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Letters From Father Christmas, Page 2

J. R. R. Tolkien


  November 1929

  Dear boys,

  My paw is better. I was cutting Christmas trees when I hurt it. Don’t you think my writing is much better too? Father Christmas is very bisy already. So am I. We have had hevy snow and sum of our messengers got buerried and sum lost: that is whi you have not herd lately.

  Love to John for his birthday. Father Christmas says my English spelling is not good. I kant help it. We don’t speak English here, only Arktik (which you don’t know. We also make our letters different—I have made mine like Arktik letters for you to see. We always rite? for T and V for U. This is sum Arktik langwidge wich means “Goodby till I see you next and I hope it will bee soon.” - Mára mesta an ni véla tye ento, ya rato nea.

  P. B.

  My real name is Karhu but I don’t tell most peeple.

  P.S. I like letters and think Cristofers are nice

  Top of the World,

  North Pole

  Xmas 1929

  Dear Boys and Girl

  It is a light Christmas again, I am glad to say—the Northern Lights have been specially good. There is a lot to tell you. You have heard that the Great Polar Bear chopped his paw when he was cutting Christmas Trees. His right one—I mean not his left; of course it was wrong to cut it, and a pity too for he spent a lot of the Summer learning to write better so as to help me with my winter letters.

  We had a Bonfire this year (to please the Polar Bear) to celebrate the coming in of winter. The Snow-elves let off all the rockets together, which surprised us both. I have tried to draw you a picture of it, but really there were hundreds of rockets. You can’t see the elves at all against the snow background.

  The Bonfire made a hole in the ice and woke up the Great Seal, who happened to be underneath. The Polar Bear let off 20,000 silver sparklers afterwards—used up all my stock, so that is why I had none to send you. Then he went for a holiday!!!—to north Norway, and stayed with a wood-cutter called Olaf, and came back with paw all bandaged just at the beginning of our busy times.

  There seem more children than ever in England, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Germany, which are the countries I specially look after (and of course North America and Canada)—not to speak of getting stuff down to the South Pole for children who expect to be looked after though they have gone to live in New Zealand or Australia or South Africa or China. It is a good thing clocks don’t tell the same time all over the world or I should never get round, although when my magic is strongest—at Christmas—I can do about a thousand stockings a minute, if I have it all planned out beforehand. You could hardly guess the enormous piles of lists I make out. I seldom get them mixed.

  But I am rather worried this year. In my office and packing-room, the Polar Bear reads out names while I copy them down. We had awful gales here, worse than you did, tearing clouds of snow to a million tatters, screaming like demons, burying my house almost up to the roofs. Just at the worst, the Polar Bear said it was stuffy! and opened a north window before I could stop him. You can guess the result—the North Polar Bear was buried in papers and lists; but that did not stop him laughing.

  Also all my red and green ink was upset, as well as black,—so I am writing in chalk and pencil. I have some black ink left, and the Polar Bear is using it to address parcels.

  I liked all your letters—very much indeed my dears. Nobody, or very few, write so much or so nicely to me. I’m specially pleased with Christopher’s card, and his letters, and with his learning to write, so I am sending him a fountain pen and also a special picture for himself. It shows me crossing the sea on the upper North wind, while a South West gale—reindeer hate it—is raising big waves below.

  This must be all now. I send you all my love. One more stocking to fill this year! I hope you will like your new house and the things I bring you.

  Your Old Father Christmas


  November 28th 1930

  Father Christmas has got all your letters! What a lot, especially from Christopher and Michael! Thank you, and also Reddy and your bears, and other animals.

  I am just beginning to get awfully busy. Let me know more about what you specially want.

  Polar Bear sends love. He is just getting better. He has had Whooping Cough!!

  Father Nicholas Christmas

  Top of the World,

  North Pole

  Christmas 1930

  Not finished until Christmas Eve, 24th December

  My dears,

  I have enjoyed all your letters. I am dreadfully sorry there has been no time to answer them, and even now I have not time to finish my picture for you properly or to send you a full long letter like I mean to.

  I hope you will like your stockings this year: I tried to find what you asked for, but the stores have been in rather a muddle—you see the Polar Bear has been ill. He had whooping cough first of all. I could not let him help with the packing and sorting which begins in November—because it would be simply awful if any of my children caught Polar whooping cough and barked like bears on Boxing Day. So I had to do everything myself in the preparations.

  Of course, Polar Bear has done his best—he cleaned up and mended my sleigh, and looked after the reindeer while I was busy. That is how the really bad accident happened. Early this month we had a most awful snowstorm (nearly six feet of snow) followed by an awful fog. The poor Polar Bear went out to the reindeer-stables, and got lost and nearly buried: I did not miss him or go to look for him for a long while. His chest had not got well from whooping cough so this made him frightfully ill, and he was in bed until three days ago. Everything has gone wrong, and there has been no one to look after my messengers properly.

  Aren’t you glad the Polar Bear is better? We had a party of Snowboys (sons of the Snowmen, which are the only sort of people that live near—not of course men made of snow, though my gardener who is the oldest of all the snowmen sometimes draws a picture of a made Snowman instead of writing his name) and Polar Cubs (the Polar Bear’s nephews) on Saturday as soon as he felt well enough.

