Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl in 1954
Born 13 September 1916(1916-09-13)
Llandaff, Cardiff,
Wales, United Kingdom
Died 23 November 1990 (age 74)
Oxford, Oxfordshire,
England, United Kingdom
Occupation Novelist, poet, screenwriter
Nationality British
Period 1942–1990
Genres Children's, adults' literature, horror, mystery, fantasy
Notable work(s) Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr Fox, Matilda, The Witches, The Twits, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, The BFG, The Gremlins, The Enormous Crocodile, Esio Trot, George's Marvellous Medicine, Danny, the Champion of the World, The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, The Minpins, The Vicar of Nibbleswicke, The Magic Finger, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More
Spouse(s) Patricia Neal (1953–1983; divorced, 5 children)
Felicity Ann d'Abreu Crosland (1983–1990; his death)

Roald Dahl (play /ˈr.ɑːl ˈdɑːl/,[2] Norwegian: [ˈɾuːɑl dɑl]; 13 September 1916 – 23 November 1990) was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, fighter pilot and screenwriter.

Born in Wales to Norwegian parents, he served in the British Royal Air Force during World War II, in which he became a flying ace and intelligence officer, rising to the rank of Wing Commander. Dahl rose to prominence in the 1940s, with works for both children and adults, and became one of the world's best-selling authors.[3][4] He has been referred to as "one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century".[5] In 2008 The Times placed Dahl 16th on its list of "The 50 greatest British writers since 1945".[6] His short stories are known for their unexpected endings, and his children's books for their unsentimental, often very dark humour.

Some of his notable works include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, The Twits, George's Marvellous Medicine and The BFG.

Early life[]

Roald Dahl was born at Villa Marie, Fairwater Road in Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales, in 1916, to Norwegian parents, Harald Dahl and Sofie Magdalene Dahl (née Hesselberg).[7] Dahl's father had emigrated to the UK from Sarpsborg, Norway, and settled in Cardiff in the 1880s. His mother came over and married his father in 1911. Dahl was named after the polar explorer Roald Amundsen, a national hero in Norway at the time. He spoke Norwegian at home with his parents and his sisters Astri, Alfhild, and Else. Dahl and his sisters were christened at the Norwegian Church, Cardiff, where their parents worshipped.[8]

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 while on a fishing trip in the Antarctic. With the option of returning to Norway to live with relatives, Dahl's mother decided to remain in Wales because Harald had wished to have their children educated in British schools, which he considered the world's best.[9]

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,[5] which was owned by a "mean and loathsome" old woman called Mrs Pratchett.[5] This was known amongst the five boys as the "Great Mouse Plot of 1924".[10]

Thereafter, he transferred to a boarding school in England: Saint Peter's in Weston-super-Mare. Roald's parents had wanted him to be educated at an English public school and, because of a then regular ferry link across the Bristol Channel, this proved to be the nearest. His time at Saint Peter's was an unpleasant experience for him. He was very homesick and wrote to his mother every week but never revealed to her his unhappiness, being under the pressure of school censorship. Only after her death in 1967 did he find out that she had saved every single one of his letters, in small bundles held together with green tape.[11] Dahl wrote about his time at St. Peter's in his autobiography Boy: Tales of Childhood.[12]

From 1929, he attended Repton School in Derbyshire, where, according to Boy: Tales of Childhood, a friend named Michael was viciously caned by headmaster Geoffrey Fisher, who later became the Archbishop of Canterbury and went on to crown Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. (However, according to Dahl's biographer Jeremy Treglown,[13] the caning took place in May 1933, a year after Fisher had left Repton. The headmaster concerned was in fact J.T. Christie, Fisher's successor.) This caused Dahl to "have doubts about religion and even about God".[14] 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."[15] Dahl was exceptionally tall, reaching 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) in adult life.[16] He excelled at sports, being made captain of the school fives and squash teams, and also playing for the football team.[17] As well as having a passion for literature, he also developed an interest in photography[18] and often carried a camera with him. During his years at Repton, Cadbury, the chocolate company, would occasionally send boxes of new chocolates to the school to be tested by the pupils. Dahl apparently used to dream of inventing a new chocolate bar that would win the praise of Mr. Cadbury himself; and this proved the inspiration for him to write his third book for children, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964), and to include references to chocolate in other books for children.[19]

