As we prepare to hang up our stockings on Christmas Eve, hoping for a visit from a certain gentleman dressed in red, let’s take a closer look at a wonderful, festive book for Tolkien fans of all ages.

The October 2020 edition from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The October 2020 edition from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Released in time for the 2020 holiday season, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has followed the path of its British cousin Harper Collins in publishing a striking new edition of the Letters from Father Christmas. Hitting the American market in late October, this oversized hardback beauty boasts 208 pages of colorful Christmas chronicles first designed to enchant Tolkien’s growing family with seasonal tales from the North Pole. This is the first three-digit milestone for the Tolkien corpus: as a “Centenary Edition”, the publication date marks the 100th anniversary of the first letter from Father Christmas reaching three-year old John Frances Reuel Tolkien in December 1920. These letters would continue over the next 23 years, welcoming Michael, Christopher, and Priscilla into the society of Father Christmas, the Great (Polar) Bear and his two sidekick nephews, Paksu and Valkotukka, and an elvish secretary, as they cope with everything from goblins to general clumsiness.

This latest (and more affordable) edition, like the slipcase “Deluxe Edition” published in 2019 by Harper Collins, contains transcriptions and facsimile pictures of the entire collection of “F.C.” letters, along with their assorted envelopes and stamps so characteristic of Tolkien’s meticulous attention to detail. It also includes an introduction from the book’s editor and Tolkien’s daughter-in-law, Baillie Tolkien, who married Christopher in 1967. Also included is a personal note from the Professor himself, reproduced for the first time.

Letters from Father Christmas, Deluxe Slipcase Edition, published by Harper Collins in October 2019 at an appropriately deluxe price point.
Letters from Father Christmas, Deluxe Slipcase Edition, published by Harper Collins in October 2019 at an appropriately deluxe price point.

Tolkien likely began these letters as a whimsical family flourish, designed to make Christmastime a bit more magical for his children. But as with most of his projects, the tale grew in the telling.  The letters began with a simple note of less than 100 words to his firstborn, accompanied by an iconic Father Christmas “self-portrait” and picture of his house.

Father Christmas assures young John Tolkien that all is well at the North Pole
Father Christmas assures young John Tolkien that all is well at the North Pole

Over the years, these evolved into occasional notes to each of his children, much lengthier epistles, occasional poetry, a more extensive cast of recurring characters, and assorted annual calamities to be overcome: from a plumbing disaster, to a broken North Pole, to reindeer on the loose, to an unexpected visit from the Man in the Moon. Occasionally, there is even a faint early echo from Middle-earth, with the appearance of elven aid “Ilbereth”, a single vowel away from his more famous star-kindling forebear; extensive new languages and calligraphy for multiple races, and a great (polar) bear fighting off goblin hordes in ways that would make Beorn proud.

The Great Polar Bear defends the realm Beorn style
The Great Polar Bear defends the realm Beorn style

The art of The Father Christmas Letters proves to be the most engaging element of the books, including meticulous hand drawn stamps and envelope decorations, spidery handwriting in Tolkien’s favorite black and red mix (nearly illegible in some cases), and above all the host of water color illustrations that surely captivated the imagination and speculation of Ronald and Edith’s young family, even as they continue to do for us (especially for any who have had a chance to see some of the originals under glass at recent exhibitions in Oxford, New York, or Paris).

This combination of text and illustration is a likely contributor to the Letters’ complicated publishing history. They first appeared three years after Tolkien’s death with a greatly abridged 1976 edition that focuses on pictures (not always reproduced in their complete form), partial texts, and only token reproductions of the original and elaborate written and decorated letters.

The first edition, and third posthumously published Tolkien work, clocks in at only 44 pages, 1976
The first edition, and third posthumously published Tolkien work, clocks in at only 44 pages, 1976

Even in this premier edition, there are hints from Baillee Tolkien that we were only getting a sampling of a richer treasure. Further editions followed, largely keeping to a similarly abridged approach.

