‘The Snowman,’ is a symphonic poem written and illustrated in 1978, by author Raymond Briggs. It first published as a wordless children’s book and was later brought to the British Public Television screen. It is screened every Christmas on Britain’s Chanel 4. Illustrations tell the story.
Miles and an ocean from Britain, I found a copy of this treasure. The book’s cover is now tattered, the spine has loosened. Yet, when I turn the page, the illustrations remain fresh. As is often heard said, when one questions the other, it began. A love affair, a curiosity with that which fuels imagination and beauty. Over time, I’d find myself scouring cluttered china shops, searching Royal Dolton figurines of ‘The Snowman.’
A choral ballad plays, “Walking In The Air,” by Howard Blake. As one listens, one is carried by the swelling chorus, entering the beautiful mind of the illustrator. ‘The Snowman,’ comes to life.
We’re walking in the air
We’re floating in the moonlit sky
The people far below are sleeping as we flyHoward Blake
The night is sharp. Stars shine bright. Images are softened, far off in time, reminiscent, as if viewed through the glass of a shaken snow globe.
One late afternoon, it snows. Rushing out the door, James builds a snowman. Later, in bed, he has a dream. In it, he meets a snowman. Together, they embark on a journey to other lands, briefly touching down at the North Pole.
In stupor, we sink deeper into our couches and armchairs. There is only silence and stillness in the air. We are co operative, propelled along the journey.
As one, we fly above a world of towers and trees, over hillsides filled with wildlife, cross an ocean. A whale breaches the sea. A slap. The salty kiss of brine.
On the edge of dawn, ‘The Snowman’ returns James to the doorstep.
In the morning, he wakes to sunshine.
From couches and armchairs, we hear the phone ring, feel the text buzz. A ward against that which we really feel. In a fleeting instance, something deep within us, has stirred. We remember what it was to be innocent, to wonder, enchanted by the world’s mystery and magic, forever moved by that which delighted or teased us. We discover, we miss each other better in the distance.
‘The Snowman,’ by Raymond Briggs, is a beautiful story. Find it. Share it.
The idea was clean, nice and silent. I don’t have happy endings,” Briggs told the Christmas edition of Radio Times. “I create what seems natural and inevitable.