Roald Dahl (/ˈroʊ.əld ˈdɑːl/; 13 September 1916 – 23 November 1990) was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter, and fighter pilot. His books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide.
Born in Wales to Norwegian immigrant parents, Dahl served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. He became a flying ace and intelligence officer, rising to the rank of acting wing commander. He rose to prominence as a writer in the 1940s with works for both children and adults, and he became one of the world's best-selling authors. He has been referred to as "one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century". His awards for contribution to literature include the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and the British Book Awards' Children's Author of the Year in 1990. In 2008, The Times placed Dahl 16th on its list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".
Dahl's short stories are known for their unexpected endings, and his children's books for their unsentimental, macabre, often darkly comic mood, featuring villainous adult enemies of the child characters. His books champion the kindhearted, and feature an underlying warm sentiment. Dahl's works for children include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, The Twits and George's Marvellous Medicine. His adult works include Tales of the Unexpected.
Dahl in 1954
|Born||13 September 1916|
Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales
|Died||23 November 1990 (aged 74)|
|Occupation||Novelist, poet, screenwriter|
|Education||The Cathedral School, Llandaff|
St Peter's School, Weston-super-Mare
|Children||5, including Tessa, Ophelia and Lucy|
|Relatives||Sophie and Phoebe Dahl (granddaughters)|
Nicholas Logsdail (nephew)
|Branch||Royal Air Force|
|Service number||774022 (aircrew)|
Roald Dahl was born in 1916 at Villa Marie, Fairwater Road, in Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales, to Norwegian parents, Harald Dahl and Sofie Magdalene Dahl (née Hesselberg). Dahl's father had emigrated to the UK from Sarpsborg in Norway, and settled in Cardiff in the 1880s with his first wife, a Frenchwoman named Marie Beaurin-Gresser. They had two children together, Ellen Marguerite and Louis, before her death in 1907. His mother came over and married his father in 1911. Dahl was named after the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen. His first language was Norwegian, which he spoke at home with his parents and his sisters Astri, Alfhild, and Else. Dahl and his sisters were raised in the Lutheran faith, and were baptised at the Norwegian Church, Cardiff, where their parents worshipped.
In 1920, when Dahl was three years old, his seven-year-old sister, Astri, died from appendicitis. Weeks later, his father died of pneumonia at the age of 57. Later that year, his younger sister Asta was born. With the option of returning to Norway to live with relatives, Dahl's mother decided to remain in Wales. Her husband Harald had wanted their children to be educated in English schools, which he considered the world's best.
Dahl first attended the Cathedral School, Llandaff. At the age of eight, he and four of his friends (one named Thwaites) were caned by the headmaster after putting a dead mouse in a jar of gobstoppers at the local sweet shop, which was owned by a "mean and loathsome" old woman called Mrs Pratchett. The five boys named their prank the "Great Mouse Plot of 1924". Gobstoppers were a favourite sweet among British schoolboys between the two World Wars, and Dahl would refer to them in his creation, Everlasting Gobstopper, which was featured in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Dahl transferred to a boarding school in England: St Peter's in Weston-super-Mare. His parents had wanted him to be educated at an English public school and, because of the regular ferry link across the Bristol Channel, this proved to be the nearest. Dahl's time at St Peter's was unpleasant; he was very homesick and wrote to his mother every week but never revealed his unhappiness to her. After her death in 1967, he learned that she had saved every one of his letters, in small bundles held together with green tape. In 2016, to mark the centenary of Dahl's birth, his letters to his mother were abridged and broadcast as BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week. Dahl wrote about his time at St Peter's in his autobiography Boy: Tales of Childhood.
From 1929, when he was 13, Dahl attended Repton School in Derbyshire. Dahl disliked the hazing and described an environment of ritual cruelty and status domination, with younger boys having to act as personal servants for older boys, frequently subject to terrible beatings. His biographer Donald Sturrock described these violent experiences in Dahl's early life. Dahl expresses some of these darker experiences in his writings, which is also marked by his hatred of cruelty and corporal punishment. According to Boy: Tales of Childhood, a friend named Michael was viciously caned by headmaster Geoffrey Fisher. Writing in that same book, Dahl reflected: “All through my school life I was appalled by the fact that masters and senior boys were allowed literally to wound other boys, and sometimes quite severely... I couldn’t get over it. I never have got over it.” The master was later selected as the Archbishop of Canterbury and crowned Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. (According to Dahl's biographer Jeremy Treglown, the caning took place in May 1933, a year after Fisher had left Repton; the headmaster was in fact J. T. Christie, Fisher's successor.) Dahl said the incident caused him to "have doubts about religion and even about God".
He was never seen as a particularly talented writer in his school years, with one of his English teachers writing in his school report "I have never met anybody who so persistently writes words meaning the exact opposite of what is intended." Dahl was exceptionally tall, reaching 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 m) in adult life. He played sports including cricket, football and golf, and was made captain of the squash team. As well as having a passion for literature, he developed an interest in photography and often carried a camera with him.
During his years at Repton, the Cadbury chocolate company would occasionally send boxes of new chocolates to the school to be tested by the pupils. Dahl would dream of inventing a new chocolate bar that would win the praise of Mr Cadbury himself; this inspired him in writing his third children's book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964), and to refer to chocolate in other children's books.
