One of the most outstanding children’s storytellers of the 20th century, Roald Dahl’s all-conquering magical fantasies and mischievous little creatures captivated the readers for decades.
His fantastic children’s fiction stories – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Twits – rank among the world’s best. His books have sold more than 250 million copies in over 50 languages.
The life of Roald Dahl is stranger than fiction. There are too many words one could use to describe the astonishing personality that he was. Words aren’t enough when the subject is a writer who has himself invented 250 uncommon words.
In this post, we explore the interesting facts, information, and events in the life of Roald Dahl.
The Early Life Of Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl was born on September 13, 1916. His parents Harald Dahl and Sofie Magdalene Hesselberg were Norwegian and settled in Wales in 1880.
He was named after the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen, a national hero in Norway and the first person to reach the South Pole.
A bilingual, Roald Dahl spoke English and Norwegian. The entire Dahl family, including his parents and sisters, Astri, Alfhild, Else, and Asta, spoke Norwegian.
Roald Dahl’s sister and father died in 1920. His sister Astri died from appendicitis when she was seven years old, while his father died of pneumonia when he was 57. Roald Dahl also had a half-brother and a half-sister.
The children’s most beloved writer went to three schools: Cathedral School in Llandaff, Cardiff, St Peter’s Preparatory School, a boarding school in Weston-super-Mare, and Repton School in Derbyshire.
He was good at sports. At Repton, he was the captain of the school’s squash team and the Five’s Team. Fives is a sport similar to squash. Instead of a racquet, players use either a glove or bare hands. Roald Dahl was also good at football.
After leaving school in 1934 at the age of 17, Roald Dahl went to work for the Shell Oil Company in Africa. When World War II broke out, he joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) as an aircraftman and was later promoted as a pilot officer.
Dahl worked as a spy for MI6, where he met Ian Fleming, the man who created James Bond. He moved to Washington at the age of 26.
He started writing children’s stories in 1960 while living in England with his family. His first stories were written for his children, to whom many of his books are dedicated.
Interesting Roald Dahl Facts For Kids
1. A tall man
At 6ft 6in (1.98m), Roald Dahl was a tall man. At the RAF, he was nicknamed ‘Lofty’.
2. A plane crash
When Roald Dahl was posted in Libya in 1940, he was asked to fly ‘Gloster Gladiators’ against the Italians. He crash-landed in the Western Desert of Libya and was hospitalized for months.The plane crash left him with severe injuries to his skull, spine, and hip. While working in the US, Roald Dahl met British novelist CS Forester, who encouraged him to write about his experiences in Libya. In 1942, his first paid piece of writing, based on his flying experience in Libya, was published in The Saturday Evening Post as Shot Down Over Libya, but later changed to A Piece of Cake.
3. Dahl’s marriage
In 1953, Roald Dahl married Oscar-winning actress Patricia Neal. They have five children – four daughters and one son.
4. Not a talented writer?
His teachers did not think he was a particularly talented writer. One of his English teachers wrote in his school report, “I have never met anybody who so persistently writes in words meaning the exact opposite of what is intended.”
5. A good lensman
Photography was another hobby that Dahl enjoyed. He often had a camera with him and won awards from the Photographic Society of Holland and Royal Photographic Society in London.
6. The inventor of 250 words
Roald Dahl was the inventor of more than 250 words. His Gobblefunk dictionary comprises his unique and quirky words like Gremlins, frobscottle, boggle-box, phizz-wizzards, buzzwangle, zippfizzing, snozzwangers, Oompa-Loompas, crockodowndillies, squiffing, splendiferous, gloriumptious, and many more.
7. Wade-Dahl-Till valve saved lives
Roald Dahl helped revolutionize the treatment for children with hydrocephalus, also known as ‘water on the brain’. The Wade-Dahl-Till valve is a cerebral shunt developed in 1962 by Roald Dahl after his son Theo suffered ‘water on the brain’ as a victim of a car accident. The most common shunt used on Theo to drain water from his brain caused headaches, nausea, and even temporary blindness. So, along with hydraulic engineer Stanley Wade and neurosurgeon Kenneth Till, Roald Dahl strived to develop a better shunt. What’s more, the co-inventors agreed never to accept any profit from the invention. Isn’t that glorimuptious?
