21 Dec 2009

Letters From (a very loving) Father Christmas

Christmas is only a few days away and Oxford is covered in a white blanket of snow.The garden of number 20 Northmoor Road has not been spared, a funny snowman resembling a hobbit from the Shire is guarding the footpath . In a room of number 20, a man is sitting in his study at the desk, a pipe hanging from the corner of his mouth and glasses resting on the bridge of his nose. Brightly coloured ink jars, pencils, and paint with magical names like Crimson Lake, Gamboge, Burned Sienna , and Chinese White are neatly arranged near books and stacks of beautiful stationary. The man is of course, Professor Tolkien sitting in his house and busy writing something very special for someone very special. The most affectionate and loving father, Tolkien would take time off his busy schedule, to write wonderful letters to his own children in the guise of Father Christmas.

(North Pole stamps by J.R.R. Tolkien)

The letters are small works or art, complete with unique North Pole stamps, fancy handwriting, beautiful drawings and stories about the North pole and about a clumsy Polar Bear , his two cubs, Paksu and Valkotukka, about all the reindeer that get loose and scattered presents all over the place , and about how the accident-prone Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas's house into the dining-room and ended up breaking the Moon into four pieces and made the Man in it fall into the back garden. And about the constant wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath Father Christmas's house. Like many others, the Tolkien's children would write their letters to Father Christmas, these letters would mysteriously disappear and on Christmas morning they would run in the front garden to find a very special letter on the footpath, sometime it would be on top of the fireplace in the front room, and snowy footprints would be on the carpet. For many years the children will not know the letters do come from their own father. So precious was this tradition that the secret of Father Christmas real identity will be carefully preserved until the last letter in 1943 ( the children were almost adults by now) with a reference to 'the horrible war'(WW II).

(Art work by J.R.R.Tolkien)

These Christmas letters to his children ( and many more he wrote to them ) reveal him as a loving father, interested in his children as individuals . He did take time to amuse them and keep them entertained, he encouraged them in their own interests and spoke openly to them about his own personal thoughts and experiences.

(Art work by J.R.R.Tolkien)

For many years these very special letters and pictures were carefully preserved in a brown envelope on the corner of Professor Tolkien's desk in his study. Here they were to remain as a precious family memory well after Tolkien's death until Christopher Tolkien's wife Baillie edited them for publication in 1976. To share the magic and enchantment behind the letters , to read them out laud in front of a fireplace with children in pyjama, just before going to bed on Christmas Eve. Stoking hanging ready to be filled with goodies , the letters themselves are the greatest of gift , reminding us about the most important thing we can give at this time of the year, love and time to those we love , just like J.R.R. Tolkien 'the father' gave to his own children.