  He didn’t eat much tea, but when the big cracker went off after, he threw away his rug, and leaped in the air and has been well ever since.

  I’ve drawn you pictures of everything that happened—Polar Bear telling a story after all the tea things had been cleared away; me finding Polar Bear in the snow, and Polar Bear sitting with his feet in hot mustard and water to stop him shivering. It didn’t—and he sneezed so terribly he blew five candles out.

  Still he is all right now—I know because he has been at his tricks again: quarrelling with the Snowman (my gardener) and pushing him through the roof of his snow house; and packing lumps of ice instead of presents in naughty children’s parcels. That might be a good idea, only he never told me and some of them (with ice) were put in warm storerooms and melted all over good children’s presents!

  Well my dears there is lots more I should like to say—about my green brother and my father, old Grandfather Yule, and why we were both called Nicholas after the Saint (whose day is December sixth) who used to give secret presents, sometimes throwing purses of money through the window. But I must hurry away—I am late already and I am afraid you may not get this in time.

  Kisses to you all,

  Father Nicholas Christmas

  P.S. (Chris has no need to be frightened of me).


  Cliff House

  October 31st 1931

  Dear Children,

  Already I have got some letters from you! You are getting busy early. I have not begun to think about Christmas yet. It has been very warm in the North this year, and there has been very little snow so far. We are just getting in our Christmas firewood.

  This is just to say my messengers will be coming round regularly now Winter has begun—we shall be having a bonfire tomorrow—and I shall like to hear from you: Sunday and Wednesday evenings are the best times to post to me.

  The Polar Bear is quite well and fairly good—(though you nev
er know what he will do when the Christmas rush begins.) Send my love to John.

  Your loving

  Father Nicholas Christmas

  Glad Father Christmas has wakt up. He slept nearly all this hot summer. I wish we kood have snow. My coat is quite yellow.

  Love Polar Bear

  Cliff House,

  North Pole

  December 23rd 1931

  My dear Children

  I hope you will like the little things I have sent you. You seem to be most interested in Railways just now, so I am sending you mostly things of that sort. I send as much love as ever, in fact more. We have both, the old Polar Bear and I, enjoyed having so many nice letters from you and your pets. If you think we have not read them you are wrong; but if you find that not many of the things you asked for have come, and not perhaps quite as many as sometimes, remember that this Christmas all over the world there are a terrible number of poor and starving people.

  I (and also my Green Brother) have had to do some collecting of food and clothes, and toys too, for the children whose fathers and mothers and friends cannot give them anything, sometimes not even dinner. I know yours won’t forget you.

  So, my dears, I hope you will be happy this Christmas and not quarrel, and will have some good games with your Railway all together. Don’t forget old Father Christmas, when you light your tree.

  Nor me!

  It has gone on being warm up here as I told you—not what you would call warm, but warm for the North Pole, with very little snow. The North Polar Bear, if you know who I mean, has been lazy and sleepy as a result, and very slow over packing, or any job except eating. He has enjoyed sampling and tasting the food parcels this year (to see if they were fresh and good, he said).

  Somebody haz to—and I found stones in some of the kurrants.

  But that is not the worst—I should hardly feel it was Christmas if he didn’t do something ridiculous. You will never guess what he did this time! I sent him down into one of my cellars—the Cracker-hole we call it—where I keep thousands of boxes of crackers (you would like to see them, rows upon rows, all with their lids off to show the kinds of colours).

  Well, I wanted 20 boxes, and was busy sorting soldiers and farm things, so I sent him; and he was so lazy he took two Snowboys (who aren’t allowed down there) to help him. They started pulling crackers out of boxes, and he tried to box them (the boys’ ears I mean), and they dodged and he fell over, and let his candle fall right POOF! into my firework crackers and boxes of sparklers.

  I could hear the noise, and smell the smell in the hall; and when I rushed down I saw nothing but smoke and fizzing stars, and old Polar Bear was rolling over on the floor with sparks sizzling in his coat: he has quite a bare patch burnt on his back.

  It looked fine!

  That’s where Father Christmas spilled the gravy on my back at dinner!

  The Snowboys roared with laughter and then ran away. They said it was a splendid sight—but they won’t come to my party on St Stephen’s Day; they have had more than their share already.

  Two of the Polar Bear’s nephews have been staying here for some time—Paksu and Valkotukka (‘fat’ and ‘white-hair’ they say it means). They are fat-tummied polar-cubs, and are very funny boxing one another and rolling about. But another time, I shall have them on Boxing Day, and not just at packing-time. I fell over them fourteen times a day last week.

  And Valkotukka swallowed a ball of red string, thinking it was cake, and he got it all wound up inside and had a tangled cough—he couldn’t sleep at night, but I thought it rather served him right for putting holly in my bed.

  It was the same cub that poured all the black ink yesterday into the fire—to make night: it did and a very smelly smoky one. We lost Paksu all last Wednesday and found him on Thursday morning asleep in a cupboard in the kitchen; he had eaten two whole puddings raw. They seem to be growing up just like their uncle.

