Errol Le Cain

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Errol Le Cain
Born Errol John Le Cain
(1941-03-05)5 March 1941
Died 3 January 1989(1989-01-03) (aged 47)
Bristol, UK
Nationality British
Known for Illustration, animation, Children's literature
Awards Kate Greenaway Medal

Errol John Le Cain (5 March 1941 – 3 January 1989) was a British animator and children's book illustrator. He won the 1984 Kate Greenaway Medal for Hiawatha's Childhood (Faber & Faber), recognising the year's best children's book illustration by a British subject.


Le Cain was born 5 March 1941 in Singapore but evacuated to Agra, India with his family the following year when Japan invaded. Returning to Singapore after the war, he attended St.Patrick's Catholic school. With no formal art education, his talent was nevertheless evident from an early age. Le Cain was fascinated by cinema and made his first animated film, The Enchanted Mouse, with a friend's 8-mm camera at age 11. His next work, The Little Goatherd, was created with a 16-mm camera at age 15. This came to the attention of agents for British film distributor Pearl & Dean, who offered to pay his passage to London that year (1956) to pursue a career in animation.[1]

In 1976 he married Dean Alison Thomson and eventually settled in a suburb of Bristol with their two children. Errol le Cain died after a long illness on 3 January 1989, aged 47.

Animation & TV work[edit]

In 1965, Le Cain joined Richard Williams's animation studio and worked on a wide range of animation projects, including film titles for A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Casino Royale, and The Charge of the Light Brigade. His most important work with Richard Williams was for the unfinished (1964 to 1992) animated film The Thief and the Cobbler.

Le Cain turned freelance in 1969, working on sets for BBC television productions, continuing with animation projects, and beginning his career as a children's book illustrator.

His animation work for the BBC began with a production of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Snow Queen", first broadcast on BBC2 on Christmas Day 1976, using live actors over backdrops designed by Le Cain. A picture-book version of the story with his illustrations was published by Viking Kestrel in 1979. This production was followed by The Light Princess (broadcast 24 December 1978 BBC2), The Mystery of the Disappearing Schoolgirls (28 December 1980) and Leon Garfield's The Ghost Downstairs (broadcast 26 December 1982 on BBC2).

Children's book illustration[edit]

Le Cain's first children's illustrations were published by Faber and Faber in King Arthur's Sword (1968),[2] which began a long association with Faber that continued to his death. Le Cain illustrated 48 children's books during his lifetime, recognised for their richly decorative watercolours and masterful command of design and colour.[citation needed] He was commended for the 1969, 1975, and 1978 Greenaway awards before winning the 1984 Medal and was commended again for 1987. The four commended books were The Cabbage Princess, which he self-authored; Thorn Rose, or the Sleeping Beauty based on the version related by the Brothers Grimm; The Twelve Dancing Princesses, retold from the Brothers Grimm; and The Enchanter's Daughter by Antonia Barber.[3][a]

Selected children's books[edit]

  • King Arthur's Sword (Faber, 1968)[2]
  • The Pleasantries of the Incredible Mulla Nasrudin (Jonathan Cape, 1968), by Idries Shah, illustrated by Richard Williams and Le Cain;[4] (Williams alone had illustrated Shah's first collection of Nasrudin stories)[1]
  • The Cabbage Princess (Faber, 1969) —commended for the Greenaway[3][a]
  • Sir Orfeo (Faber, 1970)
  • The Child in the Bamboo Grove (Faber, 1971)
  • Cinderella (Faber, 1972)
  • The King's White Elephant (Faber, 1973)
  • King Orville and the Bullfrogs (Faber, 1974)
  • Thorn Rose, or the Sleeping Beauty (Faber, 1975) —commended for the Greenaway[3][a]
  • The Flying Ship (Faber, 1975)
  • The Twelve Dancing Princesses (Faber, 1978) —commended for the Greenaway[3][a]
  • Beauty and The Beast (Faber, 1979)
  • The Snow Queen (Viking Kestrel, 1979), by Hans Christian Andersen (1845 original)
  • Mrs Fox's Wedding (Faber, 1980)
  • Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (Faber, 1981)
  • Molly Whuppie (Faber, 1983)
  • Hiawatha's Childhood (Faber, 1984) selected from Longfellow —winner of the Greenaway Medal[5]
  • Growltiger's Last Stand and Other Poems (Faber, 1986)
  • Christmas 1993 or Santa's Last Ride (Faber, 1987)
  • The Enchanter's Daughter (Cape, 1986), by Antonia Barber —commended for the Greenaway[3][a]
  • Alfi and the Dark (Hodder & Stoughton, 1988)
  • The Pied Piper of Hamelin (Faber, 1988)
  • Mr Mistoffelees with Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer (Faber, 1990)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Today the Greenaway Medal shortlist typically comprises eight books. According to CCSU, some runners-up through 2002 were Commended (from 1959) or Highly Commended (from 1974). There were 99 commendations of both kinds in 44 years, including two for 1969, two 1975, three 1978 (one highly commended), and three 1987.


  1. ^ Interview in Books for Keeps No. 47 - November 1987
  2. ^ a b "King Arthur's sword". WorldCat. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Kate Greenaway Medal". 2007(?). Curriculum Lab. Elihu Burritt Library. Central Connecticut State University. (CCSU). Retrieved 22 July 2012.
  4. ^ "The pleasantries of the incredible Mulla Nasrudin,". WorldCat. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  5. ^ (Greenaway Winner 1984). Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 22 July 2012.

External links[edit]