Raymond Briggs: 'The Snowman' creator dies aged 88

Family pay tribute to the author who transformed Christmas for millions

'We're Walking in the Air' was used as the soundtrack in the beloved animation, which tells the story of a snowman who comes to life. PA
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Author of The Snowman Raymond Briggs has died aged 88.

His family paid tribute to him following his death on Tuesday, hailing his "rich and full" life and his love of playing practical jokes.

Briggs's wordless story about a young boy who builds a snowman on Christmas Eve, before it comes to life and they fly through the night skies, has been adored by millions since it was first published in 1978.

"We know that Raymond's books were loved by and touched millions of people around the world, who will be sad to hear this news," his family said.

"Drawings from fans — especially children's drawings inspired by his books — were treasured by Raymond and pinned up on the wall of his studio.

"He lived a rich and full life."

The book has sold more than five million copies around the world and was turned into an animated TV version in 1982 — becoming a festival staple and childhood favourite. It also featured the song We're Walking in the Air, which was later made famous by Welsh opera singer Aled Jones.

"Raymond played practical jokes and enjoyed them being played on him," his family added.

"All of us close to him knew his irreverent humour — this could be biting in his work when it came to those in power. He liked The Guardian editorial describing himself as an 'iconoclastic national treasure'."

Francesca Dow, managing director of publishers Penguin Random House Children's, said: "Raymond's books are picture masterpieces that address some of the fundamental questions of what it is to be human, speaking to both adults and children with a remarkable economy of words and illustrations.

"Raymond is probably best known for The Snowman. He needed greater freedom perhaps than the standard 32-page picture book format allowed and created a radical and beautiful innovation: a wordless picture book for children, a storyboard of stills that became an instant classic in its own right, as well as the much-loved animation."

Dow said Briggs was "unique" and "inspired generations of creators of picture books, graphic novels and animations".

She added: "He leaves an extraordinary legacy, and a big hole."

Briggs's literary agent, Hilary Delamere, said: "Raymond liked to act the professional curmudgeon, but we will remember him for his stories of love and of loss.

"I know from the many letters he received how his books and animations touched people's hearts."

Briggs also created favourites such as Father Christmas, Fungus The Bogeyman and When The Wind Blows.

Updated: August 10, 2022, 10:23 AM