J.K. Rowling: How my son's toy inspired my new book The Christmas Pig
How my son’s toy piggy inspired me: Prepare to set out on a sparkling adventure in this exclusive extract from J.K. Rowling’s new book… and discover the secret behind its story
Just in time for Christmas, there’s a new heartwarming page-turner from one of the world’s greatest storytellers.
The Christmas Pig by J. K. Rowling tells the story of Jack, a boy who has lost his most treasured toy, Dur Pig (DP for short), a small toy pig made of the same material as a soft towel, with shiny black plastic eyes; the toy pig Jack has loved since he was very young.
But Christmas Eve is a night for miracles and lost causes, a night when all things can come to life — even toys. So, it’s when Jack is given a replacement pig — Christmas Pig, or CP for short — that the adventure really begins.
The Christmas Pig takes Jack on a journey through the magical Land of the Lost, as we reveal in this exclusive extract alongside some of the dazzling illustrations from the book, drawn by the hugely popular artist Jim Field.
The Christmas Pig will publish tomorrow. But first, author J. K. Rowling reveals how this festive tale was inspired by the day her own son David, then three, found, by accident, a replacement to his favourite pig toy while he was ‘poking around’ in a cupboard. . .
A very personal tale: An exclusive author Q&A with J.K. Rowling
Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind the story? What inspired you to write The Christmas Pig?
Although the story is invented, the initial inspiration came from a real toy, or rather, pair of toys.
My son David’s favourite, can’t-go-to-bed-without-him toy when he was little was a pig just like the one in the story, made of soft towelling material and filled with belly beans (although the real life toy isn’t called Dur Pig. That’s my invention).
David was prone to hiding this pig in all kinds of places, so bedtime was sometimes put off while we tried to track the pig down. At one point I got so worried that David was going to lose his pig for good that I bought a duplicate just in case.
The Christmas Pig will be published tomorrow in time for Christmas and here J.K. Rowling details how the tale was inspired by son. Pictured: Rowling reads extracts from her new book
One day, while poking around in a cupboard, three-year-old David found the replacement pig by accident, declared him to be his original pig’s brother and kept him, too, so they’re both still with us.
The story was inspired by my dread of David losing his beloved pig for good, and gradually I became interested in what it would mean to be a replacement toy, knowing that you couldn’t ever be quite what the original was, with all its many associations and memories. Slowly, the Land of the Lost started to take shape.
Did you have a treasured toy growing up?
My equivalent of Dur Pig was a large, blue-eyed, pink and white teddy bear, which was bought for me by my grandparents. I ended up calling him Henry, after one of the trains on Thomas The Tank Engine. He’s still with me, bald in places due to my habit of picking at his fur when I was very small.
Where did you write the story?
In my writing room in the garden, but I remember mapping out the Land of the Lost while our family was on holiday. My children were playing on the beach and I was huddled beneath a sunshade, drawing maps and thinking through the logistics of the world.
The Christmas Pig by J.K. Rowling (pictured) will be published tomorrow
How different was it plotting out the Harry Potter series? Is there any magic in The Christmas Pig?
I’m a great planner and I knew exactly what was going to happen, and where, and how, before I started writing The Christmas Pig.
The Christmas Pig is a magical story, but in a very different way to Harry Potter. You’re entering a world that runs according to its own peculiar magical laws, and there is magic around Christmas Eve, but there are no wands and wizards.
If you had to describe the character Jack in three words, what would those three words be? And what three words would they be for the Christmas Pig?
Jack is brave, loving and a little lost, though he finds himself through his adventure with the Christmas Pig, and I’d describe CP in exactly the same way.
Do you lose things? What’s the worst thing you have ever lost?
I lose things constantly. It’s one of the things that irritates me most about myself. The worst thing I ever lost was my mother’s engagement ring; it still makes me sad to think about it.
Why do you think beloved toys and items are so important for children (and adults)?
Psychologists call these treasured toys ‘transitional objects’, which can soothe children and act as a comforting stand-in for a parent when needed.
That’s quite a clinical way of looking at it, though.
I see them as invested with a certain kind of magic. They may come to us formed, but we remake them in our own image, investing them with characteristics of our own and idealised personalities.
We look after them and they look after us. That special bond is what I set out to explore in the Christmas Pig.
Now plunge into J.K. Rowling’s magical new world
By J.K. Rowling
With the word ‘lost’, everything beneath Jack’s feet vanished. He was falling — or rather, slowly sinking — down through the place where the floor should have been.
It was as though he was trapped in some thick substance he couldn’t feel or see. The tree lights had disappeared: all was inky blackness.
‘Christmas Pig?’ Jack called in panic.
‘I’m here,’ came the Christmas Pig’s voice out of the darkness. ‘Don’t worry! This is how you enter the Land of the Lost! It’ll be light in a moment!’
Sure enough, within a few seconds Jack was able to see the Christmas Pig again. Like Jack, he was floating downwards.
Their surroundings became gradually lighter until Jack realised they were both sinking through their own column of golden light. Above them were two round holes in a wooden ceiling that Jack thought must be the floor of the world they’d left — his world, where Mum lived, where everything he knew existed.
Rowling says The Christmas Pig is a magical story, but in a very different way to Harry Potter
Down, down, down they sank, and now Jack noticed that he and the Christmas Pig were far from the only Things sinking slowly through their columns of light. There were thousands upon thousands of them. Weightless, Jack was able to twist and turn, and in every direction he saw more sinking Things.
Nearest to Jack were a teaspoon, a shiny red Christmas bauble, a dog whistle, a pair of false teeth, a glove puppet, a shiny coin, a long string of tinsel, a camera, a screwdriver, a plane ticket, some sunglasses, a single sock, a teddy bear and a roll of wrapping paper patterned with reindeer.
‘You wouldn’t think it was possible, would you?’ the wrapping paper called to Jack. One of the reindeers on her surface was talking and blinking. ‘Third time she’s lost me this evening! I’ve rolled under the radiator … she’s panicking … left the wrapping too late, as usual!’
The roll of paper had barely uttered these words when she reversed direction and began travelling up instead of down, towards the hole in the ceiling. As she rose out of sight the wrapping paper shouted, ‘Yay, she’s found me! Good luck! Hope you’re back Up Top soon!’
Jack didn’t answer, because he was too astonished by everything that was happening around him and, especially, what he could see of the floor below.
At first, he thought he was looking down at a carpet of many different colours, but as he sank further he realised the carpet was really millions of Things.
Scared, he scanned the floor for the Loser, but having no idea what the Loser looked like, he couldn’t tell whether he was there or not.
The lower Jack sank, the louder the noise: the Things on the floor were chattering and clattering and clinking and rustling, until the sound was almost deafening.
As their surroundings became lighter still, Jack realised that he was inside a gigantic building like a warehouse, with immensely high brick walls and many holes peppering the wooden ceiling.
The Things that had reached the ground, the rubber balls and diaries, the paperclips and tape measures, the cameras, pens and purses, were all jabbering away in their groups.
Jack was so fascinated by everything he was seeing that his landing took him by surprise. His bare feet touched the warm wooden floor, and the Christmas Pig landed beside him, in a pathway between a mass of jangling keys and an army of rustling umbrellas.
‘We’ll need a ticket,’ said the Christmas Pig briskly. ‘Come on.’
n Extracted from The Christmas Pig by J.K. Rowling, published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Hachette Children’s Group, on October 12, 2021 @ £20. © J. K. Rowling 2021.
The Christmas Pig is a registered trade mark. Illustrations by Jim Field. Photography Debra Hurford Brown © J. K. Rowling.
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