(1934- ) UK illustrator and writer, initially popular for his children's books, mostly in formats that utilize the visual conventions of Comics. His most notable single work for a younger audience is debatably The Snowman (graph 1978), which was adapted as a 25min Animated Movie, The Snowman (1982 tvm); this movie has proved perennially popular, both in video form and when shown on tv (in the UK at least annually, at Christmas). The eponymous hero of RB's textless narrative lives in blissful ignorance that it is his fate eventually to melt. A later companion was The Snowman Pop-Up Book * (graph 1986). Though much of his earlier output is specifically directed towards children, it is clear that mature concerns permeate his entire oeuvre, all of which is of exceptional interest. Throughout there is a sense of the fragility of contentment, of the soul-oppressing weight of prejudices, and of the profound importance of remaining true to oneself, despite the distorting demands of the outer world.
RB's most remarkable fantasy, however, is Fungus the Bogeyman (graph 1977), which creates a Wainscot society of deliciously loathsome creatures whose Topsy-Turvy life is a comic Bondage: their imposed duty of frightening people is endured, not enjoyed. Beneath the schoolboy filth-jokes, the hero is a Knight of the Doleful Countenance, glumly questioning the Rituals of his absurd existence. A companion volume was The Fungus the Bogeyman Plop-Up Book * (graph 1982).
RB's most famous work for adults is When the Wind Blows (graph 1982), a dreadful-warning sf tale about nuclear holocaust, also in comics form; it was also published as an unillustrated play (1982), broadcast as an acclaimed radio play, and made into a cumulatively powerful animated movie, When the Wind Blows (1986). The Tin Pot General and the Old Iron Woman (graph 1984) too closely anatomized the 1982 Falklands War to ingratiate itself with devotees of UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. In The Man (graph 1992) a young boy encounters a diminutive man, member of another Wainscot society (> Great and Small), who insists upon his autonomy (as well as his need for special food) while staying with the lad for three days. The melancholy which attends their inevitable separation is very effectively conveyed, as is the moral intensity of their conversational clashes. In RB's works costs are always registered, as in a parallel tale, The Bear (graph 1994), in which a large polar bear visits a similar home. [JC]
other works: Midnight Adventure (graph 1961); The Strange House (graph 1961); Ring-a-Ring o' Roses (anth 1962), verse; Sledges to the Rescue (graph 1963); The White Land (anth 1963); Fee Fi Fo Fum: A Picture Book of Nursery Rhymes (anth 1964); The Elephant and the Bad Baby (graph 1969) with Elfrida Vipont (1902-1992); Jim and the Beanstalk (graph 1970); Father Christmas (graph 1973) and its sequel, Father Christmas Goes on Holiday (graph 1975); Gentleman Jim (graph 1980); Unlucky Wally (graph 1987) and Unlucky Wally Twenty Years On (graph 1989).
Selected works illustrated by RB: Peter and the Piskies: Cornish Folk and Fairy Tales (coll 1958) by Ruth Manning-Sanders (1888-1988); Look at Castles (1960) by Alfred Duggan (1903-1964); William's Wild Day Out (1963) by Meriol Trevor; Whistling Rufus (1964) by William Mayne; Mother Goose Treasury (anth 1966); The Hamish Hamilton Book of Giants (anth 1968) ed Mayne; Richthofen the Red Baron (1968) by Nicholas Fisk; Fairy Tale Treasury (anth 1972) ed Virginia Haviland (1911-1988); The Forbidden Forest, and Other Stories (coll 1972) by James Reeves.
Raymond Redvers Briggs