World famous author Roald Dahl has engaged many readers with his extraordinary stories and fairy tales. He has written about charming giants and the scariest stories about ugly witches, and we have all dreamed about moving into the world’s greatest chocolate factory.
Born in 1916 of Norwegian parents, Roald Dahl grew up in Cardiff in Wales, UK. His father and his sister died with short intervals when Roald was just three years old.
Dahl first attended The Cathedral School, Llandaff. At the age of eight, he and some friends were caned by the head master 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. This was known amongst the five boys as the “Great Mouse Plot of 1924.”
Thereafter, he was transferred to a boarding school in England: St Peter’s in Weston-super-Mare, which he did not enjoy. He wrote his mother every week, but never revealed his unhappiness, being under the pressure of school censorship. After his mother’s death in 1967, he found out that she had saved every single one of his letters in small bundles held together with green tape. Dahl wrote about his time at St Peter’s in his autobiography Boy: Tales of Childhood.
Throughout his childhood and adolescent years, Dahl spent his summer holidays with his mother’s family in Norway. The main child character in his book The Witches is a British boy of Norwegian descent whose grandmother is still living in Norway.
Roald Dahl is mostly known for his children’s stories, although some of his stories may be ever so scary for us adults.
His first children’s book was The Gremlins, about mischievous little creatures that were part of RAF folklore. All the RAF pilots blamed the gremlins for all the problems with the plane. Dahl served in the British Royal Air Force during the Second World War, in which he became a flying ace and intelligence officer, rising to the rank of Wing Commander.
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). 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”.
He also had a successful parallel career as the writer of macabre adult short stories, usually with a dark sense of humour and a surprise ending. The Mystery Writers of America presented him with three Edgar Awards for his work, and many were originally written for American magazines such as Collier’s, Ladies Home Journal, Harper’s, Playboy and The New Yorker. Works such as Kiss Kiss subsequently collected Dahl’s stories into anthologies, gaining worldwide acclaim. He wrote more than 60 short stories; they have appeared in numerous collections, some only being published in book form after his death.
In 1990, Roald Dahl died of leukemia at his home Gipsy House in Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire. He was buried at St Peter & St Paul’s parish church. According to his granddaughter, the family gave him a ‘Viking funeral’. He was buried with his snooker clubs, a very good red wine, chocolate, pens and an electrical power saw. In his honor, ‘Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery’, was opened in Bucks County Museum, near Aylesbury.
Roald Dahl’s granddaughter, Sophie Dahl, renowned author and model, is a patron of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire.
Text by: Anette Broteng Christiansen, ThorNews
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