It was not until 1993 that Tolkien scholars began to appreciate the full extent and complexity of what was still missing from the Father Christmas saga; and inquiring minds wanted to know more.

The first response was a delightful new edition published by Houghton Mifflin in 1995, introducing a novel approach: ten letters enclosed in actual envelopes, sprinkled with recaps and illustration highlights. While still not exhaustive, this latest installment began to recreate some of the delight of actually receiving and opening these annual updates. The book also included three previously unpublished pictures.

Father Christmas starts mailing it in, 1995; a new title approach, too!

Finally, in 1999, we received a new “revised and enlarged” version, with the complete set of more than 30 letters and all of Tolkien’s pictures, some with a lesser quality color reproduction. For the truly deep-pocketed, there was also an opportunity to add to their Easton Press library of well-bound leather books. These were particularly fine editions for those who love distractingly enlarged details as page decorations.

Now that the complete set of letters was finally available to the public, we could enter the era of anniversary editions. The first on the scene came after five more years, in 2004, with fewer pages and illustrations, but at least fewer marginal distractions. The 2009 edition – or 10th anniversary of the complete set – proved that the 1999 version was only mostly complete, adding several omitted pages from letters in 1937 and 1941. An updated version of the same edition in 2012 provided 39 new images covering all but a few pages of the actual letters, and much improved reproductions.

For the truly dedicated enthusiast, the upgraded Collector’s Edition of the Bodleian’s exhibit catalogue, Tolkien, Maker of Middle-earth, includes a facsimile version of the Christmas 1936 letter and its accompanying explanatory picture.

For the truly dedicated enthusiast, the upgraded Collector’s Edition of the Bodleian’s exhibit catalogue, Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth includes a facsimile version of the Christmas 1936 letter and its accompanying explanatory picture.

Tolkien’s family tradition ended on a bittersweet note in a 1943 letter (“a grim year”) to a 14-year-old Priscilla. Father Christmas muses, “After this I shall have to say ‘goodbye’, more or less: I mean, I shall not forget you. We always keep the old numbers of our old friends, and their letters; and later we hope to come back when they are grown up and have houses of their own and children.” The 2020 Centenary Edition of The Father Christmas Letters offers just that kind of opportunity: to reminisce, to return, to find great hope and cheer in small things, and to consider how we might pass this joy to future generations. Merry Christmas!

(Looking for further gift ideas, as you rush to complete your shopping? Check out TORn’s holiday gift guide!)

Editor Note: Throughout the month, and as part of our Tolkien Advent Calendar celebration, we are featuring news and resources for fans of J.R.R. Tolkien, his worlds and works. Today’s official advent calendar is below!

Day 21 of TheOneRing.net's Advent Celebration 2020
Day 21 of TheOneRing.net’s Advent Celebration 2020
Illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien /Letters from Father Christmas

Worried about what to get your favorite Tolkien fan for the holidays? Worry not! TheOneRing.net staff is here with suggestions for every fan of every age and every budget.

From all of us at TheOneRing.net, have a safe and peaceful holiday season.

Illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien
Illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien

*Please note prices are listed in US dollars and may change after publication*

deej recommends: Shelob ring from Badali Jewelry; $71 (sign up for their mailing list and get 10% off; plus they have Black Friday/Cyber Monday sales going on right now!). Order here.

“I have several pieces from this company, and can’t wait to add this one to my collection! If you’re an arachnophobe, fear not – Badali Jewelry has a whole line of officially licensed, hand-crafted Middle-earth jewelry. Plus you’ll be supporting a great independent business.”


Funko Pop! Rides: Gandalf on Gwaihir; $30. Order here.

“I know not everyone is a fan of Funko Pops, but this one is pretty darn cute.”


The Lord of the Rings: Motion Picture Trilogy (Extended & Theatrical)(4K Ultra HD + Digital) and The Hobbit: Motion Picture Trilogy (Extended & Theatrical)(4K Ultra HD + Digital); $89.99 each. Order here and here.