Throughout his childhood and adolescent years, Dahl spent some of his summer holidays with his mother's family in Norway. His childhood and first job selling kerosene in Midsomer Norton and surrounding villages in Somerset, south West England are subjects in Boy: Tales of Childhood.[20] The main child character in his 1983 book The Witches is a British boy of Norwegian descent, whose grandmother is still living in Norway.[21]

After finishing his schooling, he hiked through Newfoundland with the Public Schools' Exploring Society (now known as BSES Expeditions).[22] In July 1934, Dahl joined the Shell Petroleum Company. Following two years of training in the United Kingdom, he was transferred to first 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, amongst other wildlife.[14]

Fighter ace and intelligence officer[]

Roald Dahl (1916-1990)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army (August–November 1939)
 Royal Air Force (November 1939–1945)
Years of service 1939–1945
Rank Wing Commander
Battles/wars World War II

In August 1939, as World War II loomed, plans were made to round up the hundreds of Germans in Dar-es-Salaam. Dahl was made an officer in the King's African Rifles, commanding a platoon of Askaris, indigenous troops serving in the colonial army.[23]

In November 1939, Dahl joined the Royal Air Force as an Aircraftman. After a 600-mile (970 km) car journey from Dar-es-Salaam to Nairobi, he was accepted for flight training with 16 other men, of whom only two others survived the war. With seven hours and 40 minutes experience in a De Havilland Tiger Moth, he flew solo;[24] 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. He was promoted to Leading Aircraftman on 24 August 1940.[25] Following six months' training on Hawker Harts, Dahl was made an Acting Pilot Officer.

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 from Abu Sueir in Egypt, on to Amiriya to refuel, and again to Fouka in Libya for a second refuelling. From there he would fly 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.[26] The undercarriage hit a boulder and the aircraft crashed, fracturing his skull, smashing his nose and temporarily blinding him.[27] He managed to drag himself away from the blazing wreckage and passed out. Later, he wrote about the crash for his first published work.[27]

Dahl was rescued and taken to a first-aid post in Mersa Matruh, where he regained consciousness, but not his sight, and was then taken by train to the Royal Navy hospital in Alexandria. There he fell in and out of love with a nurse, Mary Welland. An 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.[28]

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 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 saw 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.[29]

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 plane they had shot down. Dahl described it as "an endless blur of enemy fighters whizzing towards me from every side".[30]

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 then 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.[31]

Dahl began writing in 1942, after he was transferred to Washington, D.C. as Assistant Air Attaché. His first published work, in 1 August 1942 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, was "Shot Down Over Libya" which described the crash of his Gloster Gladiator. C. S. Forester had 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. The original title of the article was "A Piece of Cake" but the title was changed to sound more dramatic, despite the fact that he was not actually shot down.[28]

Dahl was promoted to Flight Lieutenant in August 1942.[32] During the war, Forester worked for the British Information Service and was writing propaganda for the Allied cause, mainly for American consumption.[33] This work introduced Dahl to espionage and the activities of the Canadian spymaster William Stephenson, known by the codename "Intrepid".[34]

During the war, Dahl supplied intelligence from Washington to Stephenson and his organisation known as British Security Coordination, which was part of MI6. He was revealed in the 1980s to have been serving to help promote Britain's interests and message in the United States and to combat the "America First" movement, working with such other well-known officers as Ian Fleming and David Ogilvy.[35] 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.[36] Towards the end of the war, Dahl wrote some of the history of the secret organisation and he and Stephenson remained friends for decades after the war.[37]

Upon the war's conclusion, Dahl held the rank of a temporary Wing Commander (substantive Flight Lieutenant). Owing to his accident in 1940 having left him with excruciating headaches while flying, in August 1946 he was invalided out of the RAF. He left the service with the substantive rank of Squadron Leader.[38] 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, although it is most likely that he scored more than that during 20 April 1941 when 22 German aircraft were shot down.[39]

Post-war life[]

Patricia Neal and Roald Dahl

Dahl married American actress Patricia Neal on 2 July 1953 at Trinity Church in New York City. Their marriage lasted for 30 years and they had five children: Olivia, Tessa, Theo, Ophelia and Lucy.[40]

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 and, 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 alleviate the condition.[41][42]

