Book Review: Letters from Santa and the Ice Bear

JRR Tolkien took Christmas pretty seriously. He took the time to write complete letters to his children in the name of Santa. He even created a strange, spindly and unfamiliar (to his family) form of handwriting, so the children wouldn’t know they came from dad.

There’s also a collection of fun personalities that live with Santa, including the Polar Bear, who is both hapless and mischievous:

“Still [Polar Bear] is all right now—I know because he has been at his tricks again: quarreling with the Snowman (my gardener) and pushing him through the roof of his snow house; and packing lumps of ice instead of presents in naughty children’s parcels. That might be a good idea, only he never told me and some of them (with ice) were put in warm storerooms and melted all over good children’s presents!”

And very pleasant neighbors:

“The Man in the Moon paid me a visit the other day—a fortnight ago exactly—he often does about this time, as he gets lonely in the Moon, and we make him a nice little Plum Pudding (he is so fond of things with plums in!).”

In several others, the North Pole is attacked by goblins who actually wage war on the Christmas castle, but find all of Santa’s helpers are far better versed in combat than one might assume – particularly the bear. The goblin wars are exciting, but they are an unusual (and vaguely violent) perspective on Father Christmas, which made them feel a bit odd at points. If you’ve read the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, than these stories will sound very familiar.

“I had to blow my golden trumpet (which I have not done for many years) to summon all my friends. There were several battles—every night they used to attack and set fire in the stores—before we got the upper hand, and I am afraid quite a lot of my dear elves got hurt…They have rescued all my reindeer. We are quite happy and settled again now, and feel much safer. It really will be centuries before we get another goblin-trouble. Thanks to Polar Bear and the gnomes, there can’t be very many left at all”

The dates on the letters range from 1920 to 1943, so Santa’s struggles with WWII are detailed in several.

“I am so glad you did not forget to write to me again this year. The number of children who keep up with me seems to be getting smaller: I expect it is because of this horrible war, and that when it is over things will improve again, and I shall be as busy as ever. But at present so terribly many people have lost their homes: or have left them; half the world seems in the wrong place.”

From both a historical and biographical perspective, this portion of the letters are fascinating – to an adult. I attempted to explain the historic significance of those dates to the children in my life and they just stared at me with blank confusion.

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My only complaint about the hardcover version  centers on the illustrations. Tolkien included several pictures, illustrating the North Pole and the antics of the Ice Bear. The hard cover edition provides glossy, full-color reproductions of the handwritten letters and all illustrations, but the size of the book is slightly large than a pocket novel (about the size of an 8.5 x 11 piece of paper folded in half), so these reproductions are hard to see.

What I wish they had done was a large format, full color, 3-D version similar to the Ologies books, such as Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons (Ologies) by Dr. Ernest Drake (Author), Dugald A. Steer (Editor).

This super-fancy format would provide ample room for showing off the letters and illustrations, including little envelopes with copies of the letters included. The Dragonalogy book’s secret pockets with letters in both English and in runes are fascinating to children and just-plain-fun for us stodgy-old-adults.

There are many more quotes from this book already posted to this blog, including those mentioned above.

Book reviewed: Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

What I Came For

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I stared out over the land in a demolished rapture, too tired to even rise and walk to my tent, watching the sky darken. Above me, the moon rose bright, and below me, far in the distance, the lights in the towns of Inyokern and Ridgecrest twinkled on. The silence was tremendous. The absence felt like a weight. This is what I came for, I thought. This is what I got.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

  • Pacific Crest Trail: Website and Twitter

Haven of Peace

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There is a haven for those tired of this war. There is a haven, out of view, where dragons and people still keep peace. It will always be a haven, and we pray that those who need it will find it in time.

Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

 

The Difference Between Obama and Trump

Here is the difference between Obama and Trump…

2008 Election

After the 2008 election, people all over the United States were LITERALLY dancing in the streets.

The AP Archives

In Harlem, thousands of people, black and white, took to the streets, some dancing, others crying tears of joy…

In Miami, honking horns and fireworks greeted news of Obama’s victory. In Seattle, people poured out of bars, restaurants and houses in the streets near historic Pike Place Market…

But the biggest celebration was in Chicago, Obama’s hometown, where several hundred thousand people jammed the streets as the president-elect addressed the nation from Grant Park.

The downtown park — where police fought anti-war protesters during the turbulent 1968 Democratic National Convention — was transformed by white tents and a stage lined with American flags and hung with red, white and blue bunting.

Tear of Joy, dancing in streets over Obama win, NBC News

2016 Election

After the 2016 election, people are violently confronting one another in the street, hate crimes are on the rise and people are expressing increasing levels of fear.

Day 1 in Trump’s America, Twitter

Pulling from news reports, social media, and direct submissions at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, the SPLC had counted 201 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation across the country as of Friday, November 11 at 5pm. These range from anti-Black to anti-woman to anti-LGBT incidents. There were many examples of vandalism and epithets directed at individuals. Often times, types of harassment overlapped and many incidents, though not all, involved direct references to the Trump campaign. Every incident could not be immediately independently verified.

Over 200 Incidents of Hateful Harassment and Intimidation Since Election Day, SPLC

A black woman from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, also tells how she was threatened with a gun when pumping gas. Four white men pulled up and started talking about how they wouldn’t have to deal with black people much longer, she wrote on Facebook. “How scared are you, you black b****h?” she said one of the men shouted at her.

Racist attacks sparked by Donald Trump’s US election win, International Business Times

Posts show Illinois college students wearing blackface and posing in front a confederate flag while one man showed his vandalized car with a racial slur painted across the windshield. In classrooms, white students, some as young as kindergarten age, have been reportedly chanting “cotton picker” and “heil Hitler” at black students while Muslim women have shown concern for wearing a hijab in public.