Throughout his childhood and adolescent years, Dahl spent the majority of his summer holidays with his mother's family in Norway. He wrote about many happy memories from those visits in Boy: Tales of Childhood, such as when he replaced the tobacco in his half–sister's fiancé's pipe with goat droppings. He noted only one unhappy memory of his holidays in Norway: at around the age of eight, he had to have his adenoids removed by a doctor. His childhood and first job selling kerosene in Midsomer Norton and surrounding villages in Somerset are subjects in Boy: Tales of Childhood.
In July 1934, Dahl joined the Shell Petroleum Company. Following two years of training in the United Kingdom, he was assigned first to Mombasa, Kenya, then to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanganyika (now Tanzania). Along with the only two other Shell employees in the entire territory, he lived in luxury in the Shell House outside Dar es Salaam, with a cook and personal servants. While out on assignments supplying oil to customers across Tanganyika, he encountered black mambas and lions, among other wildlife.
In August 1939, as the Second World War loomed, the British made plans to round up the hundreds of Germans living in Dar-es-Salaam. Dahl was commissioned as a lieutenant into the King's African Rifles, commanding a platoon of Askari men, indigenous troops who were serving in the colonial army.
In November 1939, Dahl joined the Royal Air Force as an aircraftman with service number 774022. After a 600-mile (970 km) car journey from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi, he was accepted for flight training with sixteen other men, among whom only three survived the war. With seven hours and 40 minutes experience in a De Havilland Tiger Moth, he flew solo; Dahl enjoyed watching the wildlife of Kenya during his flights. He continued to advanced flying training in Iraq, at RAF Habbaniya, 50 miles (80 km) west of Baghdad. Following six months' training on Hawker Harts, Dahl was commissioned as a pilot officer on 24 August 1940, and was judged ready to join a squadron and face the enemy.
He was assigned to No. 80 Squadron RAF, flying obsolete Gloster Gladiators, the last biplane fighter aircraft used by the RAF. Dahl was surprised to find that he would not receive any specialised training in aerial combat, or in flying Gladiators. On 19 September 1940, Dahl was ordered to fly his Gladiator by stages from Abu Sueir (near Ismailia, in Egypt) to 80 Squadron's forward airstrip 30 miles (48 km) south of Mersa Matruh. On the final leg he could not find the airstrip and, running low on fuel and with night approaching, he was forced to attempt a landing in the desert. The undercarriage hit a boulder and the aircraft crashed. Dahl's skull was fractured and his nose was smashed; he was temporarily blinded. He managed to drag himself away from the blazing wreckage and passed out. He wrote about the crash in his first published work.
Dahl was rescued and taken to a first-aid post in Mersa Matruh, where he regained consciousness, but not his sight. He was transported by train to the Royal Navy hospital in Alexandria. There he fell in and out of love with a nurse, Mary Welland. A RAF inquiry into the crash revealed that the location to which he had been told to fly was completely wrong, and he had mistakenly been sent instead to the no man's land between the Allied and Italian forces.
In February 1941, Dahl was discharged from hospital and passed fully fit for flying duties. By this time, 80 Squadron had been transferred to the Greek campaign and based at Eleusina, near Athens. The squadron was now equipped with Hawker Hurricanes. Dahl flew a replacement Hurricane across the Mediterranean Sea in April 1941, after seven hours' experience flying Hurricanes. By this stage in the Greek campaign, the RAF had only 18 combat aircraft in Greece: 14 Hurricanes and four Bristol Blenheim light bombers. Dahl flew in his first aerial combat on 15 April 1941, while flying alone over the city of Chalcis. He attacked six Junkers Ju 88s that were bombing ships and shot one down. On 16 April in another air battle, he shot down another Ju 88.
On 20 April 1941, Dahl took part in the Battle of Athens, alongside the highest-scoring British Commonwealth ace of World War II, Pat Pattle, and Dahl's friend David Coke. Of 12 Hurricanes involved, five were shot down and four of their pilots killed, including Pattle. Greek observers on the ground counted 22 German aircraft downed, but because of the confusion of the aerial engagement, none of the pilots knew which aircraft they had shot down. Dahl described it as "an endless blur of enemy fighters whizzing towards me from every side".
In May, as the Germans were pressing on Athens, Dahl was evacuated to Egypt. His squadron was reassembled in Haifa. From there, Dahl flew sorties every day for a period of four weeks, shooting down a Vichy French Air Force Potez 63 on 8 June and another Ju 88 on 15 June, but he began to get severe headaches that caused him to black out. He was invalided home to Britain. Though at this time Dahl was only a pilot officer on probation, in September 1941 he was simultaneously confirmed as a pilot officer and promoted to war substantive flying officer.
After being invalided home, Dahl was posted to an RAF training camp in Uxbridge. He attempted to recover his health enough to become an instructor. In late March 1942, while in London, he met the Under-Secretary of State for Air, Major Harold Balfour (later Lord Balfour), at his club. Impressed by Dahl's war record and conversational abilities, Balfour appointed the young man as assistant air attaché at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. Initially resistant, Dahl was finally persuaded by Balfour to accept, and took passage on the SS Batori from Glasgow a few days later. He arrived in Halifax, Canada, on 14 April, after which he took a sleeper train to Montreal.
Coming from war-starved Britain, Dahl was amazed by the wealth of food and amenities to be had in North America. Arriving in Washington a week later, Dahl found he liked the atmosphere of the US capital. He shared a house with another attaché at 1610 34th Street, NW, in Georgetown. But after ten days in his new posting, Dahl strongly disliked it, feeling he had taken on "a most ungodly unimportant job." He later explained, "I'd just come from the war. People were getting killed. I had been flying around, seeing horrible things. Now, almost instantly, I found myself in the middle of a pre-war cocktail party in America."
