Amidst all the Hobbit hype there’s really only one Tolkien product you really need to check out today – Letters from Father Christmas. Every year between 1920 and 1942 he would send his children an envelope containing an elaborately illustrated, and scratchily hand written letter pupporting to be from the great man.
I wrote a little earlier in the advent about how Tolkien was critical of his friend C.S. Lewis’s inclusion of Father Christmas in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Turns out he was busy creating his own version of the North Pole saga. As the introduction to the book explains it was something that built over many years
‘As time went on, Father Christmas’s household became larger and whereas at first little is heard of anyone else except the North Polar Bear, later on appear Snow-elvers, Red Gnomes, Snow-men, Cave–bears, and the Polar Bear’s nephews, Pasku and Valkotukka.’
It’s been pointed out that much of this myth building acts as a sort of analogue for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. The 1933 letter even features a pitched battle between the Polar Bear and a band of goblins. But there's also plenty of the lighter moments to enjoy, mainly featuring the Polar Bear, who more often than not ends up flat on his back under a pile of presents.
My favourite letters are the ones that attempt to explain the mechanics of this imagined Polar realm. In 1925 we hear how the bear has broken the North Pole, bringing it crashing down on Father Christmas’s house.
The following year he turns on the tap that controls the Northern Lights – setting off two years’ worth in one go. The accompanying picture is rather like a disco version of Mordor (Sergio Mordor if you like). And I doubt Peter Jackson's got anything in the Hobbit that can top that.