Even those naughty families who’ve been very, very bad this year — by implying or telling their children Santa Claus truly exists — have surprising company in the form of a Christian classic author.
Yes, I speak of very myth-maker behind the Biblically derived concepts of myth-become-fact and “eucatastrophe,” and the classic fantasies The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. J.R.R. Tolkien didn’t shy from Santa, or make historical appeals to St. Nicholas, or vaguely reference the fantasy icon of Santa, or “allow” Santa with default suspicion because Christmas is truly Jesus’s birthday.
Tolkien instead pulled off an elaborate deception. Year after year, Christmas after Christmas, he went beyond the cliched — but I recall highly effective — partly eaten cookies and milk and carrots for the reindeer.
Instead, Tolkien being Tolkien, he wrote letters “from” Santa. In his own hand. With drawings. Color drawings. And custom “Arktik” runes. Along with a mini-mythology of Santa, the North Pole, and at least one comically clumsy polar bear who should not attempt DIY projects. Then Tolkien sent these letters to little John, Michael, Christopher, and Priscilla Tolkien. Yes, I am afraid this patron saint of myth-in-perspective outright lied to his own children.
Top of the World
Near the North Pole
My dear boys,
I am dreadfully busy this year — it makes my hand more shaky than ever when I think of it — and not very rich. In fact, awful things have been happening, and some of the presents have got spoilt and I haven’t got the North Polar Bear to help me and I have had to move house just before Christmas, so you can imagine what a state everything is in, and you will see why I have a new address, and why I can only write one letter between you both. It all happened like this: one very windy day last November my hood blew off and went and stuck on the top of the North Pole. I told him not to, but the N.P.Bear climbed up to the thin top to get it down — and he did. The pole broke in the middle and fell on the roof of my house, and the N.P.Bear fell through the hole it made into the dining room with my hood over his nose, and all the snow fell off the roof into the house and melted and put out all the fires and ran down into the cellars where I was collecting this year’s presents, and the N.P.Bear’s leg got broken. He is well again now, but I was so cross with him that he says he won’t try to help me again. I expect his temper is hurt, and will be mended by next Christmas. I send you a picture of the accident, and of my new house on the cliffs above the N.P. (with beautiful cellars in the cliffs). If John can’t read my old shaky writing (1925 years old) he must get his father to. When is Michael going to learn to read, and write his own letters to me? Lots of love to you both and Christopher, whose name is rather like mine.
That’s all. Goodbye.
Was Tolkien sinning?
Did his children as a result of his “lies” inevitably fall into wickedness and atheistic hatred of Christians?
Even if they did, why exactly would Christians care about listening to atheists reasons/excuses for rejecting Christ? Won’t such skeptics also tell you that they never ever met a Christian who wasn’t a hypocrite or that the Church only leads to worldwide evil?
How did you grow up thinking about Santa? How does this — for it inevitably will — color your view of the Santa fantasy now?