extract from the paywall protected Times weekend feature on Raymond Briggs:
He is a famous curmudgeon. His other favourite character — after the Snowman — is his grumpy Father Christmas who hates his job. “Imagine having to do all that every Christmas,” he says. “Bloody awful. My dad was a milkman and he had to go out every day in all weathers and I used to go along sometimes. It is not in any way romantic. It is horrible and boring and not enjoyable. That’s how I think Father Christmas would view his job.’’
Yet, as the creator of The Snowman, Briggs is synonymous with Christmas. What started out as a wordless, purely illustrative book has become something of great meaning to many people. It seems to embody everything we love about Christmas — the snow, the fun and the anticipation topped off by a flight of fancy.
Written 37 years ago, the story follows the antics of a boy and the snowman he builds on Christmas Eve who comes to life and then takes him to meet Father Christmas. It has become a seasonal favourite, and it will be on our screens again this year. I ask Briggs why he thinks it has stood the test of time.
“I don’t know, really, because it’s quite sad and not particularly festive,” he says. “People always ask me what’s it about as if it really is about anything. I think everyone likes to see it as something touching or romantic. They think it’s some statement on death or life or the inevitability of death or how futile life is. I have been asked about it so many times.
“I have also had people asking me to change the ending so that the Snowman doesn’t ‘die’. They say that children can’t cope with this thought, but I find all this baffling.”
He thinks children might find it fun because of the naivety of the character of the snowman at the beginning. “He bounces on the parents’ bed and I thought they’d like that.”