An Eagle in the Snow
Now available in paperback.
Brilliant, fascinating and intriguing. Historical fiction at its most magnificent. - Jackie French
"I write fiction, but fiction with roots in history, in the people who made our history, who fought and often died in our wars. They were real people who lived and had their being in another time, often living and suffering through great and terrible dangers, facing these with unimaginable courage.
My challenge as a story maker has been to imagine that courage, to live out in my mind’s eye, so far as I can, how it must have been for them. So when I was told by Dominic Crossley-Holland, history producer at the BBC, about the extraordinary life and times of Eagle Henry Tandey, the most decorated Private soldier of the First World War, I wanted to explore why he did what he did.
This I have done, not by writing his biography. That had been done already. Rather I wanted to make his life the basis of a fictional story that takes his story beyond his story, and tries to explore the nature of courage, and the dilemma we might face when we discover that doing the right thing turns out to be the worst thing we have ever done."
Michael Morpurgo, 16th November 2015
Learn more about An Eagle in the Snow, the extraordinary story of the man who could have stopped World War Two.
Much ado about… me
I was born a really long time ago. 5th October 1943. In St Alban’s in Hertfordshire. My mother was there too, strangely enough, but my father was away at the war, in Baghdad. I had one older brother, Pieter. We both were evacuated to Northumberland when we were little, away from the bombs. After the war it was all change at home, not that I remember much of it. My mother wanted to be with a man she had met while my father was away in the army. He was called Jack Morpurgo. So my father came home to find there was no place for him. There was a divorce. Jack Morpurgo married my mother, and so became our stepfather. We lived in London then. We went to primary school at St Matthias in the Warwick Road, then were sent off to boarding school in Sussex - the Abbey, Ashurst Wood. I was there for six years, hated being away from home, loved rugby and singing. Then I went off to a school in Canterbury, The King’s School, where I got more used to being away from home and still loved rugby and singing. We wore strange uniforms, wing collars, black jackets, boaters. And when I was older I got to wear a scarlet gown which made me feel very important.Read more…
Much ado about me
I was born a really long time ago. 5th October 1943. In St Alban’s in Hertfordshire. My mother was there too, strangely enough, but my father was away at the war, in Baghdad. I had one older brother, Pieter. We both were evacuated to Northumberland when we were little, away from the bombs. After the war it was all change at home, not that I remember much of it. My mother wanted to be with a man she had met while my father was away in the army. He was called Jack Morpurgo. So my father came home to find there was no place for him. There was a divorce. Jack Morpurgo married my mother, and so became our stepfather. We lived in London then. We went to primary school at St Matthias in the Warwick Road, then were sent off to boarding school in Sussex – the Abbey, Ashhurst Wood. I was there for six years, hated being away from home, loved rugby and singing. Then I went off to a school in Canterbury, The King’s School, where I got more used to being away from home and still loved rugby and singing. We wore strange uniforms, wing collars, black jackets, boaters. And when I was older I got to wear a scarlet gown which made me feel very important.
I went into the army, to Sandhurst, where officers are trained. Liked the uniforms and the good food and the friends I made, but hated being shouted at. Decided the army life was not for me. Met a girl called Clare who agreed with me and we got married, really young, because we loved one another. Had children really young, three of them. Went off to university at King’s College, London to start all over again. I got my degree, just, and decided to be a teacher. I had done a little bit before and liked it. So found myself in front of a class of children for the first time. Scary! But I loved reading stories to them. They seemed to like that too. We moved around a lot from school to school, which was quite unsettling for everyone, but finally ended up teaching in a little village primary school in Kent, at Wickhambreaux, where I ran out of other writers’ stories to read, so started making up some of my own.
Then Clare and I decided to start all over again, again! She was a teacher too by this time. We thought that what children needed most were wonderful and memorable experiences that would really help them find out about the world around them and find out more about themselves too. So we set up a charity called Farms for City Children, moved to Iddesleigh, bought a big house called Nethercott where the children could stay, made a partnership with a farming family we had got to know and invited our first city children down to the farm. The charity has been running now for forty years. Over 90,000 children have come to the three farms where the charity now runs, in Wales at Lower Treginnis Farm, in Gloucestershire at Wick Court, and of course where we started it all, at Nethercott in Devon.