Dahl was unimpressed by his office in the British Air Mission, attached to the embassy. He was also unimpressed by the ambassador, Lord Halifax, with whom he sometimes played tennis and whom he described as "a courtly English gentleman". Dahl socialized with Charles E. Marsh, a Texas publisher and oilman, at his house at 2136 R Street, NW, and the Marsh country estate in Virginia. As part of his duties as assistant air attaché, Dahl was to help neutralise the isolationist views still held by many Americans by giving pro-British speeches and discussing his war service; the United States had entered the war only the previous December, following the attack on Pearl Harbor.
At this time Dahl met the noted British novelist C. S. Forester, who was also working to aid the British war effort. Forester worked for the British Ministry of Information and was writing propaganda for the Allied cause, mainly for American consumption. The Saturday Evening Post had asked Forester to write a story based on Dahl's flying experiences; Forester asked Dahl to write down some RAF anecdotes so that he could shape them into a story. After Forester read what Dahl had given him, he decided to publish the story exactly as Dahl had written it. He originally titled the article as "A Piece of Cake" but the magazine changed it to "Shot Down Over Libya" to make it sound more dramatic, although Dahl had not been shot down; it was published in the 1 August 1942 issue of the Post. Dahl was promoted to flight lieutenant (war-substantive) in August 1942. Later he worked with such other well-known British officers as Ian Fleming (who later published the popular James Bond series) and David Ogilvy, promoting Britain's interests and message in the US and combating the "America First" movement.
This work introduced Dahl to espionage and the activities of the Canadian spymaster William Stephenson, known by the codename "Intrepid". During the war, Dahl supplied intelligence from Washington to Prime Minister Winston Churchill. As Dahl later said: "My job was to try to help Winston to get on with FDR, and tell Winston what was in the old boy's mind." Dahl also supplied intelligence to Stephenson and his organisation, known as British Security Coordination, which was part of MI6. Dahl was once sent back to Britain by British Embassy officials, supposedly for misconduct—"I got booted out by the big boys," he said. Stephenson promptly sent him back to Washington—with a promotion to wing commander rank. Toward the end of the war, Dahl wrote some of the history of the secret organisation; he and Stephenson remained friends for decades after the war.
Upon the war's conclusion, Dahl held the rank of a temporary wing commander (substantive flight lieutenant). Owing to the severity of his injuries from the 1940 accident, he was pronounced unfit for further service and was invalided out of the RAF in August 1946. He left the service with the substantive rank of squadron leader. His record of five aerial victories, qualifying him as a flying ace, has been confirmed by post-war research and cross-referenced in Axis records. It is most likely that he scored more than those victories during 20 April 1941, when 22 German aircraft were shot down.
On 5 December 1960, four-month-old Theo Dahl was severely injured when his baby carriage was struck by a taxicab in New York City. For a time, he suffered from hydrocephalus. As a result, his father became involved in the development of what became known as the "Wade-Dahl-Till" (or WDT) valve, a device to improve the shunt used alleviate the condition. The valve was a collaboration between Dahl, hydraulic engineer Stanley Wade, and London's Great Ormond Street Hospital neurosurgeon Kenneth Till, and was used successfully on almost 3,000 children around the world.
In November 1962, Dahl's daughter Olivia died of measles encephalitis, age seven. Her death left Dahl "limp with despair", and feeling guilty about not having been able to do anything for her. Dahl subsequently became a proponent of immunisation and dedicated his 1982 book The BFG to his daughter. After Olivia's death and a meeting with a Church official, Dahl came to view Christianity as a sham. While mourning her loss, he had sought spiritual guidance from Geoffrey Fisher, the former Archbishop of Canterbury. He was dismayed by Fisher telling him that, although Olivia was in Paradise, her beloved dog Rowley would never join her there. Dahl recalled years later: “I wanted to ask him how he could be so absolutely sure that other creatures did not get the same special treatment as us. I sat there wondering if this great and famous churchman really knew what he was talking about and whether he knew anything at all about God or heaven, and if he didn't, then who in the world did?
In 1965, his wife Patricia Neal suffered three burst cerebral aneurysms while pregnant with their fifth child, Lucy. Dahl took control of her rehabilitation over the next months; Neal had to re-learn to talk and walk, but she managed to return to her acting career. This period of their lives was dramatised in the film The Patricia Neal Story (1981), in which the couple were played by Glenda Jackson and Dirk Bogarde.
Neal and Dahl divorced in 1983. He married Felicity d'Abreu Crosland, niece of Francis D'Abreu who was married to Margaret Ann Bowes Lyon - 1st cousin of the late Queen Mother, at Brixton Town Hall, South London. Dahl and Crosland had previously been in a relationship. Felicity (known as Liccy) gave up her job and moved into "Gipsy House", Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire, which had been Dahl's home since 1954.