8. Only yellow paper
He only ever wrote in an HB pencil on yellow paper. He wrote for four hours a day, from 10am to 12pm, and 4pm to 6pm.
9. Roald Dahl Museum
The Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, a tiny village in Buckinghamshire, where the author lived for 36 years until he died in 1990, treasures ‘The Writing Hut’ where the brilliant writer wrote all his books for children. The museum includes Roald Dahl’s articles like his writing desk, information about his books, letters he wrote to his mother, a height chart, which enables you to measure yourself against Roald Dahl and his characters. There is an art and craft area, where kids can enjoy painting.
As you enter through the giant Willy Wonka chocolate doors, you will be transported into the magical world of Dahl. You will find the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory relics and a little statue of Matilda to pose with. You will surely love to hug the Willy Wonka chocolate doors. You will be tempted to eat the Wonka chocolate bars. But, you cannot eat them as they are made of plastic. Sorry, kids!
10. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory inspiration
A nearby Cadbury chocolate factory inspired the story of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Roald Dahl was an occasional taste-tester for Cadbury’s chocolate. While he was a student at Repton, the chocolate factory would send boxes of chocolates to the schoolchildren to test the new products and review them.
11. Caned at school
Roald Dahl was caned at school for putting a dead mouse in a jar of gobstoppers.
12. Willy Wonka, the postman
In 1971, a man named Willy Wonka wrote to Roald Dahl.He was a postman from Nebraska.
13. Buried with HB pencils
When Dahl died in 1990, he was buried with his beloved belongings, including HB pencils, a power saw, snooker cues, chocolate, and red wine.
Roald Dahl’s Brilliant Body Of Work
Roald Dahl’s works for children include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The BFG, The Twits, James and The Peach, The Witches, and George’s Marvellous Medicine. His body of work also includes short stories for adults – compiled into books like Someone Like, Over to You, and Kiss, Kiss.
What made his writing so successful? Most of the stories were woven around tales that had roots in his childhood and usually told from a child’s point of view. His books and short stories take us into the world of chocolates, talking animals, and flying peaches.Many of the characters were inspired by the people around him. His works were adapted to films, musicals, theater plays, operas, and screenplays. Here are the top 10 books by Roald Dahl you can read to your child:
1. The Gremlins
Roald Dahl’s first book was The Gremlins, published in 1943. Originally intended for production as an animated film by Walt Disney, The Gremlins was about World War II pilot Gus who discovers that the Gremlins are little creatures responsible for the various mechanical failures on airplanes. The original edition printed 50,000 copies, which sold quickly, especially in Australia. Roald Dahl sent a copy of The Gremlins to former US president Eleanor Roosevelt who reportedly loved it.
2. Charlie and The Chocolate Factory
First published in 1964, the book is about five children – poor Charlie Bucket, greedy Augustus Gloop, spoiled Veruca Salt, gum-chewing Violet Beauregard, and TV addict Mike Teavee. The five kids win a golden ticket to explore Mr. Willy Wonka’s magical chocolate factory. The factory is dotted with waterfalls made of chocolate and the grass made of vanilla. The factory is full ofOompa-Loompas. Johnny Depp played the role of Mr. Willy Wonka in the movie adaptation.Read the book to find outthe interesting events that unfold in the scrumdidilyumptious chocolate factory.
Matilda is a wonderful story about a bright little girl named Matilda who lives in a two-story house in a village in England and loves to read. An amazingly gifted girl, Matilda reads books, although her parents disapprove of it. The parents only value things like money, and they treat her poorly because she is different. Matilda is ignored and neglected by her parents. The book has doses of humor when Matilda plays little tricks on her parents, like replacing her father’s shampoo with hair dye and making her family believe that there is a ghost inside the house. The book will leave your kid giggling and smiling throughout.
