Episode 21
December 4, 2020

The Princess Bride But with Santa

Hosted by Jared Pechaček, Ned Raggett, and Oriana Schwindt

Jared, Oriana and Ned talk about Jared’s choice of topic: The Father Christmas Letters. Literally a hundred years ago this month, Tolkien began what would be a running series of letters into the early 1940s where he wrote to his children in the guise of Father Christmas at the end of each year. Never meant for publication or even sharing beyond his immediate family, the many letters, collected and republished since his passing a number of times, grow over the years from brief notes to increasingly elaborate creations, featuring original artwork, created languages, and multi-narrator stories and adventures from Father Christmas himself and his many assistants: Karhu the North Polar Bear, his rapscallion nephews Paksu and Valkotukka, and his chief elf helper Ilbereth, with a running focus on their continuing struggles with the evil Goblins. What is the folkloric background of Father Christmas himself, and how does he appear in other noted literary figures’s work, either before Tolkien or contemporaneously with him? What elements of both Tolkien’s own particular creative processes and his specific artistic interests can be seen to have multiple connections to his main work in Middle-earth? Are the letters themselves ultimately too personal in ways, perhaps providing an insight that, even with the family’s participation, could almost be seen as voyeuristic for later readers? Or is it simply the fact that the sincerity throughout goes up against any reflexive feelings of irony? And just how absolutely goofy and great is Karhu, the ultimate slapstick screwup and big hero at the same time?

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Show Notes.

Jared’s doodle, a masterpiece of perspective. (Check the shadows.)

Photos of the new forthcoming edition of The Silmarillion with more Ted Naismith illustrations.

TheOneRing.net’s debut of the news about the 4K edition of the Peter Jackson films.

The formal publisher announcement about The Nature of Middle-earth.

The Father Christmas Letters entry in Wikipedia

The centenary edition of the letters, specifically titled Letters from Father Christmas.

A quick English-language article on Venezuelan Christmas traditions, per Oriana’s note.

Quite literally the only mention of an Anglican guilt complex on the Net is via Ned.

Father Christmas himself, per Wikipedia.

The Narnia Father Christmas is definitely not Tolkien’s.

Santa Claus Village in Finland, should you so desire to learn more.

The Great British Bake Off is, how you say, well known.

Epistolary novels are pretty big in the older canon.

The staircase illustration Ned describes.

The cave painting illustration Oriana mentioned, with the Oxford illustration at the top Jared describes.

Baillie Tolkien is indeed still with us.

A formal term for a name that replaces a forbidden name, such as is the case for ‘bear,’ is a noa-name. Here’s a brief piece with more specific information in that case.

The Karhu Concept Store in Helsinki.

Our previous episodes on imperialism and Farmer Giles of Ham.

Dickens’s A Christmas Carol’s Ghost of Christmas Present.

The Muppet Christmas Carol is next-level, forever.

Medieval marginalia is the best.

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