In 1983 Dahl reviewed Tony Clifton's God Cried, a picture book about the siege of West Beirut by the Israeli army during the 1982 Lebanon War. He wrote that the book would make readers "violently anti-Israeli", stating: "I am not anti-Semitic. I am anti-Israel." Dahl told a reporter in 1983: "There's a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity ... I mean there is always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn't just pick on them for no reason." In 1990, during an interview with The Independent, Dahl explained that his issue with Israel began when they invaded Lebanon in 1982: “they killed 22,000 civilians when they bombed Beirut. It was very much hushed up in the newspapers because they are primarily Jewish-owned. I’m certainly anti-Israeli and I’ve become antisemitic in as much as that you get a Jewish person in another country like England strongly supporting Zionism.” As a result of these views, in 2014 the Royal Mint decided not to produce a coin to commemorate the centenary of Dahl's birth because he was considered to be "associated with antisemitism and not regarded as an author of the highest reputation". Dahl had Jewish friends, including philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin, who commented: "I thought he might say anything. Could have been pro-Arab or pro-Jew. There was no consistent line. He was a man who followed whims, which meant he would blow up in one direction, so to speak." Amelia Foster, director of the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, says: "This is again an example of how Dahl refused to take anything seriously, even himself. He was very angry at the Israelis. He had a childish reaction to what was going on in Israel. Dahl wanted to provoke, as he always provoked at dinner. His publisher was a Jew, his agent was a Jew... and he thought nothing but good things of them. He asked me to be his managing director, and I'm Jewish."
In the 1986 New Years Honours List, Dahl was offered an appointment to Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE), but turned it down. He reportedly wanted a knighthood so that his wife would be Lady Dahl. In 2012, Dahl was featured in the list of The New Elizabethans to mark the diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. A panel of seven academics, journalists and historians named Dahl among the group of people in the UK "whose actions during the reign of Elizabeth II have had a significant impact on lives in these islands and given the age its character".
Dahl's first published work, inspired by a meeting with C. S. Forester, was "A Piece of Cake", on 1 August 1942. The story, about his wartime adventures, was bought by The Saturday Evening Post for US$1,000 (a substantial sum in 1942) and published under the title "Shot Down Over Libya".
His first children's book was The Gremlins, published in 1943, about mischievous little creatures that were part of Royal Air Force folklore. The RAF pilots blamed the gremlins for all the problems with the aircraft. While at the British Embassy in Washington, Dahl sent a copy to the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who read it to her grandchildren, and the book was commissioned by Walt Disney for a film that was never made. Dahl went on to create some of the best-loved children's stories of the 20th century, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, The BFG, The Twits and George's Marvellous Medicine.
Dahl also had a successful parallel career as the writer of macabre adult short stories, which often blended humour and innocence with surprising plot twists. The Mystery Writers of America presented Dahl with three Edgar Awards for his work, and many were originally written for American magazines such as Collier's ("The Collector's Item" was Collier's Star Story of the week for 4 September 1948), Ladies Home Journal, Harper's, Playboy and The New Yorker. Works such as Kiss Kiss subsequently collected Dahl's stories into anthologies, and gained significant popularity. Dahl wrote more than 60 short stories; they have appeared in numerous collections, some only being published in book form after his death (see List of Roald Dahl short stories). His three Edgar Awards were given for: in 1954, the collection Someone Like You; in 1959, the story "The Landlady"; and in 1980, the episode of Tales of the Unexpected based on "Skin".
One of his more famous adult stories, "The Smoker", also known as "Man from the South", was filmed twice as both 1960 and 1985 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and also adapted into Quentin Tarantino's segment of the 1995 film Four Rooms. This oft-anthologised classic concerns a man in Jamaica who wagers with visitors in an attempt to claim the fingers from their hands. The 1960 Hitchcock version stars Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre.
Dahl acquired a traditional Romanichal vardo in the 1960s, and the family used it as a playhouse for his children at home in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. He later used the vardo as a writing room, where he wrote Danny, the Champion of the World in 1975. Dahl incorporated a Gypsy wagon into the main plot of the book, where the young English boy, Danny, and his father, William (played by Jeremy Irons in the film adaptation) live in a vardo. Many other scenes and characters from Great Missenden are reflected in his work. For example, the village library was the inspiration for Mrs Phelps' library in Matilda, where the title character devours classic literature by the age of four.
His short story collection Tales of the Unexpected was adapted to a successful TV series of the same name, beginning with Man From the South. When the stock of Dahl's own original stories was exhausted, the series continued by adapting stories by authors that were written in Dahl's style, including the writers John Collier and Stanley Ellin.
Some of his short stories are supposed to be extracts from the diary of his (fictional) Uncle Oswald, a rich gentleman whose sexual exploits form the subject of these stories. In his novel My Uncle Oswald, the uncle engages a temptress to seduce 20th century geniuses and royalty with a love potion secretly added to chocolate truffles made by Dahl's favourite chocolate shop, Prestat of Piccadilly, London. Memories with Food at Gipsy House, written with his wife Felicity and published posthumously in 1991, was a mixture of recipes, family reminiscences and Dahl's musings on favourite subjects such as chocolate, onions and claret.
Dahl's children's works are usually told from the point of view of a child. They typically involve adult villains who hate and mistreat children, and feature at least one "good" adult to counteract the villain(s). These stock characters are possibly a reference to the abuse that Dahl stated that he experienced in the boarding schools he attended. Dahl's books see the triumph of the child; children's book critic Amanda Craig said, "He was unequivocal that it is the good, young and kind who triumph over the old, greedy and the wicked." While his whimsical fantasy stories feature an underlying warm sentiment, they are often juxtaposed with grotesque, darkly comic and sometimes harshly violent scenarios. The Witches, George's Marvellous Medicine and Matilda are examples of this formula. The BFG follows it in a more analogous way with the good giant (the BFG or "Big Friendly Giant") representing the "good adult" archetype and the other giants being the "bad adults". This formula is also somewhat evident in Dahl's film script for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Class-conscious themes also surface in works such as Fantastic Mr Fox and Danny, the Champion of the World where the unpleasant wealthy neighbours are outwitted.