In November 1962, Olivia Dahl died of measles encephalitis at age seven. Dahl subsequently became a proponent of immunisation[43] and dedicated his 1982 book The BFG to his daughter.[44]

In 1965, wife Patricia Neal suffered three burst cerebral aneurysms while pregnant with their fifth child, Lucy; Dahl took control of her rehabilitation and she eventually re-learned to talk and walk, and even returned to her acting career,[45] an episode in their lives which was dramatised in the film The Patricia Neal Story, in which the couple were played by Glenda Jackson and Dirk Bogarde.[46]

Dahl married Felicity "Liccy" Crosland at Brixton Town Hall, South London, following a divorce from Neal in 1983. Dahl and Crosland had previously been in a relationship.[47] According to biographer Donald Sturrock, Liccy gave up her job and moved into 'Gipsy House', Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire, which had been Dahl's home since 1954.[48]

In 1983 Dahl reviewed Tony Clifton's God Cried, a picture book about the 1982 Lebanon War that depicted Israelis killing thousands of Beirut inhabitants by bombing civilian targets.[49] Dahl's review stated that the book would make readers "violently anti-Israeli", writing, "I am not anti-Semitic. I am anti-Israel."[50] 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."[50] Dahl maintained friendships with a number of Jews, including philosopher Isaiah Berlin, who said, "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."[50]

In the 1986 New Years Honours List, Dahl was offered the Order of the British Empire (OBE), but turned it down, purportedly because he wanted a knighthood so that his wife would be Lady Dahl.[51][52] Dahl is the father of author Tessa Dahl and grandfather of author, cookbook writer and former model Sophie Dahl (after whom Sophie in The BFG is named).[53]

Death and legacy[]

Dahl's gravestone, St Peter and St Paul's Church, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire

Roald Dahl died on 23 November 1990, at the age of 74 of a blood disease, myelodysplastic syndrome, in Oxford,[54] and was buried in the cemetery at St Peter and St Paul's Church in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England.[55] 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. In his honour, the Roald Dahl Children's Gallery was opened in November 1996, at the Buckinghamshire County Museum in nearby Aylesbury.[56]

Roald Dahl Plass
Roald Dahl Plass illuminated at night
Plaque commemorating Roald Dahl

In 2002, one of Cardiff Bay's modern landmarks, the historic Oval Basin plaza, was re-christened "Roald Dahl Plass". "Plass" means "place" or "square" in Norwegian, referring to the acclaimed late writer's Norwegian roots. There have also been calls from the public for a permanent statue of him to be erected in the city.[57]

Dahl's charitable commitments in the fields of neurology, haematology and literacy have been continued by his widow since his death, through Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity, formerly known as the Roald Dahl Foundation.[58][59] In June 2005, the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre opened in Great Missenden to celebrate the work of Roald Dahl and advance his work in literacy education.[55][60]

Blue plaque for Roald Dahl in Llandaff, Cardiff

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.[61][62] 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, Cardiff, Wales.[63] 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.[63] The anniversary of Dahl's birthday on 13 September is celebrated as "Roald Dahl Day" in Africa, the United Kingdom and Latin America.[64][65][66]

In honour of Roald Dahl, Gibraltar Post 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.[67] A set of six stamps was issued by Royal Mail in 2012, featuring Quentin Blake's illustrations for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits, The Witches, Matilda, Fantastic Mr Fox, James and the Giant Peach.[68] Dahl's influence has extended beyond literary figures, and he connected with film director Tim Burton with his "mixture of light and darkness, and not speaking down to kids, and the kind of politically incorrect humour that kids get".[69] Actress Scarlett Johansson named Fantastic Mr. Fox as one of the five books that made a difference to her.[70] Regarded as "one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century",[5] Dahl was listed as one of the greatest British writers since 1945.[6] He ranks amongst the world's best-selling fiction authors with sales estimated at over 100 million,[3][4] and his books have been published in almost 50 languages.[64] In 2003, the UK survey entitled The Big Read carried out by the BBC in order to find the "nation's best loved novel" of all time, four of Dahl's books were named in the Top 100, with only works by Charles Dickens and Terry Pratchett featuring more.[71] In a 2006 list for the Royal Society of Literature, author J. K. Rowling named Charlie and the Chocolate Factory among her top ten books every child should read.[72]



Roald Dahl's "The Devious Bachelor" was illustrated by Frederick Siebel when it was published in Collier's (September 1953).

