On other holidays, strolling unaccompanied on my bike near my granny’s house in the English countryside, I used to use the top of an Iron Age hill fort called the “Trundle.” The view was extraordinary– I might see for miles and miles– and I had a strong feeling of what J.R.R. Tolkien called “the heart-racking sense of the disappeared past.” It made me wonder: Who were the people who lived here, long earlier? What were their lost histories?From the hill fort, I had an excellent view of Levin Down, an extremely eerie, marvelous place that we called the”Fairy Hill.”It stood out from the peaceful country fields around it in an ominous and striking style, like the back of a whale surfacing in the ocean. The trees had blown there by opportunity, instead of being planted by human hands, and some were yew trees: I was cautioned not to touch them. There were places I could not go and “Be careful”indications (which I constantly found exciting)since the area had been used as a training ground during The second world war. To a sensitive child like myself, it was simple to believe that this hill was captivated. It was interesting, eerie, amazing and beautiful all at the same time.The hill was covered with unusual grassy mounds about the size of molehills. The grownups had no concept what they
were– which was really interesting to me, recognizing that there were things in the world that not even the adults understood. I filled in the blanks for myself and decided they must be burial mounds for fairies. This was the wonderful landscape that motivated my book”The Wizards of Once.” For the wildwood in that book, I took particular motivation from the ancient wood of Kingley Vale in Sussex. Its trees have gnarled, meaningful faces, and roots that embed into the earth with an almost visceral power. The more you find out about trees, the more magical you recognize they are. Did you know, for example, that trees can interact with each other through their roots, even when they are numerous miles apart?Trees grow throughout kids’s books. From “Peter Pan “to” A Monster Calls,””The Lord of the Rings “to”Harry Potter, “trees are havens, jails and signs of nature’s strength. They can be a friendly home, like the Hundred Acre Wood in”Winnie-the-Pooh,”or offer a sense of
threat, like the snowy forest in”The Lion, the Witch and the Closet.” They can also be symbolic, like the cement-filled dying tree in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The authors I loved when I was a child were similarly inspired by wonderful landscapes and nature: Ursula K. Le Guin, J.R.R. Tolkien, L. Frank Baum, Diana Wynne Jones, Lloyd Alexander, Robert Louis Stevenson, T.H. White– and so many others.Today, children have much less without supervision access to the countryside. I fret that they may never understand the magic of the wilderness, the power of trees and the thrilling enjoyment of checking out nature without an adult hovering behind them. And so I compose books for kids who will never know what the liberty of my youth was like.My dad never discovered whether the nest in the cliff belonged to a white-tailed sea eagle or a buzzard. The gust of wind that terrified me brought him to his senses, and he rushed back up the side of the cliff prior to I could lose my grip. We staggered back through the wind to the little stone home on the island where, in the candlelight, we dried in front of the fire.Cressida Cowell(@CressidaCowell)is the author and illustrator of the” How to Train Your Dragon” and “The Wizards of Once “series of children’s books.The Times is devoted to releasing to the editor. We wish to hear what you think of this or any of our short articles. Here are some. And here’s our email:. Follow The New York City Times Opinion area on, and.