Dahl also features characters who are very fat, usually children. Augustus Gloop, Bruce Bogtrotter and Bruno Jenkins are a few of these characters, although an enormous woman named Aunt Sponge features in James and the Giant Peach and the nasty farmer Boggis in Fantastic Mr Fox is an enormously fat character. All of these characters (with the possible exception of Bruce Bogtrotter) are either villains or simply unpleasant gluttons. They are usually punished for this: Augustus Gloop drinks from Willy Wonka's chocolate river, disregarding the adults who tell him not to, and falls in, getting sucked up a pipe and nearly being turned into fudge. In Matilda, Bruce Bogtrotter steals cake from the evil headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, and is forced to eat a gigantic chocolate cake in front of the school. In The Witches, Bruno Jenkins is lured by the witches (whose leader is the Grand High Witch) into their convention with the promise of chocolate, before they turn him into a mouse. Aunt Sponge is flattened by a giant peach. When Dahl was a boy his mother used to tell him and his sisters tales about trolls and other mythical Norwegian creatures and some of his children's books contain references or elements inspired by these stories, such as the giants in The BFG, the fox family in Fantastic Mr Fox and the trolls in The Minpins.
Receiving the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, Dahl encouraged his children and his readers to let their imagination run free. His daughter Lucy stated "his spirit was so large and so big he taught us to believe in magic."
Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.— Roald Dahl, The Minpins
Dahl was also famous for his inventive, playful use of language, which was a key element to his writing. He would invent new words by scribbling down his words before swapping letters around and adopting spoonerisms and malapropisms. The lexicographer Dr Susan Rennie stated that Dahl built his new words on familiar sounds, adding:
He didn't always explain what his words meant, but children can work them out because they often sound like a word they know, and he loved using onomatopoeia. For example, you know that something lickswishy and delumptious is good to eat, whereas something uckyslush or rotsome is not definitely not! He also used sounds that children love to say, like squishous and squizzle, or fizzlecrump and fizzwiggler.
In 2016, marking the centenary of Dahl's birth, Rennie compiled The Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary which includes many of his invented words and their meaning. Rennie commented that some of Dahl's words have already escaped his world, for example, Scrumdiddlyumptious: "Food that is utterly delicious". In his poetry, Dahl gives a humorous re-interpretation of well-known nursery rhymes and fairy tales, providing surprise endings in place of the traditional happily-ever-after. Dahl's collection of poems Revolting Rhymes is recorded in audiobook form, and narrated by actor Alan Cumming.
For a brief period in the 1960s, Dahl wrote screenplays. Two, the James Bond film You Only Live Twice and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, were adaptations of novels by Ian Fleming. Dahl also began adapting his own novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which was completed and rewritten by David Seltzer after Dahl failed to meet deadlines, and produced as the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). Dahl later disowned the film, saying he was "disappointed" because "he thought it placed too much emphasis on Willy Wonka and not enough on Charlie". He was also "infuriated" by the deviations in the plot devised by David Seltzer in his draft of the screenplay. This resulted in his refusal for any more versions of the book to be made in his lifetime, as well as an adaptation for the sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.
A major part of Dahl's literary influences stemmed from his childhood. In his younger days, he was an avid reader, especially awed by fantastic tales of heroism and triumph. Amongst his favourite authors were Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray and Frederick Marryat, and their works went on to make a lasting mark on his life and writing. Finding too many distractions in his house, Dahl remembered the poet Dylan Thomas had found a peaceful shed to write in close to home. Dahl travelled to visit Thomas's hut in Carmarthenshire, Wales in the 1950s and, after taking a look inside, decided to make a replica of it to write in.
Dahl liked ghost stories, and claimed that Trolls by Jonas Lie was one of the finest ghost stories ever written. While he was still a youngster, his mother, Sofie Dahl, would relate traditional Norwegian myths and legends from her native homeland to Dahl and his sisters. Dahl always maintained that his mother and her stories had a strong influence on his writing. In one interview, he mentioned: "She was a great teller of tales. Her memory was prodigious and nothing that ever happened to her in her life was forgotten." When Dahl started writing and publishing his famous books for children, he created a grandmother character in The Witches and later stated that she was based directly on his own mother as a tribute.
In 1961, Dahl hosted and wrote for a science fiction and horror television anthology series called Way Out, which preceded the Twilight Zone series on the CBS network for 14 episodes from March to July. One of the last dramatic network shows shot in New York City, the entire series is available for viewing at The Paley Center for Media in New York City and Los Angeles. He also wrote for the satirical BBC comedy programme That Was the Week That Was, which was hosted by David Frost.
The British television series, Tales of the Unexpected, originally aired on ITV between 1979 and 1988. The series was released to tie in with Dahl's short story anthology of the same name, which had introduced readers to many motifs that were common in his writing. The series was an anthology of different tales, initially based on Dahl's short stories. The stories were sometimes sinister, sometimes wryly comedic and usually had a twist ending. Dahl introduced on camera all the episodes of the first two series, which bore the full title Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected.
Roald Dahl died on 23 November 1990, at the age of 74 of a rare cancer of the blood, myelodysplastic syndrome, in Oxford, and was buried in the cemetery at St Peter and St Paul's Church in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England. According to his granddaughter, the family gave him a "sort of Viking funeral". He was buried with his snooker cues, some very good burgundy, chocolates, HB pencils and a power saw. Today, children continue to leave toys and flowers by his grave. In November 1996, the Roald Dahl Children's Gallery was opened at the Buckinghamshire County Museum in nearby Aylesbury. The main-belt asteroid 6223 Dahl, discovered by Czech astronomer Antonín Mrkos, was named in his memory in 1996.
