Cressida Cowell, I Had a Gloriously Wild Childhood. That’s Why I Wrote ‘How to Train Your Dragon.’ NYTimes:
The hill was covered with strange grassy mounds about the size of molehills. The adults had no idea what they were — which was very exciting to me, realizing that there were things in the world that not even the adults understood. So I filled in the blanks for myself and decided they must be burial mounds for fairies. This was the magical landscape that inspired my book “The Wizards of Once.”
For the wildwood in that book, I took particular inspiration from the ancient wood of Kingley Vale in Sussex. Its trees have gnarled, expressive faces, and roots that embed into the earth with an almost visceral power. The more you learn about trees, the more magical you realize they are. Did you know, for example, that trees can communicate with each other through their roots, even when they are many miles apart?
Trees grow throughout children’s books. From “Peter Pan” to “A Monster Calls,” “The Lord of the Rings” to “Harry Potter,” trees are refuges, prisons and symbols of nature’s potency. They can be a friendly home, like the Hundred Acre Wood in “Winnie-the-Pooh,” or give a sense of menace, like the snowy forest in “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” They can also be symbolic, like the cement-filled dying tree in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The writers I loved when I was a child were similarly inspired by magical landscapes and nature: Ursula K. Le Guin, J.R.R. Tolkien, L. Frank Baum, Diana Wynne Jones, Lloyd Alexander, Robert Louis Stevenson, T.H. White — and so many others.
Today, children have much less unsupervised access to the countryside. I worry that they may never know the magic of the wilderness, the power of trees and the thrilling excitement of exploring nature without an adult hovering behind them. And so I write books for children who will never know what the freedom of my childhood was like.