The news of the author’s death was confirmed by his publishing house, Penguin Random House. Briggs was beloved by people around the world who found comfort and inspiration in his works, including The Snowman, which has become essential Christmas viewing in many households.
Briggs’ other works include When the Wind Blows, The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman. His career, which spanned six decades, was defined by variety, from the mundane magic of Ethel & Ernest to the minimalist devastation of When The Wind Blows.
Briggs was born in 1934 and attended local grammar school in Wimbledon. He later abandoned school at 15 to attend an art college instead, a decision which proved wise later in life as Briggs crafted a successful career as a writer and illustrator.
In 1966, Briggs was awarded the Kate Greenaway medal for his work on The Mother Goose Treasury. He won his second medal in 1974 for his inspiring, unique take on Father Christmas.
But it’s The Snowman which has burrowed itself into the nation’s hearts. The story of a boy and a snowman which comes to life was a sensation in 1978 and the 1982 animated short film was nominated for an Oscar. The short film is almost synonymous with Christmas, but lacks the usual, expected happy ending.
Reality hits hard at the end of both the story and the film as the boy finds the snowman melted on Christmas morning. Their magical journey together before the cold light of day is what has made it such an iconic piece of art.
Briggs’ work was often melancholic and he resisted the ease of an unrealistic happy ending, telling The Radio Times in 2012 (via The Guardian): “I create what seems natural and inevitable. The snowman melts, my parents died, animals die, flowers die. Everything does. There’s nothing particularly gloomy about it. It’s a fact of life.”
“Raymond was unique. He has inspired generations of creators of picture books, graphic novels, and animations. He leaves an extraordinary legacy, and a big hole,” Francesca Dow, managing director of Penguin Random House children’s books, said.
Hilary Delamere, Briggs’ literary agent also commented on his spirit: “He kept his curiosity and sense of wonder right up to the last. He was fascinated by, and interested in us all and how we live our lives.”