In 2002, one of Cardiff Bay's modern landmarks, the Oval Basin plaza, was renamed Roald Dahl Plass. Plass is Norwegian for "place" or "square", alluding to the writer's Norwegian roots. There have also been calls from the public for a permanent statue of him to be erected in Cardiff. In 2016, the city celebrated the centenary of Dahl's birth in Llandaff. Welsh Arts organisations, including National Theatre Wales, Wales Millennium Centre and Literature Wales, came together for a series of events, titled Roald Dahl 100, including a Cardiff-wide City of the Unexpected, which marked his legacy.
Dahl's charitable commitments in the fields of neurology, haematology and literacy during his life have been continued by his widow since his death, through Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity, formerly known as the Roald Dahl Foundation. The charity provides care and support to seriously ill children and young people throughout the UK. In June 2005, the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in the author's home village Great Missenden was officially opened by Cherie Blair, wife of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, to celebrate the work of Roald Dahl and advance his work in literacy education. Over 50,000 visitors from abroad, mainly from Australia, Japan, the United States and Germany, travel to the village museum every year.
In 2008, the UK charity Booktrust and Children's Laureate Michael Rosen inaugurated The Roald Dahl Funny Prize, an annual award to authors of humorous children's fiction. On 14 September 2009 (the day after what would have been Dahl's 93rd birthday) the first blue plaque in his honour was unveiled in Llandaff. Rather than commemorating his place of birth, however, the plaque was erected on the wall of the former sweet shop (and site of "The Great Mouse Plot of 1924") that features in the first part of his autobiography Boy. It was unveiled by his widow Felicity and son Theo. In 2018, Weston-super-Mare, the town described by Dahl as a "seedy seaside resort", unveiled a blue plaque dedicated to him, on the site of the since-demolished boarding school Dahl attended, St Peter's. The anniversary of Dahl's birthday on 13 September is celebrated as "Roald Dahl Day" in Africa, the United Kingdom and Latin America.
In honour of Dahl, the Royal Gibraltar Post Office issued a set of four stamps in 2010 featuring Quentin Blake's original illustrations for four of the children's books written by Dahl during his long career; The BFG, The Twits, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Matilda. A set of six stamps was issued by Royal Mail in 2012, featuring Blake's illustrations for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits, The Witches, Matilda, Fantastic Mr Fox, and James and the Giant Peach. Dahl's influence has extended beyond literary figures. For instance film director Tim Burton recalled from childhood "the second layer [after Dr. Seuss] of connecting to a writer who gets the idea of the modern fable – and the mixture of light and darkness, and not speaking down to kids, and the kind of politically incorrect humour that kids get. I've always like that, and it's shaped everything I've felt that I've done." Steven Spielberg read The BFG to his children when they were young, stating the book celebrates the fact that it's OK to be different as well as to have an active imagination: "It's very important that we preserve the tradition of allowing young children to run free with their imaginations and magic and imagination are the same thing." Actress Scarlett Johansson named Fantastic Mr Fox one of the five books that made a difference to her.
Regarded as "one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century", Dahl was named by The Times one of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. He ranks amongst the world's best-selling fiction authors with sales estimated at over 250 million, and his books have been published in almost 60 languages. In 2003 four books by Dahl, led by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at number 35, ranked among the Top 100 in The Big Read, a survey of the British public by the BBC to determine the "nation's best-loved novel" of all time. In surveys of UK teachers, parents and students, Dahl is frequently ranked the best children's writer. In a 2006 list for the Royal Society of Literature, Harry Potter creator J. K. Rowling named Charlie and the Chocolate Factory one of her top ten books every child should read. In 2012, Matilda was ranked number 30 among all-time best children's novels in a survey published by School Library Journal, a monthly with primarily US audience. The Top 100 included four books by Dahl, more than any other writer: Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, and The BFG. In 2012, Dahl was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork – the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of his life he most admires. In a 2017 UK poll of the greatest authors, songwriters, artists and photographers, Dahl was named the greatest storyteller of all time, ranking ahead of Dickens, Shakespeare, Rowling and Spielberg. In 2017, the airline Norwegian announced Dahl's image would appear on the tail fin one of their Boeing 737-800 aircraft. He is one of the company's six "British tail fin heroes", joining Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, England World Cup winner Bobby Moore, novelist Jane Austen, pioneering pilot Amy Johnson and aviation entrepreneur Freddie Laker.
|1952||CBS Television Workshop|
|Lux Video Theatre|
|1954||Philip Morris Playhouse|
|1958-61||Alfred Hitchcock Presents||7 episodes|
|1961||'Way Out||1 episode|
|1962||That Was the Week That Was|
|1964||36 Hours||Feature film|
|1965-67||Thirty-Minute Theatre||3 episodes|
|1967||You Only Live Twice||Screenplay||Feature film|
|1968||Late Night Horror||Writer||1 episode|
|Chitty Chitty Bang Bang||Screenplay||Feature film|
|1971||The Road Builder||Feature film|
|Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory||Story/screenplay|
|1976||James and the Giant Peach||Story||TV movie|
|1979-88||Tales of the Unexpected||Writer/story||26 episodes|
|1985||The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents||Story||1 episode|
|1989||The BFG||TV movie|
|The Book Tower||Writer||1 episode|
|Danny the Champion of the World||Story||TV movie|
|1961||'Way Out||Host||5 episodes|
|1965||Thirty-Minute Theatre||Narrator||1 episode|
|1969||The 41st Annual Academy Awards||Himself||Audience member|
|1978||Read All About It||1 episode|
|This Is Your Life||1 episode|
|1979-85||Tales of the Unexpected||32 episodes|
|1989||Going Live!||1 episode|
Quentin Blake's famous illustrations of The Twits, Matilda and Fantastic Mr Fox all feature on a new series of stamps from the Royal Mail, issued to celebrate the work of Roald Dahl. Out from tomorrow, the stamps also show James and the Giant Peach and The Witches, while a triumphant Charlie Bucket from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is brandishing a golden ticket on the new first class stamp.
