Exhibition Launch: A Viking's Guide to Deadly Dragons with Cressida Cowell

Cressida Cowell’s popular How to Train Your Dragon books are the inspiration for the next exhibition at Seven Stories, the national centre for children’s books in Newcastle upon Tyne. A Viking’s Guide to Deadly Dragons opened to the public on Saturday 27 October 2012 and will be open for a year, before touring nationally.

Author Cressida Cowell said:

Seven Stories is a wonderful gallery, and I am incredibly excited and honoured that the How to Train Your Dragon books are to be the subject of an exhibition. I hope that a whole new generation of children will be as fascinated by dragons and Vikings as I was when I was a child.

The brand new exhibition developed by Seven Stories and Cressida Cowell, will include Cressida’s original drawings, manuscripts and working processes from her hugely popular How to Train Your Dragon book series, which have also been made into a popular film by DreamWorks animation.

A Viking’s Guide to Deadly Dragons will transport you back in time to the Dark Ages, a world where Vikings ruled and dragons roamed. With Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third as your unlikely hero, discover the tribe of Hairy Hooligans, his island home of Berk, his hunting dragon Toothless and his quest to become a hero the hard way. Dare to explore the wild dragon cliffs, sail on a Viking longship, share epic yarns in the Great Hall and learn to speak Dragonese.

Kate Edwards, Chief Executive of Seven Stories added:

There are loads of fantastic stories about dragons and Vikings and their popularity endures through generations of children. Cressida Cowell’s How to Train your Dragon series is one of the finest and most inventive examples – they are epic tales in every sense, and they are very, very funny. A Viking’s Guide to Deadly Dragons will be a must for anyone – young or old – who dares to imagine a time when we shared the world with dragons.”

Anne McNeil, Publishing Director of Hodder Children’s Books said:

It is thrilling whenever an individual story crosses boundaries from book to film to interactive story space. How to Train Your Dragon is an example of just how important story is in every medium. When I first saw a ‘real-time’ exhibition of this kind put on by Seven Stories I could hardly believe that fun, learning and play could be so brilliantly combined. Families will love it!”

Cressida Cowell grew up in London and every year the family spent holidays and on a small, uninhabited island off the west coast of Scotland which had no roads, houses or electricity. In the stone house built by her father, Cressida spent a lot of time drawing and writing stories by candle-light. In the evening, her father told tales of the Vikings who invaded the islands twelve hundred years before, of the quarrelsome Tribes who fought and tricked each other, and of the legends of dragons who were supposed to live in the caves in the cliffs.


Cressida said:

The name of the island is a secret, but it was such a small island it wasn’t really big enough to have a name at all. There were no roads or shops, just a storm-blown, windy wilderness of sea-birds and heather. When I was four, my family would be dropped off like castaways on the island by a local boatman and picked up again two weeks later. In those days there were no mobile phones, so we had absolutely no way of contacting the outside world during that time. If something went wrong, we just had to sit tight and hope that the boat really did come to pick us up in two weeks time.”

It seemed perfectly possible to Cressida that dragons might live in that wild, stormy, place and when she was only eight or nine years old she began to write stories about Vikings and dragons. After school, she went to university to study English, and then to art college gaining degrees in graphic design and illustration. For her final project at art school she created a childrens’ book called Little Bo Peep’s Library Book, which was published by Hodder Childrens’ Books in 1998. She has written ten more picture books, including the Emily Brown stories, which won the Nestle childrens’ book prize in 2006.


In 2002, remembering the stories she had written on the island as a child, Cressida turned these ideas into the book for older children; How to Train Your Dragon. Cressida has written and illustrated nine books in the popular How to Train Your Dragon series which is now published in over 30 languages. Cressida published a 2012 World Book Day book, Day of the Dreader, in March and the eagerly anticipated tenth book in the How to Train Your Dragon series, How to Seize a Dragon’s Jewel, was published this October. The film of How to Train Your Dragon made by DreamWorks Animation was a huge hit in 2010 and a sequel is also planned due for release in 2014.

The exhibition is supported by Hodder Children's Books