“Who doesn’t need another set of these amazing films? And in 4k Ultra HD, they are going to look and sound better than ever! Now I just need to purchase a new 4K television so I can watch the Middle-earth saga the way it was meant to be seen.”

Tolkien 2021 Official Calendar; price tbd. Order here.

“To coincide with the new edition of ‘Unfinished Tales’, you can also have a beautiful 2021 wall calendar with illustrations by John Howe, Alan Lee, and Ted Nasmith.”


greendragon recommends: “I’m a huge fan of Scottish company Oscha. Their products are gorgeous – incredible woven art, and all ethically made. If you want to support a small business, and buy something really special for a loved one, look no further. Not just baby products – their scarves, throws, bags, etc are all stunning. Even mugs!”

Legend of Frodo Garnet Ceo Scarf – This gorgeous burgundy scarf features flowing ecru Sindarin script reading “Even the smallest person can change the course of history”, while the central band of text reads the name of this design “The Legend of Frodo.”; from $51.39. Order here.

Misty Mountains Coldfells Ring Sling– This beautiful midnight blue sling features the formidable Misty Mountains, which cut across Middle Earth, with a verse sung by Thorin Oakenshield & Co in The Hobbit running in runes along the borders; from $125.01. Order here.

Map of Middle Earth Messenger Bag -This organic cotton tote bag is designed with the length and breadth of Middle Earth, from Mordor to The Lonely Mountain and beyond, based on the classic illustrations by J. R. R Tolkien himself; from $17. Order here.


HMH publications: “What could be better for a Tolkien lover, than writings from the Professor himself? This Fall, a number of new editions were published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. There’s a gorgeous new collector’s edition of HoME, an illustrated Unfinished Tales, and a new paperback three-volume LotR set for any youngsters you might like to introduce to the wonders of Middle-earth! Plus, perfect for the holidays – there’s a Centenary edition of Tolkien’s ‘Letters from Father Christmas’. My personal favourite is the brand new ‘Hobbit Sketchbook’ from Alan Lee; full of wondrous art to inspire and delight. I’d love to find that under my tree!”

  • THE HOBBIT SKETCHBOOK by Alan Lee; $30. Order here.
  • THE HISTORY OF MIDDLE-EARTH Box Set (also available as individual volumes) by Christopher Tolkien and J.R.R. Tolkien; $225. Order here.
  • UNFINISHED TALES, ILLUSTRATED EDITION by J.R.R. Tolkien, illustrated by Alan Lee, John Howe, and Ted Nasmith; $30. Order here.

Volante Designs Lord of the Rings Collection; prices vary. “Wow these coats and jackets are amazing. Want to roam around like a ranger from Gondor? Or skulk in the shadows like a Wraith? TORn’s friends at Volante Design have made amazing outerwear which enables you to do just that! This independent business based in Massachusetts added two, officially licensed Middle-earth designs to their amazing collection; and they’ll ship at the end of November, so just in time for the holidays!”; order here.


Madeye Gamgee recommends: “Another independent artisan worth supporting: Cave Geek Art. I met the CaveGeek, Kfir Mendel, at DragonCon 2016, where his original map of Middle-earth created a stir among the Tolkien fandom (and a dent in my wallet). The CaveGeek specializes in pyrography, burning his designs with 3-D effect into tanned buckskin, and then painting them with primitive pigments using a deer bone as his brush. He specializes in maps across a number of geekdoms. For Tolkien lovers, in addition to Middle-earth, his offerings include Thror’s map of the Lonely Mountain, and his most recent edition anticipating the new Amazon series: Númenor. You can find his prints and original leather pieces by clicking here. Plus he takes commissions!”


Elessar recommends: Fisher-Price® Little People® Collector Lord Of The Rings set. For fans age 1-101; $29.99. Order here.


saystine recommends: Elven diadems, ear cuffs, and hair accessories by RomanticElfJewelry; prices vary. Order here.


garfeimao recommends: Legolas and Gimli at Amon Hen 1:6 scale Limited Edition statue by Weta Workshop; $699. Pre-order here.

