Chris Riddell is an illustrator and children's author, best known for his two middle grade series Ottoline and Goth Girl as well as his political cartoons in the Observer. Here he shares his experiences on approaching the task of illustrating the new edition of J. K. Rowling's The Tales of Beedle the Bard; a supplementary addition to the Harry Potter universe.
"When asked about the pressure of taking on a Harry Potter project, I thought there might be, and I did have a sharp intake of breath. I hadn’t read The Tales of Beedle the Bard, so the pressure is exactly how you imagine: ‘Oh my gosh, the Harry Potter world, the characters, what might I need to do?’
"And I obviously said yes, instantly! I had a meeting at Bloomsbury’s offices, which was very exciting and I was hopefully concealing my utter lack of knowledge of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. I took away the book with me and read it and what was so pleasing was that I really loved the fairy tales. I loved the feel, I loved the intention, I loved the notes and I just thought, ‘This is going to be an absolute pleasure’. And what really made it extra pleasurable was that I wasn’t really with the canon. This wasn’t drawing Hogwarts, Hagrid, Hermione or any of those. I was drawing these 'fictional' characters and so I just had a wonderful time working on it without that sense of tension and worry.
"I know Jim Kay very well and he has done an astonishing job of doing precisely what we’re talking about, taking on the canon and making it his own and doing a masterful job of it. Which is why I use this line that Jim is the Head of Department at Hogwarts and I’m the supply teacher. I come along for a little bit and then I can leave and that’s what made it so much fun. I hope that comes through in the book itself, that there’s a certain irreverence."
"The fans have been incredibly generous; very accepting and almost because they know everything about the world, they can see what I’ve been taking from it and yet still things crop up. Just this morning, someone came up to me and said, ‘You’ve got Draco Malfoy wearing the wrong house colours in his tie’ and you could only just glimpse the top of it, which is why maybe it was missed, so of course I said, 'Maybe that’s because he’s up to no good, he’s a Slytherin, he’s put on the wrong tie on purpose! He’s up to something!’"
"Talking about the community of Harry Potter fans, the other heartwarming thing is the way that people who know my work from other places, but are huge Harry Potter fans, have enjoyed the fact that this guy who’s done some Neil Gaiman books and some of his own is now going into the Harry Potter world. I’ve loved that."
Chris Riddell attended Hay Festival from Saturday 25 May until Tuesday 29 May. Listen again on Hay Player here.