Mechtild (mechtild) wrote,

Merry Christmas ~ 2009 (featuring Father Christmas illustrations by Tolkien).


Hi! I'm back both from the two-week trip to my mother's and from my recent overnighter to see the Trilogy (no symphony, just the films). I'm trying to catch up on mail and house stuff, still have loads to do for Christmas , and have not even touched the Frodo project I started last month, something to go with a jan-u-wine poem. Still, I thought I'd say "Merry Christmas" before the day slipped by.

To celebrate, here are some scans from a book I bought recently, J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator. I knew Tolkien could paint and draw, but I didn't realise how good he was. His human figures lack finesse, but he was very good at rendering structures and natural settings. If I have time, I will post some scans of his work in honour of his birthday coming up. Maybe this sort of "eye" is what makes his descriptive passages so strong.

In this post are a few images of the sort of things Tolkien made for his own children. For several years, he sent them illustrated letters, purportedly from Father Christmas (or his staff: Karhu the Polar Bear or Ilbereth the secretary elf), full of details of life--hum-drum, comical or alarming--at the North Pole. What fun it had to have been for him to write the letters and illustrate them each year, and what fun for his children to receive them. I'm sure the Tolkien household had its hard times, its unhappy times, but it had to be a delight, too, living with such an imaginative parent who took such pleasure in providing entertainment for his children.

1. Father Christmas (top) and his house (bottom), as if painted by Father Christmas, sent to John in 1920. This is from the first letter Tolkien made. It shows a very cold Father Christmas (blowing beard and coat, red cheeks and nose, ice-crusted boots) tramping through the snow with a bundle, with a second picture underneath showing Father Christmas' igloo-like snowy round house, hushed and radiant under a night sky lit by stars and a full moon. Pencil, black ink, watercolour and silver powder.

2. Envelope, addressed as if by Father Christmas, to John, 1924, with hand-done North Pole stamp and stamp cancel lines. Tolkien developed characteristic handwritings for his letter-writers. Father Christmas has a shaky, but, here, decorative hand.

3. Self-portrait by N.P.B.(North Polar Bear) Karhu, one of Father Christmas' valued associate. The shaky writing at the bottom was written by Father Christmas. Karhu wrote in "fat paw" but later, more proficient, began to write in "Arktik", with angular, rune-like characters. Note the sort of dots-and-dash style, seen again in illustrations for The Hobbit. Additional note: "Paksu" and Valkotukka" are nephews of Karhu. Pencil, black, red and green ink, 1931.

A very happy holiday to you all!

~ Mechtild


Here are links to editions of Letters From Father Christmas Amazon has for sale:
Here's the cover of the 1st edition (1976):

Tags: art, christmas, tolkien

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