Jackie Morris on the magic of dragons…

A few days ago, one of Moontrug’s favourite illustrators asked: ‘Would you like to do a dragon interview?’ As if she needed to ask… Moontrug was BORN to do dragon interviews; not a night goes past when she doesn’t imagine one swishing past her window. Moontrug grew up on Terry Pratchett and Cornelia Funke’s dragons and most recently she has discovered the utterly magical dragons gliding through Jackie Morris’ world…

Tell-Me-a-Dragon-by-Jackie-MorrisMoontrug: In Tell Me A Dragon you give us moon dragons, river dragons, tiny dragons, sea dragons, fire dragons, ice dragons… What would your dragon be like?

Jackie Morris: My dragon is small as small. She sits quiet in my pocket, waiting. When I need her I scoop her out in my hand and blow, gentle, one, two, three times on her nose and then she grows, until she is big as big. Then she lets me climb on her back and away we fly, into the sky, night time or day time to wherever I want to be. And when we land I thank her kindly and when she is ready I blow gentle on that great nose and she shrinks, smaller and smaller until the size of the smallest of dragons and she sits in my hand, then safe in my pocket. 


Moontrug: If you could ride a dragon to anywhere in the world today, where would you go?

Jackie Morris: Today I would go nowhere, because it is beautiful here where I am. The birds are singing, the air like silk and the sea sending quiet waves to shore. I might fly up, to the cool, to look down, to race the birds, but I would come back here, always, because I am lucky enough to live where I love. 


Moontrug: Which part of the dragon do you like drawing the most? (You always do eyes amazingly and I thought your flower dragon had beautiful wings!)

Jackie Morris: The eyes. And the wings. The claws and the jaws and the teeth. The scales and the skin. The whole.


Moontrug: Where in the UK am I most likely to see a dragon?

Jackie Morris: Wales, of course. It was built with the help of dragons. If you walk to the top of the hill above my house and sit quiet and wait, close your eyes and listen, sometimes you can hear them. They are the land and the sky, the rocks and the grass, the earth and the air. 


Moontrug: I’m in love with the ice-dragon. Does he have a name?

Jackie Morris: None of my dragons have names that we would know. None of the people do either and it was a battle hard fought with my publishers to keep it that way. I thought that by naming the people it acted to exclude the reader, whereas by not giving them names it invites the reader to become that person. I have a thing about names that comes from reading too much Ursula LeGuin. Naming gives power. Partrick Rothfuss knows this too. To know the name of a thing gives you a power over it. One of my favourite books is The Name of the Wind by P Rothfuss. My children are lucky to have names. I avoid naming my characters whenever I can and mostly my publishers seem not to  have noticed, so shhh… don’t tell them.


Tell Me A Dragon is one of the most beautiful picture books Moontrug has come across. Each page offers up a new dream – of dragons who follow ‘silver moon-paths’ and have ‘whisper-thin wings of rainbow hues.’ Just like Morris’ Snow Leopard, every word in this book carries with it an ancient magic. Fantastical creatures are stirring all around us, up in the sky, down in the sea, far away on the ice plains and tucked into river valleys… It’s impossible to get to the end of the book without dreaming up your own dragon, imagining what it would like look and how it would sound. Morris’ magic has a sort of elemental feel, as if her stories are imbued with the power of wind spirits and far away lands. And Moontrug reckons that if she was given this book at school, it would have been a whole lot more helpful than the sheets of times-tables that were shoved her way. Times-tables may teach you to add up but Morris’ books teach you how to dream – and that’s the kind of thing Moontrug wants to be discovering…


The Tell Me A Dragon art will be shown at Hornsey Library (London, N8 9JA) from 8th July (6:30-8pm for the opening night exhibition on 8th July) and the book will also be part of the Summer Reading Challenge. And if that’s not enough, Jackie Morris has made some of the art into puzzles, available from Solva Woollen Mill, AND she is giving away one signed copy of Tell Me A Dragon to the person who can draw their own dragon and write a sentence describing it – like she has done below. Send entries to abi@moontrug.com by 1st September 2014 and Moontrug and Morris will select a winner! Good luck!