June 7, 2013


Cressida Cowell: my real-life dragon island (Cressida Cowell, 07 Jun 2013, The Telegraph)

When I tell the story of my childhood, it always sounds like I am making it up. I am a children's book writer, after all; making things up is what I do for a living. But I assure you that the Isle of Berk, where the character Hiccup in my How to Train Your Dragon books lives, is a real place (though it isn't called Berk, of course). It is a place where I spent a great deal of my childhood. My father is a keen birdwatcher and a lifelong environmentalist, and although I grew up in London, every holiday was spent on a tiny uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland.

The island, which has been owned by my father for about 45 years, is so small that when you stood on top of it you could see sea all around you; a tiny little piece of rock and wind and heather in the middle of the stormy and unpredictable Hebridean sea.

There was nothing on the island. The last permanent human inhabitants were said to have been driven away by a plague of rats early in the last century. Though I never saw any rats, there were lots of birds - but no houses, no shops, no electricity, no television. When I was a baby, soon after my father bought the island, my family would be dropped off like castaways by a local boatman, who would pick us up again two weeks later. There was no way of contacting the outside world: no phone connection, no radio contact. I recently asked my father, 'What would have happened if somebody broke a leg or came down with acute food poisoning or something?' He answered, vaguely but triumphantly, 'Well nobody did break a leg, did they?' My father is not the worrying type.

Posted by at June 7, 2013 5:16 AM

blog comments powered by Disqus