Father Christmas illustration by J.R.R. Tolkien

Once again, we face that eternal question, “What gift can I buy for the Tolkien fanatic in my life this year?” As always, we here at TheOneRing.net have provided answers to this question, to help make it as easy and painless as possible.  So, without further ado, welcome to TORn’s Holiday Gift Guide 2019.

From everyone at TheOneRing.net, we wish you all a safe and peaceful Holiday season.

greendragon recommends: Letters from Father Christmas. A must have for every Tolkien fan. Click here to order.

35 BAGSHOT ROW – CHRISTMAS EDITION. From New Line Cinema, Peter Jackson and Warner Bros. comes J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, brought to the big screen in an epic trilogy. Weta Workshop was thrilled to return to Middle-earth once again, contributing design, specialty props and specialty costumes to all three films. Click here to order.



deej recommends: Badali Jewelry’s The Rings of Men: Umbar. Click here to order.

Weta Workshop; Arwen and Frodo on Asfaloth. Click here to order.



Garfeimao recommends: “Tolkien”, biopic that came out earlier this year. It is a lovely film with some really nice acting and moments of humor that brings J.R.R. Tolkien’s younger years to life. Click here to order.



grammaboodawg recommends: Gandalf Deluxe Statue by Iron Studios for Sideshow. Click here to order.

Frodo Statue by Iron Studios for Sideshow. Click here to order.

Nazgûl Deluxe Statue by Iron Studios for Sideshow. Click here to order.

“Attacking” Nazgûl Deluxe Statue by Iron Studios for Sideshow. Click here to order.

Balrog (Deluxe Version) by Star Ace Toys Ltd. for Sideshow. Click here to order.


Kelvarhin recommends : Funko Pop! Rides: Lord of The Rings – Gwaihir with Gandalf and Funko Pop! Rides: Lord of The Rings – Witch King with Fellbeast. I absolutely love these two collectibles from Funko Pop! I’d be a very happy little tiger if they were left under my tree this year. Click here and here to order.




Kristin recommends: Catherine McIlwaine’s Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth as a great gift for Tolkien fans. Click here to order.


Joel recommends checking out the Bodleian library website for that extra special gift.



All prices are in US dollars, except for the items from the Bodleian, which are in UK pounds.

In our Holiday Gift guide this year we let you know about Lootcrate’s exciting Lord of the Rings crates, which will be coming out next year – but are available for pre-order right now! The good folks at Lootcrate have contacted us to let us know that they’ve had such a great response, they’ve extended their special offer for those pre-ordering the complete set of three boxes. Order the trilogy of crates – which will contain fabulous, new Lord of the Rings merchandise – and while supplies last, you’ll receive an exclusive fleece pullover. More information can be found on Lootcrate’s website.

If you’re still doing last minute gift shopping, check out our Holiday Gift guide for more great ideas!

You’ll remember a while back we brought you news of the lovely Middle-earth inspired collection from the good folks at Oscha Slings  – stunning throws, scarves, baby wraps and even mugs, all crafted with incredible elven, dwarvish and hobbity designs.

In our Holiday Gift guide we mentioned that there is now clothing available from Oscha  – and we want to make sure you all know about it! They have joined forces with Teemill to create some gorgeous tshirts, tops, hoodies, bags, and more. If you’re looking for something beautiful and original for the Tolkien lover in your life (or even just for yourself), then you should definitely check out their amazing products. (The image shows their Doors of Durin design, just one of their hand-drawn illustrations.) Even better, all their products are made using 100% certified organic cotton, renewable energy, and minimal waste technology. Quick delivery is available – but the last order date to have your goodies in time for Christmas is fast approaching, so don’t delay!

Check out our Holiday Gift guide for more ideas.

 

 

Once again, it’s time for the staff of TheOneRing.net to share our picks for the perfect Tolkien-themed gifts*, whether it’s for that someone special or you just want to treat yourself!

