When the Wind Blows

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When the Wind Blows is a 1982 graphic novel, by British artist Raymond Briggs, that shows a nuclear attack on Britain by the Soviet Union from the viewpoint of a retired couple, Jim and Hilda Bloggs. The book was later made into an animated film.

Overview

The Bloggs live in rural Sussex, and exhibit considerable confusion regarding the serious nature of what has happened; this generates gentle comedy as well as darker elements. For example, after the nuclear attack, Hilda notices a smell of burning, and Jim answers "It smells like roast meat. I expect people are having their Sunday dinners early this week due to the unexpected circumstances." As the novel progresses, their situation becomes steadily more hopeless; for example, they begin to suffer from the effects of what is clearly radiation sickness. The novel ends on an extremely bleak note.

Briggs used the same characters in his earlier book Gentleman Jim, and they are similar to his parents as he later portrayed them in Ethel and Ernest. It includes references to the government leaflet, Protect and Survive, whose obvious inadequacy and willful disingenuousness in the face of such a catastrophe makes the couple's suffering seem even more poignant.

The title is on the one hand a reference to a phrase in Protect and Survive — "the radioactive dust, falling where the wind blows it, will bring the most widespread dangers of all" — and on the other a quotation from a traditional lullaby:

  • Rock-a-bye, baby,
  • In the tree top.
  • When the wind blows,
  • The cradle will rock.
  • When the bough breaks,
  • The cradle will fall,
  • And down will come baby,
  • Cradle and all.

Adaptations

Film

The book was made into an animated film by director Jimmy Murakami in 1986. The couple are voiced by Sir John Mills and Dame Peggy Ashcroft. The soundtrack consists of songs, many with an anti-nuclear theme, by prominent pop singers and groups, including Roger Waters, Genesis and David Bowie. The film shocked many when it was first released and, although the subject matter and overall plot and tone of the film is extremely serious, because of the naïve nature of the characters, the film does have some aspects of gentle but dark comedy.

Radio

There was also a BBC Radio 4 dramatisation in 1983, with the voices of Peter Sallis and Brenda Bruce. A stage version, created at around the same time, has been performed several times since.