Philip Pullman on The Firework Maker's Daughter
“I love fireworks. I love the noise they make and the smell they produce and the brilliant showers of sparks they give out. And I love their names: “Incandescent Fountain”, “Vesuvius”, “Clustering Snowflakes”, “Golden Brocade”. When I was a boy, I loved reading the names on the little cardboard tubes almost as much as I enjoyed watching them go off.
“When I wrote this story, my original idea was to take someone who desperately wanted to make fireworks right into the heart of the great god of fire himself. I imagined the little girl, getting hotter and hotter and more and more frightened, but determined not to give in and go back, climbing higher and higher and closer and closer to the blazing grotto in the heart of the volcano. And then …
“Oh, and I also wanted to write about a white elephant. And the young boy who looked after him. In my mind’s eye I could see the pair of them, the tiny capering mischievous figure beside the immense and snowy bulk, and I just liked the contrast of sizes and shapes. But what was that? when I looked closer, I could see … Graffiti on the elephant’s side! And the boy taking money from people for letting them put their slogans on the mighty beast!
“Well, I thought that was a good idea. But how on earth could I link it up with the little girl and the volcano?
“The answer comes in the play, and in the book the play is based on. It’s a fairy tale, but there aren’t any fairies in it. What I mean by a fairy tale is one of those stories that start “Once upon a time …” and they’re about kings, and princesses, and witches, and spells, and all sorts of improbable but exciting things, and at the heart of them are ordinary young boys and girls who have thrilling adventures and are threatened, and scared, and honest, and brave, and faithful.
“I hope you enjoy this play as much as I enjoyed writing the story. It does have a moral, but that’s important only if you can see it. If you can’t see the moral, at least you can enjoy the fireworks.”