Tolkien’s Christmas Tradition That Led To “The Hobbit”

‘The Hobbit’, the book that first defined the modern fantasy genre, can be traced back to J. R. R. Tolkien’s family Christmas tradition.

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There doesn’t seem to be much in common between Christmas and J. R. R. Tolkien’s literary phenomenon, The Hobbit, besides the prevalence of good food; however, it turns out that the book that revolutionized an entire genre of fiction is fundamentally linked to the holiday.

How It All Started

The conclusion of his service in the British Army during WWI was followed by the blossoming of Tolkien’s family life. He and his wife Edith created a stable and nurturing household (a direct contrast to Tolkien’s turbulent and tragic childhood). It soon becomes the test audience for works like The Hobbit and many other stories.


J. R. R. Tolkien’s writing career didn’t start when he wrote the famous first sentence of The Hobbit; rather, it took shape when he wrote his Letters From Father Christmas.

“When John (Tolkien’s son) was 3 he got his first letter from Father Christmas. From 1920 until 1943 Tolkien wrote letters, as Father Christmas, to his children. They were accompanied by a lot of funny pictures.”

Tolkien Library

Unknown to J. R. R. Tolkien and his family at the time, a lot was banked on him writing those letters, which can clearly be observed in hindsight.

Connection To Tolkien’s Later Works

Tolkien’s Christmas-themed short fictions featured many elements that carried over to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, such as “the discovery of ancient caves full of old cave drawings, and battles with goblins,” according to a review by the Tolkien Library. 


It’s interesting to consider all we know now about how Tolkien’s career unfolded; from our present standpoint, the dots can easily be traced, and strong connections can be seen between his letters and novels, especially with the settings and the writing style, as the Tolkien Library review noted. 


Just as his first novel was “accidentally” published, according to the documentary “Inside Tolkien’s The Hobbit,” by Central Independent Television & Carlton International and posted on the YouTube channel Taking Tolkien, the letters and custom illustrations were compiled and published over half a century after he started the tradition. 

Whether you’re a Tolkien enthusiast, a Christmas enthusiast, or both, you can marvel at Tolkien’s Letters From Father Christmas for being foundational to one of the great works of literature in the twentieth century, as well as a testament to the happy household he and Edith created together.