Clare and I worked at this for over twenty-five years, before handing it over to younger, more energetic people, all wonderful people who run it now. The three farms still go on, with about 3,000 city and town children coming to stay with their teachers for a week working down on the farm. Clare and I remain involved, but not out on the farm any more.
During all this time our children were growing up, of course. We now have eight grandchildren, with a great-grandchild on the way! And during all this time I was writing away, becoming a writer, a storyteller. Here in Devon I wrote nearly all my books, 130 I think, not that numbers count, War Horse, Private Peaceful, Why the Whales Came, The Butterfly Lion, Kensuke’s Kingdom. And with all of them, I was much helped in my writing by many friends and writers, but especially by Ted Hughes, the great poet, who lived nearby and fished on the river than runs through the farm. He became a good friend, and was a great inspiration to me to keep writing when I was finding it hard. And he and his wife Carol were always a source of great support to Farms for City Children.
Well, that’s just about all the much ado of my life, summed up in nutshell. If you do want to find out more, then read Maggie Fergusson’s biography of me, called War Child to War Horse.
Busy, busy autumn ahead.
Good to be busy, stops you from getting old - at least that’s what I tell myself anyway.
And plays too: War Horse in China (Joey got on a plane) but coming on a UK Tour next year. Kneehigh’s 946, The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips (first performed at the Globe and now on tour in the UK and US too), Why The Whales Came (Wizard Productions) on tour in the UK, Story Pockets King Arthur on tour in the UK and Running Wild (Chichester Festival Theatre) who are rehearsing for a new tour next year.
Concerts - lots of them between now and Christmas. War Horse the concert with the Royal Philharmonic and composer Adrian Sutton, Rae Smith (designer on the play War Horse), and Tim Van Eyken (songman in War Horse) and with me reading the story. This will be at the Albert Hall on October 27th - come along.
Farms for City Children is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year! Its Chief Executive, Dr Tessa Stone, has written about this unique endeavour.
Click here to read more.
Michael and his wife Clare founded Farms for City Children in 1976 at Nethercott Farm, deep in Devon river country, and Michael has called the project his ‘greatest story’. The charity now operates three working farms: Treginnis Isaf on the Pembrokeshire coast opened twenty years ago and Wick Court in Gloucestershire opened in 1997. They aim to expand the horizons of children from towns and cities all over the country by offering them a week in the countryside living together on one of their farms. The charity has inspired many of Michael’s books, including one special visit that planted the seed that would later become War Horse.
Over the years the formula has changed very little. Simply, children are involved in everything necessary to keep the farms going. They learn hands-on where their food comes from, the importance of caring for animals and the land, and the value of working co-operatively as a team. The rewards are, unusually, non-material and self-generated: children discover an active enjoyment in life and a sense of achievement, the effects of which remain with them long after they have waved the farms goodbye.
To mark the 40th anniversary of Farms for City Children, proceeds from Michael Morpurgo's new children's book "Didn't we have a lovely time!", illustrated by Quentin Blake, will help ensure even more urban children have a chance to experience the farm.
Farms for City Children is a UK registered charity. To find out more about how you can help the children to get the most out of their experience please visit: farmsforcitychildren.org/
To sign up for the Farms for City Children mailing list, click here
Michael Morpurgo: A Lifetime in Stories
Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children's Books
Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children's Books has introduced an exclusive exhibition drawn directly from Michael Morpurgo’s extensive archive donated to Seven Stories in 2015.
Michael Morpurgo is one of Britain's best loved story makers and this unique exhibition showcases, for the first time, the notebooks and manuscripts that became the classics we know today including War Horse, Private Peaceful, Kensuke's Kingdom and Farm Boy.
Explore the secrets behind Michael's storytelling through his original drafts, adaptations, scripts and unpublished manuscripts. With content rich in historical research, creativity and poignant prose, this exhibition showcases the processes behind some of the most loved titles in modern children's books.
The various and familiar themes in Michael’s story telling - war, the countryside and farming, the Scilly Isles and friendship - are explored throughout the exhibition using atmospheric soundscapes.
Included in the exhibition is artwork from some of the many illustrators who have contributed to Michael's books over his career which is now into its fiftieth year.
To find out more and to organise your visit, click here