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator is a children's book by British author Roald Dahl. It is the sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, continuing the story of young Charlie Bucket and chocolatier Willy Wonka as they travel in the Great Glass Elevator. The book was first published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. in 1972, and in the United Kingdom by George Allen & Unwin in 1973.
Although the original book has been filmed three times, in 1971, 2005, and an animated adaptation in 2017, The Great Glass Elevator has never been adapted on a visual medium; however it was adapted for audio by Puffin Audio Books starring Neil Answych as Charlie Bucket and Gordan Fairclough as Willy Wonka. Dahl began writing a third book in the series, titled Charlie in the White House, but did not complete it.Danny, the Champion of the World
Danny, the Champion of the World is a 1975 children's book by Roald Dahl. The plot centres on Danny, a
young English boy, and his father, William, who live in a Gypsy caravan fixing cars for a living and partake in poaching pheasants. It was first published in 1975 in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and in the United Kingdom by Jonathan Cape.
It was adapted into a made-for-TV movie in 1989 by Thames Television which starred Jeremy Irons. It is based on Dahl's adult short story "Champion of the World" which first appeared in print in The New Yorker magazine, as did some of the other short stories that would later be reprinted as Kiss Kiss (1960). Peter Serafinowicz provides the English language audiobook recording.Going Solo
Going Solo is a book by Roald Dahl, first published by Jonathan Cape in London in 1986. It is a continuation of his autobiography describing his childhood, Boy and detailed his travel to Africa and exploits as a World War II pilot.James and the Giant Peach
James and the Giant Peach is a popular children's novel written in 1961 by British author Roald Dahl. The original first edition published by Alfred Knopf featured illustrations by Nancy Ekholm Burkert. There have been reillustrated versions of it over the years, done by Michael Simeon for the first British edition, Emma Chichester Clark, Lane Smith and Quentin Blake. It was adapted into a film of the same name in 1996.
The plot centres on a young English orphan boy who enters a gigantic, magical peach, and has a wild and surreal cross-world adventure with seven magically-altered garden bugs he meets. Roald Dahl was originally going to write about a giant cherry, but changed it to James and the Giant Peach because a peach is "prettier, bigger and squishier than a cherry."Because of the story's occasional macabre and potentially frightening content, it has become a regular target of censors. The actors Jeremy Irons, Andrew Sachs, and Julian Rhind-Tutt provide the English language audiobook recordings.Kiss Kiss (book)
Kiss Kiss is a collection of short stories by Roald Dahl, first published in 1960 by Alfred A. Knopf. Most of the constituent stories had been previously published elsewhere.Matilda (novel)
Matilda is a book by British writer Roald Dahl. It was published in 1988 by Jonathan Cape in London, with 232 pages and illustrations by Quentin Blake. It was adapted as an audio reading by actress Kate Winslet, a 1996 feature film directed by Danny DeVito, a two-part BBC Radio 4 programme starring Lauren Mote as Matilda, Emerald O'Hanrahan as Miss Honey, Nichola McAuliffe as Miss Trunchbull and narrated by Lenny Henry, and a 2010 musical.In 2012 Matilda was ranked number 30 among all-time children's novels in a survey published by School Library Journal, a monthly with primarily US audience. It was the first of four books by Dahl among the Top 100, more than any other writer. Worldwide sales have reached 17 million, and since 2016 sales have spiked to the extent that it outsells Dahl's other works.Puffin Books
Puffin Books is a longstanding children's imprint of the British publishers Penguin Books. Since the 1960s, it has been among the largest publishers of children's books in the UK and much of the English-speaking world. The imprint now belongs to Penguin Random House, a subsidiary owned by the German media conglomerate Bertelsmann and the British publishing company Pearson plc.Roald Dahl Children's Gallery
The Roald Dahl Children's Gallery is a children's museum that uses characters and themes from the books of Roald Dahl to stimulate children's interest in science, history and literature.It is located on Church Street, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England and was opened on 23 November 1996 by Terence Hardiman, an actor popular with children due to his role as the titular role in The Demon Headmaster. The building was previously a coach-house.
The Roald Dahl theme is emphasised by the use of Quentin Blake graphical elements. Blake, a celebrated children's author and illustrator, is strongly associated with Dahl through his covers and illustrations for almost all modern UK editions of Dahl's books.
