Author Michael Morpurgo fuses facts with fiction

Wed Nov 25, 2009 2:04am EST
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By Belinda Goldsmith

SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Michael Morpurgo has been writing award-winning children's books for decades but he has lost none of his passion for story-telling or his fascination with taking a real-life event and fusing it with fiction.

Morpurgo, a 66-year-old Briton and former primary school teacher, has written more than 120 books with his latest, "Running Wild" inspired by the real story of a boy saved by an elephant during the Asian tsunami in 2004.

In Morpurgo's world, the boy is left an orphan as his father has been killed fighting in Iraq and his mother presumably killed by the tsunami so he is raised in the jungle, where he finds the main threat to life there is mankind.

Morpurgo, who was Britain's Children's Laureate from 2003 until 2005 and was awarded an OBE for services to literature, spoke to Reuters about writing and story-telling:

Q: What was the fascination with the elephant story?

A: "I was brought up by a mother who loved Rudyard Kipling and she read to me "The Elephant's Child" in the "Just So Stories" which I loved and it stayed in my head all my life. Later on when I started to read, I read "The Jungle Book" and I always had the idea that I would write a book about an elephant and a wild child lost in the jungle but I didn't dare go there."

Q: What changed that?

A: "During the reporting of the terrible tsunami in 2004 I only came across one story that I thought was positive and hopeful and enchanting. A young boy was on an elephant ride on the beach ... it sensed something was not right and pulled away from the handler and charged into the jungle with this boy on its back. His life was saved and his father came back later and helped the handler look after the elephant and helped rebuild the village that was destroyed. One of the things that inhibited me from writing about a wild child and an elephant was that it tended to be set back in time and associated with empire but here was a story that was absolutely now."   Continued...