If my spirit starts to wane on Christmas Eve Eve, The Snowman, British illustrator Raymond Briggs’ wordless Christmas epic, is the only thing that can save me.
The picturebook was originally published in 1978 (by Random House in the U.S.) and the animated adaptation first aired on Christmas Eve in 1982 (here is the best scene on YouTube), and the artistry, the accompanying score (composed by Howard Blake), and the story still charm me.
The tale includes a ride on a retro motorcycle, a visit to the North Pole, a penguin encounter, a cruise ship full of “revelers” drunk on champagne and holiday cheer, childlike humor and an enchanted friendship. The conclusion uses one of my favorite children’s story plot devices: a physical article left behind to prove that the magic is real, not just a dream.
I really love the Snowman—this particular Snowman—for his roundness. His disproportionate limbs, the inelegant brim of his hat, even his nose. We have a stuffed Snowman that winds up and plays Blake’s Walking in the Air. When the music box starts to wind down, the melody creeps tenderly along to its ending. I know it’s just mechanics, but the effect is perfect.
I’m holding very tight
I’m riding in the midnight blue
I’m finding I can fly so high above with you
—Howard Blake, Walking in the Air