The Advent Calendar of Literature: Day 6

Yesterday’s advent calendar nugget, or interesting literature fact pertaining to Christmas, looked at what connects The Hobbit with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (and pondered that age-old philosophical question of whether Santa Claus is a jerk). Today’s interesting Christmas-themed literature-related fact continues this hobbity theme, but also continues the Santa theme.

Tolkien2Did you know that J. R. R. Tolkien was Father Christmas?

Between 1920 and 1942, Tolkien wrote a series of letters to his children – letters from ‘Father Christmas’. Letters from Father Christmas was published posthumously in book form in 1976, and document in a light-hearted way some of Father Christmas’s adventures – mostly what he has been up to at the North Pole since the previous year, although some letters tell a more sinister tale involving Goblins, which break into Father Christmas’s house and steal some of the presents. Father Christmas ends up capturing (and, later, killing) some of the offenders…

Many of the letters also feature a polar bear (called simply Polar Bear), which is fitting in light of this polar-bear-related fact about Tolkien. The original envelopes in which the letters were contained carried messages such as ‘By direct Reindeer Post’.

Tolkien wrote the letters every Christmas between 1920 and 1942 (this period covers the writing of The Hobbit and the beginning of his work on The Lord of the Rings), and, indeed, The Father Christmas Letters have been linked to Tolkien’s major work, with some scholars – such as Laurence and Martha Krieg in the journal Mythlore – even suggesting that the character of Gandalf was partly inspired by the figure of Father Christmas.

Earlier in this post, we implied that ‘Santa Claus’ and ‘Father Christmas’ are the same people. Oops. We’ll correct that error in tomorrow’s post…

Image: Bust of Tolkien in the chapel of Exeter College, Oxford (author: Julian Nitzsche).

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