LONDON (Reuters) – A previously unseen series of illustrated Christmas letters written by the author J.R.R Tolkien to his children, featuring Santa Claus and his helper Polar Bear, are to go on show next year.
The letters start in 1920 after Tolkien’s three-year old son John asked him who Father Christmas was and where he lived.
Tolkien decided to assume the identity of Father Christmas in a written reply, and told stories of the North Pole via handwritten text and illustrations. The letters became a tradition that Tolkien maintained for all four of his children, and he delivered them on Christmas Eve for the next 23 years.
The early letters are filled with light-hearted tales of Father Christmas’s adventures with Polar Bear, who is described in the 1926 letter to have
“turned on all the Northern Lights for two years in one go.”
But as the letters progress and Tolkien and his children grow older, they become longer and darker in tone.
The 1932 letter opens by alluding to the unwelcome presence of goblins at the North Pole:
“There have been lots of adventures you will want to hear about. It all began with the funny noises underground which started in the summer and got worse and worse….”
The goblins continue to feature in the letters, living in caves beneath the North Pole and engaging in battles with Father Christmas.
Their introduction coincides with the period in which Tolkien was working on one of his most renowned works “The Hobbit,” which features a storyline of goblins and wargs.
The letters will be displayed alongside a selection of Tolkien collections, inspirations and artifacts from the UK and U.S. at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, from June 1 to Oct. 28 2018.