|The Tolkien kids were very lucky indeed. Every Christmas they
received a personal letter from Father Christmas, telling of events up at the North Pole.
Frequently, these involved the misadventures of the North Polar Bear Father
Christmas's main assistant who adds his own comments to the letters, and sometimes
writes himself. They are often accompanied by wonderful colour drawings depicting the
events and places mentioned in the letters.
The one-sided conversation does sometimes
spark curiosity about the unseen letters from the children to Father Christmas, but their
absence is probably no great loss. It would have been nice if more of the original letters
could have been reproduced, though the multicoloured, frequently decorated missives
are fascinating. But presumably the ones included in the book are the best examples, and
the typeset transcripts are certainly easier to read. Samples of the envelopes are also
reproduced, with their own decorations and often hand drawn North Pole "stamps".
There are some parallels with Tolkien's better-known works, particularly the gathering
hordes of goblins in caves beneath the North Pole, and the elvish secretary Illbereth. And
his passion for linguistics is apparent in the inclusion of a letter in the goblin
alphabet followed a few years later by the key to deciphering it!
The letters weren't written with publication in book form in mind, which does show, but
this is still a delightful read. The amusing stories and beautiful illustrations make this
easily one of the classic Christmas books.
The one big drawback with this edition is the size; being scarcely larger than a
mass-market paperback novel, it doesn't do the many illustrations justice. If for some
reason you particularly want a pocket-sized version, then this one will do nicely, but
otherwise I'd advise tracking down a larger format volume.