The museum has won two major awards for education. Aylesbury hosts the Roald Dahl Festival, a procession of giant puppets based on his characters, on July 2.Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre
The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre is a museum in the village of Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire, England. Children's and short story writer Roald Dahl lived in the village for 36 years until his death in 1990.Roald Dahl Plass
Roald Dahl Plass is a public space in Cardiff Bay, Cardiff, Wales. It is named after Cardiff-born author Roald Dahl, and is located on the coast along the south of the city centre. The square is home to the Senedd (Welsh Assembly Building) and the Wales Millennium Centre, a performing arts centre. The bowl-like shape of the space has made it a popular amphitheatre for hosting open-air concerts.Formerly named the Oval Basin and known as the Bowl, the area was one of the docks for a thriving coal port during the latter half the 19th century and much of the 20th century. Following World War II, the space entered a period of decay and dereliction until the 1980s, when the Cardiff Bay area was regenerated.The name is a nod to the writer's roots (both of Dahl's parents were from Norway) and to the Norwegian seafarers' church which stands nearby. "Plass" is the Norwegian cognate of the English word "place;" in this context the word means square in Norwegian, although the word can also mean "space" or "place." However, in Norwegian the name of a square named after a person would correctly be written in the genitive case, in this case as "Roald Dahls plass" (literally, "Roald Dahl's square"). The word "plass" is not capitalized in modern (post-1907) Norwegian.Roald Dahl bibliography
Roald Dahl (1916–1990) was a British author and scriptwriter, and "the most popular writer of children's books since Enid Blyton", according to Philip Howard, the literary editor of The Times. The death of an elder sister and his father within a few months when he was three gave his writing "a black savagery". He was raised by his Norwegian mother, who took him on annual trips to Norway, where she told him the stories of trolls and witches present in the dark Scandinavian fables. Dahl was influenced by the stories, and returned to many of the themes in his children's books. His mother also nurtured a passion in the young Dahl for reading and literature.During the Second World War Dahl was a pilot in the Royal Air Force (RAF) until he crashed in the Libyan desert; the subsequent injuries left him unfit to fly. He was posted to Washington as an assistant air attaché, ostensibly a diplomatic post, but which also included espionage and propaganda work. In 1942 the writer C.S. Forester asked him to provide details of his experiences in North Africa which Forester hoped to use in an article in The Saturday Evening Post. Instead of the notes which Forester expected, Dahl sent a finished story for which he was paid $900. The work led to The Gremlins, a serialised story in Cosmopolitan about a mischievous and fictional RAF creature, the gremlin; the work was published as Dahl's first novel in 1943. Dahl continued to write short stories, although these were all aimed at the adult market. They were sold to magazines and newspapers, and were later compiled into collections, the first of which was published in 1946. Dahl began to make up bedtime stories for the children, and these formed the basis of several of his stories. His first children's novel, James and the Giant Peach, was published in 1961, which was followed, along with others, by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964), Fantastic Mr Fox (1970), Danny, the Champion of the World (1975), The BFG (1982) and Matilda in 1988.Dahl's first script was for a stage work, The Honeys, which appeared on Broadway in 1955. He followed this with a television script, "Lamb to the Slaughter", for the Alfred Hitchcock Presents series. He also co-wrote screenplays for film, including for You Only Live Twice (1967) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968). In 1982 Dahl published the first of three editions of poems—all aimed at children. The following year he edited a book of ghost stories. He also wrote several works of non-fiction, including three autobiographies, a cookery book, a safety leaflet for the British railways and a book on measles, which was about the death of his daughter Olivia from measles encephalitis.As at 2015, Dahl's works have been translated into 59 languages and have sold more than 200 million books worldwide. His awards for contribution to literature include the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and the British Book Awards' Children's Author of the Year in 1990. In 2008 The Times placed Dahl 16th on its list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945". He has been referred to by an anonymous writer for The Independent as "one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century" On Dahl's death in 1990, Howard considered him "one of the most widely read and influential writers of our generation".Roald Dahl short stories bibliography
Roald Dahl short stories bibliography is a comprehensive annotated list of short stories written by Roald Dahl.The Best of Roald Dahl
The Best of Roald Dahl is a collection of 25 of Roald Dahl's short stories. The first edition was published in 1978.The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl
The Collected Short Stories of Roald Dahl is a 1991 short story collection for adults by Roald Dahl. The collection containing tales of macabre malevolence comprises many of Dahl's stories seen in the television series Tales of the Unexpected and previously collected in Someone Like You (1953), Kiss, Kiss (1960), Twenty-Nine Kisses from Roald Dahl (1969), Switch Bitch (1974), and Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life: The Country Stories of Roald Dahl (1989).The Roald Dahl Omnibus
The Roald Dahl Omnibus is a 1986 short story collection by Roald Dahl.
The collection contains 28 stories selected from Switch Bitch, Kiss, Kiss, and Someone Like You - a collection of Dahl stories published in various magazines and collections from the 1940s onward.The Roald Dahl Treasury
The Roald Dahl Treasury is an anthology of works of the children's author Roald Dahl. It was first published in the United Kingdom in 1997 by Puffin Books.
Included amongst excerpts from all of Dahl's children's books and some previously unpublished material, are unexpurgated colour reprints of The Enormous Crocodile, The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, Esio Trot and The Minpins.
The book includes a large volume of illustrations by Quentin Blake, with some specially commissioned for the project and some appearing for the first time in colour. A selection of guest illustrators including Raymond Briggs and Ralph Steadman add visual variety to the extracts. The book also includes an excerpt from an interview given by Dahl and many letters exchanged between Dahl and family members, including Ophelia Dahl.The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More is a collection of seven short stories written by Roald Dahl. They are generally regarded as being aimed at a slightly older audience than many of his other children's books.
The stories were written at varying times throughout his life. Two of the stories are autobiographical in nature; one describes how he first became a writer while the other describes some of Dahl's experiences as a fighter pilot in the Second World War. Another piece in the collection is a non-fiction account of a British farmer finding a legendary haul of ancient Roman treasure. The book was first published in London in 1977 by Jonathan Cape.
|Adult short story|
|Musicals and plays|
Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Roald Dahl's Matilda