share it with my students; we're reading The Hobbit.

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    1. It is cool! And, with The Hobbit coming out this month, I thought it'd be a nice tie-in to highlight the Father Christmas letters. Neat thing to share with your students. :)

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  36. I wrote one for my nephew once... ages ago. Not sure i ever gave it to him and I have no idea what happened to it. What wonderful letters to get though. And he was good at drawing,too.

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  37. I was given a miniature copy of that Tolkein book, and I look at it every year. It truly is something special. I hope that if/when I have children, I am creative enough to do something similar.

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  38. M Pax - I love that picture of Father Christmas. I wish they had Christmas cards like that, with the letters too. :)

    Callie - He was such a creative person. And I'm very sentimental about stuff like that, so I think it was just an awesome gift to give his kids.

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  39. Oh that is lovely. It makes Christmas even more Magical.
    Happy Christmas x

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    1. Madeleine - Happy Christmas to you too! I do envy you being in Devon. I think it would be wonderful to spend the holiday in England. :)

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  40. That's incredible. I started working on something for my daughter, although it's far less creative. I hope to get to work on it in 2013! If I can find time to breathe! LOL.

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  41. what? never knew...freakin awesome!!

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  42. Tolkien was and will always be the most fascinating fantasy creator, I simply cannot imagine the world without him and his creations...I adore him, congrats on the beautiful beautiful post :). Happy holidays lovely Luanne.

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  43. Lisa - Oh, that's so cool! She's still young enough you can do something really magical for her.

    Tammy - Freakin awesome, I know! :P

    unikorna - When I play that game of "who would you invite, living or dead, to a dinner party?" I would invite Tolkien. I think he would be so interesting to chat with. :)

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  44. When my children were little I did and now that they are grown, I tell stories to my great-niece. She calls it Aunty Anne's Make-a-leaf. She can't pronounce believe yet.

    Wonderful to see this letter from Tolkien.

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    1. Anne - Make-a-leaf? That's adorable. :))

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  45. What a wonderful letter! Hope you're enjoying your break. Happy New Year to you and your family! Julie

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  46. How amazing it that! Makes me want to write something creative for my kids to keep!

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  47. Oh wow! That truly is sweet and special.

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