Feature article | Posted 10.12.2018

How many children, over the years, have written letters to Father Christmas, requesting a rather special present and then lay in bed on Christmas Eve; hoping and dreaming? Indeed, how many parents have encouraged their children to write those letters? Very Many!!!

But few children have received wonderful letters back from Father Christmas full of enchanting stories, fantastically illustrated, in envelopes complete with hand crafted stamps and candle wax seals.

J.R.R.Tolkien started writing letters from Father Christmas for his four children in 1920. Fresh from the horrors of the First World War, Tolkien had seen active service in the trenches on the Somme, had lost all but one of his close friends and the majority of his year at Exeter College, Oxford had perished in the war.

During the Second World War, Tolkien, his wife Edith, and other members of his family were regular visitors to Stonyhurst whilst their eldest son John was training to be a priest. They stayed at The New Lodge and entered their details in the visitor’s book. It was at this time that Tolkien was writing his classic ‘The Lord of the Rings’.

Tolkien continued to write the letters from Father Christmas to his children until Christmas 1943 when Priscilla, his youngest child, was 14 years old.

The last few letters, written during wartime, are particularly poignant but also full of hope, faith and love.

The letters and illustrations have all been published in a book ‘Letters from Father Christmas’ and there is also a book available entitled ‘The Tolkien Family Album’, full of photographs that leave an impression on the reader of a bygone age. An age when despite extreme adversity a light shone bright amongst the darkness. And for certain lucky children Father Christmas was very real indeed.