Pupils probe author as play opens its tour in South West
WHILE chatting to Michael Morpurgo I took the opportunity to put some questions to him from Year 7 pupils at Truro's Penair School, where I'm a governor, writes Lee Trewhela.
Jaclyn Jones: Are your books based on real life stories?
Always – War Horse was based on horses that left Devon during the First World War.
The horse sale that takes place in the book in 1914 was based on one that happened in the village where I live in Devon, Iddesleigh.
Buy one get one free on main course and specials excludes fillet steaks and beef wellingtons
Must book to qualify and present voucher on arrival 01209860332
Contact: 01209 700617
Valid until: Wednesday, December 11 2013
Similarly, The Amazing Story Of Adolphus Tips is based on the Americans taking over Slapton Sands in 1944 to prepare for the D-Day landings.
I use the real, true and historical as a basis and sprinkle the soil of a story on top.
Ben Godwin: Why did you name Joey, Joey?
We actually had a horse on our farm called Joey at the time.
Maddie Barnett: Did you get to meet Joey the horse? If so, what was it like?
Yes, actually I'm seeing him again tonight at the first show of the tour at the Theatre Royal. I've often stood next to him and stroked him, but they've never let me ride him – perhaps I'm too heavy!
When you're near him, he never stops being a horse. Yes, there are three puppeteers inside him, but I never talk to them, I talk to him – I don't want to break that magic. They breathe life into the horse.
When real horses meet Joey, as happened in my village recently, they are as intrigued as they would be by any other horse.
Megan Piperithis: How old were you when you started writing?
I was 28 when I first started writing and 30 when I was published for the first time.
I came to it late – I didn't like writing at school and much preferred playing rugby and football. I didn't read lots of books like a conventional writer.
It all started when I was teaching – when I read a good book to my Year 6 pupils they would listen; it was magic. However, one day while I read them a book they didn't like I thought perhaps I could write one of my own.
Abi Pope: Did you have any emotional attachments to horses before writing War Horse?
That's a good question – my wife Clare and I started the charity Farms for City Children, to give children from inner city areas experience of the countryside; we worked in partnership with the Ward family who had a farm next door to us.
So children got to work on a proper farm with proper horses. I was in a really privileged position of seeing young people working with horses and the horses working with them.
Amy, 7I: How did you come up with the story of War Horse?
I met an old man, Wilf Ellis, in the village pub in Iddesleigh 35 years ago, who started telling me how he was 17 when he went to war. Over two hours, he told me of his experiences in the trenches and of the horses involved.
I then rang the Imperial War Museum and asked how many horses went to war from this country – they said about a million went out and 65,000 came back. That was the same number as the men who had died.
I told the story through the eyes of a horse so the suffering on both sides could be told.