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      Raymond Briggs Biography + Notes

'Raymond Briggs was born in Wimbledon Park, London, in 1934. His father,
          Ernest, was a Co-op milkman for over thirty years and was awarded a certificate
          when he retired. His mother, Ethel, was 'in service' for over twenty years but
          received no certificate. At the age of ten, Briggs passed 'The Scholarship'
          and went to the local Grammar School. Here he had daily speech lessons
          and learned to become middle class. After five years he was awarded 'The
          School Certificate'. At the age of fifteen he went to the local art school and
          after two years he was awarded 'The Intermediate Art Certificate'. After two
          further years studying painting he was awarded 'The National Diploma of
          Design (in Painting) Certificate'. He was then conscripted into the army
          where he attained no rank but was awarded a certificate saying 'Excused
          Boots'. He studied painting for two more years at the Slade School of Fine
          Art and here he was awarded 'The Diploma of Fine Art (London University)
          Certificate'. Since leaving the Slade in 1957 and failing as a painter, he has
          been a freelance illustrator, book designer and writer producing what are
          known as 'children's' books. For work in this field he has been awarded
          several certificates....'

                        - When The Wind Blows
                           Penguin Books reprint preface 1988


Briggs The Underdog

Take a step back and look at the body of Raymond Briggs' work. There's
a bit of a pattern forming, isn't there? Let's start with the Father Christmas
and Fungus The Bogeyman books. Yes, yes, it's bloomin' Santa and a green
grotty bogeyman, but look closer. Here are two of life's underdogs
- essentially working class characters making-do with what life's thrown
at them, griping when they need to gripe, but savouring the small pleasures
they can eke from their existence. Now look at Jim and Hilda Bloggs in
Jim and When The Wind Blows. He's a lowly toilet cleaner who
dreams of better things. And here's where Briggs develops his theme.
Jim the worker ant is shown trying to reach for his dreams but getting
hopelessly entangled in the red tape of bureaucracy. Then, when The
Bomb is dropped in When The Wind Blows he and Hilda naively follow the
government's inadequate procedures, trusting those in power to protect
and defend the workers. Hmm. So you're with me now, eh? Okay, in The
Tin-Pot Foreign
General... Briggs gets bolder. He wears his colours on his
sleeve as he openly scorns the principles of  power that saw the working
man being sent to war over an irrelevant disputed territory. Later, in The
Briggs returns to the theme, looking at how power and those roles
of master and servant can be so manipulated. This 'underodg' theme
may well stem back to Briggs' own childhood, it seems. Jim and Hilda,
in particular, bear a strikingly-close resemblance to Ethel and Ernest,
Briggs' parents, whose lives he has movingly depicted in the same-titled
novel. Briggs' father spent some thirty-odd years as a Co-op milkman,
his mother was a maid-turned-housewife. They retain a sunny disposition
in spite of their lot in life. How terribly British, eh?

                                                                                    - FD 2000

James and The Snowman   Special Friends

Now here's a second theme for you: Magical friendships. It's beating
at the heart of  The Snowman, The Man and The Bear. All three tales
detail a special friendship between a magical being and a young child. 
Here are a trio of extraordinary encounters which will sparkle in the
memory beyond childhood, on into adulthood and old age....

The Snowman and The Bear create their magic during a short, special
period of time. The Man, however, moves the theme on a step, exploring
the relationship over an extended period. In all three books Briggs 
cleverly questions the parameters of such an encounter and places
each squarely in the Real World: The Snowman fears heat and seeks
the solace of a freezer for comfort. The Bear does what bears do, in Tilly's
house, and not in the woods. And The Man seeks warmth, clothing, food
and protection. Grounding the relationship strengthens the magic and
makes this trio of tales infinitely more memorable. Still not convinced?
Then take a look at Ivor The Invisible. As before, Ivor is a 'Special
Friend' with needs and desires to be fulfilled. John and Ivor's special
relationship exists for a finite period of time, and we are shown how
their friendship is built upon a specific line of expectation, challenged
by Mr Briggs in the story's conclusion...

  all copyright belongs to Raymond Briggs and his publishers