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$1000 (a substantial sum in 1942) and published under the title "Shot Down Over Libya".[73]

His first children's book was The Gremlins, about mischievous little creatures that were part of RAF folklore.[74] All the RAF pilots blamed the gremlins for all the problems with the plane. The book, which First Lady of the US Eleanor Roosevelt read to her grandchildren,[74] was commissioned by Walt Disney for a film that was never made, and published in 1943.[75] 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, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, The BFG, George's Marvellous Medicine and Fantastic Mr Fox.

Dahl 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.[76] 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 Colliers 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, gaining worldwide acclaim. 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".[76]

Roald Dahl's gypsy wagon in the garden of his house, Gipsy Cottage, in Great Missenden, where he wrote the book Danny, the Champion of the World in 1975.

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.[77] 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.[77]

Dahl acquired a traditional Romanichal Gypsy wagon in the 1960s, and the family used it as a playhouse for his children at home in Great Missenden. He later used the vardo as a writing room, where he wrote Danny, the Champion of the World in 1975.[78] 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 Gypsy caravan.[79] Many local scenes and characters in Great Missenden inspired Dahl's stories.[55]

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".[80] 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.[81]

A number 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.[82] 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.[82]

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.[58][83]

Children's fiction[]

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.[5] They usually contain a lot of black humour and grotesque scenarios, including gruesome violence. 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 – ranging from the thinly veiled to the blatant – also surface in works such as Fantastic Mr Fox and Danny, the Champion of the World.

Dahl also features in his books 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 is featured 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. Featuring in The Witches, Bruno Jenkins is turned into a mouse by witches who lure him to their convention with the promise of chocolate, and, it is speculated, possibly disowned or even killed by his parents because of this. Aunt Sponge is flattened by a giant peach. Dahl's 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.

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 audio book form, and narrated by actor Alan Cumming.[84]


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, though both were rewritten and completed by other writers. Dahl created the Child Catcher, the supporting antagonist in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; in a 2005 poll, it was voted the scariest villain in children's literature.[85] 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".[86] 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 adaption for the sequel Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.[87]


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, William Makepeace Thackeray, Frederick Marryat and Charles Dickens, and their works went on to make a lasting mark on his life and writing. Dahl was also a huge fan of 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."[88] 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.[1][89]


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.[90] 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.[91]

The British television series, Tales of the Unexpected, originally aired on ITV between 1979 and 1988.[92] The series was released to tie in with Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected, which had introduced readers to many motifs that were common in his writing.[80] The series was an anthology of different tales, initially based on Dahl's short stories.[80] 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.[93]


Children's stories[]

  1. The Gremlins (1943)
  2. James and the Giant Peach (1961) – Film: James and the Giant Peach (live-action/animated) (1996)
  3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964)[nn 1] – Films: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
  4. The Magic Finger (1 June 1966)
  5. Fantastic Mr Fox (9 December 1970) – Film: Fantastic Mr. Fox (animated) (2009)
  6. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (9 January 1972)[nn 1] A sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
  7. Danny, the Champion of the World (30 October 1975) – Film: Danny the Champion of the World (TV movie) (1989)
  8. The Enormous Crocodile (24 August 1978)
  9. The Twits (17 December 1980)
  10. George's Marvellous Medicine (21 May 1981)
  11. The BFG (14 October 1982) – Film: The BFG (animated) (1989)
  12. The Witches (27 October 1983) – Film: The Witches (1990)
  13. The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me (26 September 1985)
  14. Matilda (21 April 1988) – Film: Matilda (1996)
  15. Esio Trot (19 April 1989)
  16. The Vicar of Nibbleswicke (9 May 1990)
  17. The Minpins (8 August 1991)
Children's poetry
  1. Revolting Rhymes (10 June 1982)
  2. Dirty Beasts (25 October 1984)
  3. Rhyme Stew (21 September 1989)

Adult fiction[]