Published in 1984, Boy is a funny and insightful glimpse into the early life of Roald Dahl. The book is full of sweet shops, chocolates, and The Great Mouse Plot. In this autobiographical work, Dahl focuses on one episode in his early school years – The Great Mouse Plot. Roald and his friends had an insatiable sweet tooth. They used to walk past a sweet shop, owned by Mrs. Prachett, on their way to school. Constantly mistreated by the candy lady, Roald Dahl and his friends decide to punish Mrs. Prachett by placing a dead mouse inside a jar of Gobstoppers. When Mrs. Prachett dips her hand into the container and finds the dead rodents, she faints in shock. The book is funny and exciting for kids to read.
5. Fantastic Mr. Fox
With lively full-color illustrations by Quentin Blake, Fantastic Mr. Fox is a perfect book to introduce your child to Roald Dahl and his hilarious and delightful stories. The book is about a crafty fox called Mr. Fox, who steals chickens and other food for his family from three farmers – Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. Mr. Fox steals food every single night. However, the farmers decide to put a stop to his thievery and go after him. The frustrated farmers dig up Mr. Fox’s den, but the foxes escape in time by burrowing deep into the ground. The three farmers wait outside the hole. Will the farmers succeed in outwitting Mr. Fox and his family? Read this exhilarating and hilarious book. In the film adaptation, Meryl Streep gave the voice-over for Mrs. Fox and George Clooney for Mr. Fox.
6. The BFG
Published in 1982, The BFG is about a little girl Sophie who lived in an orphanage in England with nine other little girls in her dormitory. One night she looks out the window and sees a mysterious tall figure walking about the houses and buildings. A brilliant moonbeam is slanting through the gap in the curtains. She sees that it is a giant who is looking into the windows. The giant is carrying a suitcase that appears like a trumpet. Sophie couldn’t sleep believing that the giant would eat her. The giant’s hand clamps over her and carries her to a different world. Will the giant eat Sophie? The BFG is a suspenseful book, lighthearted and fun read for children.
7. The Twits
The book is about Mr. and Mrs. Twit, the ugliest and nastiest people, who play mean tricks on each other like putting frogs in beds. They keep monkeys in cages in their garden and catch birds for their bird pie by smearing sticky glue all over the trees. That’s when the Muggle-Wumps come in. What are Muggle-Wumps, do they succeed in outwitting The Twits? This book is an absolute delight to read.
8. The Witches
This children’s dark fantasy novel is set partly in Norway and partly in the UK. The book features the experiences of a young British boy and his Norwegian grandmother in a world of witches. The witches are ruled by the vicious Grand High Witch, who organizes her worst plot ever. But an elderly former witch hunter and her young grandson find out about the evil plan. Will the young boy and his grandmother defeat the evil designs of the witches?
9. George’s Marvellous Medicine
Published in 1981, this book is about a little boy George Kranky who lives with his mother, father, and grandmother on a farm. Most grandmas are kind and helpful, not George’s grandma. His grandmother is a selfish, grumpy, and grouchy lady. George Kranky is left alone with her grandma while his parents go shopping. The eight-year-old boy gets a mischievous idea to transform his cranky old grandma from nasty to nice and concocts marvelous medicine using a variety of ingredients. Warning to readers: Do not try to make George’s Marvellous Medicine yourselves at home. It could be dangerous.
10. James and The Giant Peach
Published in the US in 1961 and the UK in 1967, this is a story about a boy named James. He is forced to live with his two wicked aunts in the English countryside after his parents die. One day, a mysterious old man presents James with a bag of tiny green crystals that have magical powers. However, James falls and spills the tiny green crystals near a dead peach tree in the backyard. The lifeless peach tree suddenly sprouts a giant peach. This brilliant story of James’s journey to New York on a giant peach with his insect friends is a perfect bedtime story for children.
Roald Dahl died on November 23, 1990, at the age of 74. Decades later, his books stood the test of time. His books have inspired countless adaptations, including the Steven Spielberg film “The BFG,” based on Roald Dahl’s 1982 book of the same name. His awards for contribution to literature include the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. His books are the best gifts you can give your children to inculcate reading habits early on.
2. Facts About Roald Dahl; National Geographic Kids
3. Roald Dahl’s revolutionary work in brain injury; The children Trust.org.uk
4. Roald_Dahl; Self-Gutenberg.org
5. List_of_Roald_Dahl_short_stories; Self-Gutenberg.org
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