Monday, December 24, 2018

Happy Christmas Eve,
J.R.R. Tolkien style

This postcard reprints one of the many amazing illustrations from J.R.R. Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas.

The letters are a series of illustrated stories that Tolkien wrote for his four children each Christmas between 1920 and 1942. (He wrote the first one on Christmas Eve, 98 years ago today.) They are epistolary tales, from the perspective of either Father Christmas or his secretary. There are adventures in the North Pole, pesky goblins, mysterious caves to explore, and bumbling polar bear sidekicks. According to Wikipedia, "each letter was delivered in an envelope, including North Pole stamps and postage marks as designed by Tolkien." (It's amazing what people could do when they had to be creative and couldn't just order their Christmas presents with one click.)

The letters were later collected, edited and published in 1976 by Allen and Unwin and Houghton Mifflin. This edition has, in my opinion, the best cover. But it apparently doesn't contain every Father Christmas letter and illustration. Various editions have been published since, some with different amounts of content.

Of Tolkien's artwork, the states:
"As for the illustrations, JRRT had a wonderful sense of color and line. He was very good at drawing stylized landscapes and interiors. Who wouldn't want someplace like Cliff House? He was less successful at drawing people and animals, probably because he knew very little about anatomy. Still, the portrait of Father Christmas wrapping a package is very fine; his features look somewhat Asiatic. I don't know if it is because JRRT had trouble drawing European round eyes, or if the Tolkein children were old enough to have seen pictures of Lapps and Eskimos and would have felt that such features would be appropriate to a man who lived at the North Pole. Also, the picture of the Polar Bear battling the Goblins to save the Good Children's presents was full of movement and spirit enough that one didn't mind the questionable anatomy; the same could be said of the illustration of the accidental flooding of the English Deliveries room."
If you're already working ahead on your Christmas 2019 gift lists, this might be a nice one to consider for a loved one.

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