In addition to all of the gift ideas below, the folks at Loot Crate want to give all of you something special, too: 10% off their Lord of the Rings Limited Edition Trilogy Loot Crates – this deal is exclusively for readers of TheOneRing.net!

Official, licensed Lord of the Rings limited edition crates, based on the film trilogy and curated by Loot Crate, the premiere subscription box service for pop culture fans. Each crate will feature exclusive items. What you get is a surprise until you open it – it’s like getting an excellent 111th birthday present from a dear friend who arrives precisely when he means to!

Order a trilogy of crates delivered right to your Hobbit-hole. Use code ONERING10 to receive 10% off all 3 crates.  10% offer good until Dec. 25th, 2018, midnight ET.

Additional details can be found here: https://www.lootcrate.com/crates/lord-of-the-rings

 

 

From everyone at TheOneRing.net, we wish you all a safe and peaceful Holiday season.

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deej recommends: Funko Pop! Treebeard – “I may or may not have a slight addiction to Funko figures, with an emphasis on Lord of the Rings/Hobbit and The Nightmare Before Christmas Pops.  This one might be my favorite. Just remember – once you start collecting these, it’s hard to stop!” Click HERE to order

Eowyn Sheildmaiden necklace by Badali Jewelry -“A beautiful piece from the talented artists at Badali; the front of the shield shows 2 intertwined Rohan horses. On the back are her words to the Witch King” ‘”No living man am I, You look upon a woman’. GORGEOUS!”  Click HERE to order.

 

 

 

greendragon recommends: Oscha official Middle-Earth inspired clothing collection (click HERE), as well as Oscha baby slings and wovens inspired by the world of Tolkien (click HERE ) -“Because this stuff is so stunning and gorgeous! Also it’s organic and ethically made. Support a small business and buy something beautiful!” 

In addition to Oscha, can I suggest Albion Tea Company? It’s a small, family business, perfect for the book lover in your life! Right now they have Narnia inspired blends on offer; often they have Middle-earth teas too. Lovely, literature inspired gifts and teas, perfect for a cosy winter afternoon curled up with the Professor. Plus you get to support a small business – win win!” Click HERE to order.

 

 

Justin recommends: The Lord of the Rings Trilogy Soundtrack Box Set (Vinyl format); click HERE to order.

‘Book Wyrm’ enamel pin from Gimme Flair; click HERE to order.

 

 

 

 

 

Kristin recommends: Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth; edited by Catherine McIlwaine, Bodleian Library, 2018 – click HERE to order.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Garfeimao recommends: Orcrist, from Weta Workshop’s Master Swordsmith’s Collection (limited to only 25!) – click HERE to order.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

saystine recommends: Isengard print from Etsy – “My recommendation is something for your walls.  I love this Isengard print…they have other locales for sale as well.” Click HERE to order.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magpie recommends: “I often recommend ‘The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien’ as the *next* book to read once one falls in love with ‘The Lord of the Rings’. The format of letters are easy to browse at will and they offer keen insight into Tolkien’s creative world building of Middle-earth. The book has an extensive index but getting an additional Kindle copy lets one do a word search of the book. This could be combined nicely with audio CD of J.R.R. and Christopher Tolkien reading selections from ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’.” Click HERE to order.

Also, this J.R.R. Tolkien Miniature Diorama Desk Scene – “This diorama is one of a kind but the artist has done single figures of Tolkien in the past and will take special orders.” Click HERE to order.

 

Elessar recommends: The Balrog, Flame of Udun Bust, by Weta Workshop: “Got a chance to see this at Comic-Con and its the coolest bust I’ve seen Weta do. The light effect along with the new clear resin are awesome.” Click HERE to order.

Arwen and Frodo on Asfaloth, by Weta Workshop: “About as elegant a rider piece as you’ll ever find and the new clear resin really makes the water and chiffon pop.” Click HERE to order.

 

 

 

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*Prices are in U.S. dollars; prices and availability are subject to change.