Our favourite Roald Dahl books. Roald Dahl Day has come round again and while the children’s author was long ago revealed to have a more complicated legacy than we once thought, we still adore his stories – and the charismatic characters who people them.
In fact, when kids were recently asked to name their bravest icons in the world , Matilda made it into their top three, sandwiched between Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai. Quite a feat for a fictional five-year-old.
But the great thing about Dahl’s books is that they speak to grown-ups, too. We asked HuffPosters to name their favourite characters, tell us why and choose their favourite quote. A shout out here to the colleague who nominated Red Riding Hood for her memorable cameo in Revolting Rhymes: “The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers. She whips a pistol from her knickers.”) Amazon The Twits
Not a week goes by when I don’t think about the cornflakes getting stuck in Mr Twit’s beard. I’m reminded every time I see a man with a bushy beard, which, living in London, is often nowadays.
I love lots of Dahl’s characters – Matilda, Sophie from the BFG, were big in my childhood – but I just love how ridiculous The Twits were, with their perpetual grumpiness and unsociable behaviour.
My favourite quote: “If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face…but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
George’s Marvellous Medicine is an ode to innovation, autonomy and ambition. I love that! Eight-year-old George Kranky is fed up with his grandmother, a grizzly old grouch, being an utter asshole. She’s mean and intimidating towards him!
One day, the youngster spies her brown bottle of medicine, which she takes daily – even if it does nothing for her horrible disposition, her grandson notes.
“The whole point of medicine, surely, was to make a person better. If it didn’t do that then it was quite useless,” George muses. And so, he decides to make her a specially concocted medicinal brew, which will either cure her or teach her an almighty lesson.
The old bat gets comeuppance; having drank the medicine, she grows to be 10 times her original size and ends up being ignored and stuck in the roof – before shrinking and disappearing for good.
There are a few morals to this short story:
1) Be the change you want to see!
2) Inventing stuff is good; if you want something – why not create it?
3) Adults can be bullies too; not just children! And there are several ways to stand up to them.
Top quote: “Never grow up…always down.” Amazon Matilda
Growing up, Matilda showed me that it was perfectly fine to be quiet, introverted and a massive bookworm. I was the proud owner of a library card thanks to her, I distinctly remember sitting on the floor in the kid’s section, imagining that I could make books fly around with my mind.
The story itself taught me to value my teachers, especially the ones who were kind – and was possibly the reason behind my aversion to chocolate cake (sorry, Bruce).`
Top quote: “The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives.” Danny
Not the obvious choice by any means and by today’s standards, it’s unlikely Danny Champion of the World would even make it on to a publisher’s list. It’s a book about poaching: a small boy dreams up and executes a plan for stealing 200 birds, mainly to exact revenge on a greedy old man, but also to eat them.
There is a scene where a doctor deliberately jabs a man with a blunted needle in order to exact revenge for kicking his dog. Danny (who is only nine) gets lashed with the cane. He also drives a Baby Austin (my five-year-old’s favourite part), in the middle of the night, on his own.
But this story is also about the poor taking on the powerful, about having the courage to carry out ambitious plans – no matter how preposterous they seem, and above all, it’s about the strength and of the relationship between a father and his son.
Top quote: “Most of the really exciting things we do in our lives scare us to death. They wouldn’t be exciting if they didn’t.” Amazon There’s something utterly captivating about an unconventional hero and with his big flappy ears and goofy and kindhearted personality, the Big Friendly Giant is so endearing.
As a child, I remember being filled with awe at the way the “nice jumbly giant” delivered good dreams to children.
I giggled in delight at Frobscottle, the fizzy drink that bubbles fizz downwards leading to noisy Whizzpoppers – and I wrinkled my nose with distaste at the repulsive sounding snozzcumbers which the BFG generously forced himself to eat instead of gobbling up children.
But by far my favourite thing about the BFG is his wonderfully muddled way of speaking and the way he “gobblefunks” around with words.
Sometimes, there just aren’t enough real words in the world and when you’re “squibbling”, there’s times when only made-up or mangled ones will do.
I adore the BFG’s inventive, mixed-up and nonsensical words such as “human beans”, “schnozzles”, “scrumdiddlyumptious” and “trogglehumpers.”
The BFG is definitely “wondercrump”, “whoopsey-splunkers” and “absolutely squiffing.”
Top quote: “The matter with human beans is that they is absolutely refusing to believe in anything unless they is actually seeing it right in front of their own schnozzles.” Boy
Roald Dahl’s two volumes of autobiography, Boy and Going Solo, cover his childhood and his adventures in World War Two – and reveal why so many of his books have villainous teachers in them.
Between horrific memories of being forced to warm older boys’ toilet seats at boarding school, gruesomely recounted stories of surgery and injuries, and some terrifyingly blase recountings of war atrocities, it’s hair-raising stuff.
There are incidents that might hold the origins of some of the iconic characters he would go on to create – a hint of Miss Trunchbull in his boarding school matron, and shades of some of the BFG’s hideous foes in his fellow pupils.
But there’s also a gleeful dose of the grotesque, as in Boy’s childhood prank where he and his friends placed a dead mouse inside a jar of sweets – plus, said sweets are so lovingly described, you can see where Charlie and the Chocolate Factory came from. Turns out, despite a lack of trumpeting giants, enormous fruits or Oompa-Loompas, one of Dahl’s most interesting stories was his own.
Top quote: “When writing about oneself, one must strive to be truthful. Truth is more important than modesty.”
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