  Not fair!

  Goodbye now. I shall soon be off on my travels once more. You need not believe any pictures you see of me in aeroplanes or motors. I cannot drive one, and don’t want to; and they are too slow anyway (not to mention smell). They cannot compare with my own reindeer, which I train myself. They are all very well this year, and I expect my posts will be in very good time. I have got some new young ones this Christmas from Lapland (a great place for wizards; but these are WHIZZERS).


  One day I will send you a picture of my deer-stables and harness-houses. I am expecting that John, although he is now over 14, will hang up his stocking this last time; but I don’t forget people even when they are past stocking-age, not until they forget me. So I send LOVE to you ALL, and especially little PM, who is beginning her stocking-days and I hope they will be happy.

  Your loving Father Christmas

  P.S. This is all drawn by North Polar Bear. Don’t you think he is getting better? But the green ink is mine—and he didn’t ask for it.


  Cliff House,

  North Pole.

  November 30th 1932

  My dear children

  Thank you for your nice letters. I have not forgotten you. I am very late this year and very worried—a very funny thing has happened. The Polar Bear has disappeared, and I don’t know where he is. I have not seen him since the beginning of this month, and I am getting anxious. Tomorrow December, the Christmas month, begins, and I don’t know what I shall do without him.

  I am glad you are all well and your many pets. The Snowbabies holidays begin tomorrow. I wish Polar Bear was here to look after them. Love to Michael, Christopher and Priscilla. Please send John my love when you write to him.

  Father N. Christmas.

  Cliff House,

  near the North Pole

  December 23rd 1932

  My dear children,

  There is a lot to tell you. First of all a Merry Christmas! But 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. I was afraid an earthquake might happen. The North Polar Bear says he suspected what was wrong from the beginning. I only wish he had said something to me; and anyway it can’t be quite true, as he was fast asleep when it began, and did not wake up till about Michael’s birthday.

  However, he went off for a walk one day, at the end of November I think, and never came back! About a fortnight ago I began to be really worried, for after all the dear old thing is really a lot of help, in spite of accidents, and very amusing.

  One Friday evening (December 9th) there was a bumping at the front door, and a snuffling. I thought he had come back, and lost his key (as often before); but when I opened the door there was another very old bear there, a very fat and funny-shaped one. Actually it was the eldest of the few remaining cave-bears, old Mr Cave Bear himself (I had not seen him for centuries).

  “Do you want your North Polar Bear?” he said. “If you do you had better come and get him!” It turned out he was lost in the caves (belonging to Mr Cave Bear, or so he says) not far from the ruins of my old house. He says he found a hole in the side of a hill and went inside because it was snowing. He slipped down a long slope, and lots of rock fell after him, and he found he could not climb up or get out again.

  But almost at once he smelt goblin! and became interested, and started to explore. Not very wise; for of course goblins can’t hurt him, but their caves are very dangerous.

  Naturally he soon got quite lost, and the goblins shut off all their lights, and made queer noises and false echoes.

  Goblins are to us very much what rats are to you, only worse because they are very clever; and only better because there are, in these parts, very few. We thought there were none left. Long ago we had great trouble with them—that was about 1453 I believe—but we got the help of the Gnomes, who are their greatest enemies, and cleared them out.

  Anyway, there was poor old Polar Bear lost in the dark all among them, and all alone until he met Mr Ca
ve Bear (who lives there). Cave Bear can see pretty well in the dark, and he offered to take Polar Bear to his private back-door.

  So they set off together, but the goblins were very excited and angry (Polar Bear had boxed one or two flat that came and poked him in the dark, and had said some very nasty things to them all); and they enticed him away by imitating Cave Bear’s voice, which of course they know very well. So Polar Bear got into a frightful dark part, all full of different passages, and he lost Cave Bear, and Cave Bear lost him.

  “Light is what we need.” said Cave Bear to me. So I got some of my special sparkling torches - which I sometimes use in my deepest cellars—and we set off that night.

  The caves are wonderful. I knew they were there, but not how many or how big they were. Of course the goblins went off into the deepest holes and corners, and we soon found Polar Bear. He was getting quite long and thin with hunger, as he had been in the caves about a fortnight. He said, “I should soon have been able to squeeze through a goblin-crack.”

  Polar Bear himself was astonished when I brought light; for the most remarkable thing is that the walls of these caves are all covered with pictures, cut into the rock or painted on in red and brown and black.

  Some of them are very good (mostly of animals), and some are queer and some bad; and there are many strange marks, signs and scribbles, some of which have a nasty look, and I am sure have something to do with black magic.

  Cave Bear says these caves belong to him, and have belonged to him or his family since the days of his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great (multiplied by ten) grandfather; and the bears first had the idea of decorating the walls, and used to scratch pictures on them on soft parts—it was useful for sharpening the claws.

  Then Men came along—imagine it! Cave Bear says there were lots about at one time, long ago, when the North Pole was somewhere else. (That was long before my time, and I have never heard old Grandfather Yule mention it even, so I don’t know if he is talking nonsense or not).