SPY novelist John le Carré handed out prizes following an Oxford University contest to spark pupils’ interest in German language and culture.

Youngsters from across the UK took part in the Oxford German Olympiad, which this year had a Brothers Grimm theme.

Mr le Carré, author of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, presented prizes on Tuesday at the Bodleian Library to 42 winners and runners-up.

Pupils aged 11 to 18 completed German comic strips, making short films and writing newspaper reports based on tales including Hansel and Gretel.

Cressida Hay, 12 – pictured with Mr le Carré, from Oxford – a pupil at Matthew Arold School, Cumnor, was a winner in the years 7-9 comic category.

She said: “I really enjoyed taking part in the competition and meeting John le Carré.”

The event was organised as part of the Oxford German Network, a cultural project set up last year by the university’s Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages.

Mr le Carré said: “I started to learn German around the age of 13 and today I wish it had been earlier.

“I was love at first sound.”

Prof Katrin Kohl, director of the Oxford German Network, said: “This year we focused on the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tales since it is the 200th anniversary of their publication.”

The Olympiad attracted more than 500 entrants from across the country.