‘Day 1 in Trump’s America’ Highlights Racist Acts, Violent Threats, Rolling Stone

 

I Am Allowed An Opinion

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I’m not going to stand here and tell you war is bad or wrong, we shouldn’t do it, and we should work for peace instead, because it would be too easy for people like General Branigan to say I’m naïve, I’m just a kid. To blow me off and act like nothing I say could be important. But if you think about it, I have more right than anyone to talk about what’s going on here, to have an opinion about it. I think if I’m allowed to stand up here and talk at all, then I’m allowed to have an opinion that matters.

Voices of Dragons by Carrie Vaughn

 

Simple Life of Battle

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The Shield Bug was happy. It had an enemy. It had a sword. Soon the sword would meet the enemy. Life was simple when you were a Shield Bug.

Septimus Heap, Book One: Magyk by Angie Sage

War Is Never Cheap

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Beat The Devil’s Tattoo

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“Your soul is able
Death is all you cradle
Sleepin’ on the nails
There’s nowhere left to fall
You have admired
Every man desires
Everyone is king
When there’s no one left to pawn”

“There is no peace here
War is never cheap dear
Love will never meet here
It just gets sold for parts
You cannot fight it
All the world denies it
Open up your eyelids
Let your demons run”

Beat The Devil’s Tattoo on Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

War Hurts Santa

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During the final 12 days before Christmas, I am posting quotes from Santa’s letters – courtesy of JRR Tolkien. It’s a wonderful book and a grand idea. I wish I’d thought of it. 🙂

The following was written in 1939:

“I am very busy and things are very difficult this year owing to this horrible war. Many of my messengers have never come back.”

The following was written in 1940:

“We are having rather a difficult time this year. This horrible war is reducing all our stocks, and in so many countries children are living far from their homes. Polar Bear has had a very busy time trying to get our address-lists corrected. I am glad you are still at home!”

The following was written in 1941:

“I am so glad you did not forget to write to me again this year. The number of children who keep up with me seems to be getting smaller: I expect it is because of this horrible war, and that when it is over things will improve again, and I shall be as busy as ever. But at present so terribly many people have lost their homes: or have left them; half the world seems in the wrong place.”

The following was written in 1943:

“My messengers tell me that people call it “grim” this year. I think they mean miserable: and so it is, I fear, in very many places where I was specially fond of going; but I am very glad to hear that you are still not really miserable. Don’t be! I am still very much alive, and shall come back again soon, as merry as ever.”

Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

Santa’s Goblin War

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During the final 12 days before Christmas, I am posting quotes from Santa’s letters – courtesy of JRR Tolkien. It’s a wonderful book and a grand idea. I wish I’d thought of it. 🙂

The following story line occurred during World War II and I couldn’t help but wonder if it was author-Tolkien indulging his own novel-writing habits or father-Tolkien trying to address his children’s fears and anxieties by creating a fictional war both fought and won by Santa himself. It would make a wonderful classroom discussion or term-paper topic.

“Goblins are to us very much what rats are to you, only worse because they are very clever; and only better because there are, in these parts, very few. We thought there were none left. Long ago we had great trouble with them—that was about 1453 I believe—but we got the help of the Gnomes, who are their greatest enemies, and cleared them out.”

“I had to blow my golden trumpet (which I have not done for many years) to summon all my friends. There were several battles—every night they used to attack and set fire in the stores—before we got the upper hand, and I am afraid quite a lot of my dear elves got hurt…They have rescued all my reindeer. We are quite happy and settled again now, and feel much safer. It really will be centuries before we get another goblin-trouble. Thanks to Polar Bear and the gnomes, there can’t be very many left at all”

“I wonder what you will think of my picture. “Penguins don’t live at the North Pole,” you will say. I know they don’t, but we have got some all the same. What you would call “evacuees”, I believe (not a very nice word); except that they did not come here to escape the war, but to find it! They had heard such stories of the happenings up in the North (including a quite untrue story that Polar Bear and all the Polar Cubs had been blown up, and that I had been captured by Goblins) that they swam all the way here to see if they could help me. Nearly 50 arrived.”

Letters From Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

 

James Madison and Benevolent Assimilation

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November is Native American Heritage month. The following is one of a series of historic Presidential quotes on Native American rights and the political relations between the United States government and the first nations of this continent.

Fair warning: Most of these statements are not nice and, at times, can be difficult to read. They also make excellent starting points for a research paper.

The following is the list of objectives James Madison gives for his time in office – note the contrast.

JAMES MADISON FIRST INAUGURAL ADDRESS SATURDAY, MARCH 4, 1809

Indulging no passions which trespass on the rights or the repose of other nations, it has been the true glory of the United States to cultivate peace by observing justice, and to entitle themselves to the respect of the nations at war by fulfilling their neutral obligations with the most scrupulous impartiality. If there be candor in the world, the truth of these assertions will not be questioned; posterity at least will do justice to them.”

To cherish peace and friendly intercourse with all nations having correspondent dispositions; to maintain sincere neutrality toward belligerent nations; to prefer in all cases amicable discussion and reasonable accommodation of differences…”

“…to foster a spirit of independence too just to invade the rights of others, too proud to surrender our own, too liberal to indulge unworthy prejudices ourselves and too elevated not to look down upon them in others…”

“…debts; to keep within the requisite limits a standing military force, always remembering that an armed and trained militia is the firmest bulwark of republics—that without standing armies their liberty can never be in danger, nor with large ones safe…”

“…to carry on the benevolent plans which have been so meritoriously applied to the conversion of our aboriginal neighbors from the degradation and wretchedness of savage life to a participation of the improvements of which the human mind and manners are susceptible in a civilized state….”

United States Presidents’ Inaugural Speeches by United States. Presidents.