  1. Sometime Never: A Fable for Supermen (1948)
  2. My Uncle Oswald (1979)
Short story collections
  1. Over To You: Ten Stories of Flyers and Flying (1946)
  2. Someone Like You (1953)
  3. Lamb to the Slaughter (1953)
  4. Kiss Kiss (1960)
  5. Twenty-Nine Kisses from Roald Dahl (1969)
  6. Switch Bitch (1974)
  7. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More (1977)
  8. The Best of Roald Dahl (1978)
  9. Tales of the Unexpected (1979)
  10. More Tales of the Unexpected (1980)
  11. Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories (1983). Edited with an introduction by Dahl.
  12. The Roald Dahl Omnibus (Dorset Press, 1986)
  13. Two Fables (1986). "Princess and the Poacher" and "Princess Mammalia".
  14. Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life: The Country Stories of Roald Dahl (1989)
  15. The Collected Short Stories of Dahl (1991)
  16. The Roald Dahl Treasury (1997)
  17. The Great Automatic Grammatizator (1997). (Known in the USA as The Umbrella Man and Other Stories).
  18. Skin And Other Stories (2000)
  19. Roald Dahl: Collected Stories (2006)

See the alphabetical List of Roald Dahl short stories. See also Roald Dahl: Collected Stories for a complete, chronological listing.


  1. The Mildenhall Treasure (1946, 1977, 1999)
  2. Boy – Tales of Childhood (1984) Recollections up to the age of 20, looking particularly at schooling in Britain in the early part of the 20th century.
  3. Going Solo (1986) Continuation of his autobiography, in which he goes to work for Shell and spends some time working in Tanzania before joining the war effort and becoming one of the last Allied pilots to withdraw from Greece during the German invasion.
  4. Measles, a Dangerous Illness (1988)[94]
  5. Memories with Food at Gipsy House (1991)
  6. Roald Dahl's Guide to Railway Safety (1991)
  7. My Year (1993)
  8. Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes by Felicity Dahl, et al. (1994), a collection of recipes based on and inspired by food in Dahl's books, created by Roald & Felicity Dahl and Josie Fison
  9. Roald Dahl's Even More Revolting Recipes by Felicity Dahl, et al. (2001)


  1. The Honeys (1955) Produced at the Longacre Theatre on Broadway.

Film scripts[]

  1. The Gremlins (1943)
  2. 36 Hours (1965)
  3. You Only Live Twice (1967)
  4. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
  5. The Night Digger (1971)
  6. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)


  1. Way Out (1961) Horror series hosted by Roald Dahl and produced by David Susskind
  2. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Lamb to the Slaughter" (1958)
  3. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Dip in the Pool" (1958)
  4. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Poison" (1958)
  5. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Man from the South" (1960) with Steve McQueen and Peter Lorre
  6. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel's Coat" (1960)
  7. Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "The Landlady" (1961)
  8. Tales of the Unexpected (1979–1988), episodes written and introduced by Dahl

  1. ^ a b Published in 1978 in an omnibus edition titled The Complete Adventures of Charlie and Willy Wonka


  1. ^ a b Roald Dahl Literary Influences
  2. ^ Pronunciation of Roald Dahl : How to pronounce Roald Dahl
  3. ^ a b Britain celebrates first Roald Dahl Day msnbc: "Dahl's books, many of them darkly comic and featuring villainous adult enemies of the child characters, have sold over 100 million copies." (13 September 2006)
  4. ^ a b Fans gather for Dahl celebration BBC News: "Exhibitions and children's reading campaigns are being held to commemorate the life of Dahl, who died in 1990 and has sold more than 100 million books." (13 September 2006)
  5. ^ a b c d e Once upon a time, there was a man who liked to make up stories ... The Independent (Sunday, 12 December 2010)
  6. ^ a b The 50 greatest British writers since 1945. The Times. 5 January 2008. Retrieved on 1 February 2010.
  7. ^ Philip Howard, "Dahl, Roald (1916–1990)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  8. ^ Colin Palfrey (2006) Cardiff Soul: An Underground Guide to the City
  9. ^ Jill C. Wheeler (2006) Roald Dahl p.9. ABDO Publishing Company, 2006
  10. ^ Michael D. Sharp (2006) Popular Contemporary Writers p.516. Marshall Cavendish, 2006
  11. ^ "Roald Dahl's School Days". BBC Wales. Retrieved 24 January 2010. 
  12. ^ Dahl, Roald (1984). Boy: Tales of Childhood. Puffin Books. ISBN 978-0-14-130305-5. 
  13. ^ Jeremy Treglown, Roald Dahl: A Biography (1994) , Faber and Faber, page 21. Treglown's source note is as follows: "Several people who were at the top of Priory House at the time have discussed it with me, particularly B.L.L. Reuss and John Bradburn."
  14. ^ a b Dahl, Roald (1984). Boy: Tales of Childhood. Jonathan Cape. 
  15. ^ "Roald Dahl". 23 November 1990. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  16. ^ Roald Dahl – Penguin UK Authors – Penguin UK
  17. ^ Shavick, Andrea (1997) Roald Dahl: the champion storyteller p.12. Oxford University Press, 1997
  18. ^ Roald Dahl biography BBC Wales. Retrieved 15 June 2011
  19. ^ Roald Dahl (derivative work) and Quentin Blake (2005). Roald Dahl's Incredible Chocolate Box. ISBN 0-14-131959-3. 
  20. ^ Dahl, Roald (1984) Boy: tales of childhood p.172. Puffin Books, 1984
  21. ^ "The Witches: A 1983 Roald Dahl book, was made into a 1990 film starring Anjelica Huston". Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  22. ^ Roald Dahl (British author) Encyclopædia Britannica'.' Retrieved 4 January 2010.
  23. ^ Donald Sturrock Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl p.116. Simon and Schuster, 2010
  24. ^ Sturrock (2010: 120)
  25. ^ The London Gazette, 8 October 1940
  26. ^ Roald Dahl: the plane crash that gave birth to a writer The Telegraph. Retrieved 4 April 2012
  27. ^ a b Alan Warren (1988) Roald Dahl pp.12, 87. Starmont House, 1988
  28. ^ a b Dahl, Roald (1986). Going Solo. Jonathan Cape. 
  29. ^ Andrew Thomas Hurricane Aces 1941–45 Osprey Publishing, 2003
  30. ^ Roald Dahl Going Solo p.151. Scholastic, 1996
  31. ^ "Viewing Page 5664 of Issue 35292". 30 September 1941. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  32. ^ "Viewing Page 5037 of Issue 35791". 17 November 1942. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  33. ^ Cambridge Guide to Literature (Cambridge University Press, 1989) ISBN 0-521-26751-X.
  34. ^ Ellen Schoeck I was there: a century of alumni stories about the University of Alberta, 1906–2006 University of Alberta, 2006
  35. ^ The book "The Irregulars" (by Jennet Conant, Simon and Schuster 2008) describes this era of Dahl's life and those with whom he worked.
  36. ^ Bill Macdonald – The True Intrepid p249 (Raincoast 2001)ISBN 1-55192-418-8 Dahl also speaks about his espionage work in the documentary The True Intrepid
  37. ^ Macdonald – The True Intrepid p243 ISBN 1-55192-418-8.
  38. ^ "The London Gazette". The London Gazette. 9 August 1946. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  39. ^ Christopher Shores and Clive Williams – Aces High: A Tribute to the Most Notable Fighter Pilots of the British and Commonwealth Air Forces in WWII (Grub Street Publishing, 1994) ISBN 1-898697-00-0.
  40. ^ 'Dad also needed happy dreams': Roald Dahl, his daughters and the BFG The Telegraph (6 August 2010)
  41. ^ "Water on the Brain". MedGadget: Internet Journal of Emerging Medical Technologies. 15 July 2005. Retrieved 11 May 2006. 
  42. ^ Dr Andrew Larner. "Tales of the Unexpected: Roald Dahl's Neurological Contributions". Advances in Clinical Neuroscience and Rehabilitation. 
  43. ^ childalert – first for child safety and wellbeing
  44. ^ Singh, Anita (7 August 2010) Roald Dahl's secret notebook reveals heartbreak over daughter's death The Telegraph'.' Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  45. ^ Barry Farrell (1969). Pat and Roald. Kingsport Press. 
  46. ^ "Patricia Neal: a beauty that cut like a knife". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 May 2012
  47. ^ "Roald Dahl Official website". Retrieved 13 June 2010. 
  48. ^ Lynn F. Pearson Discovering Famous Graves Osprey Publishing, 2008
  49. ^ Clifton, Tony (1983). "God Cried". Quartet Books, 1983
  50. ^ a b c Roald Dahl: A biography, Jeremy Treglown (Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1994), pp. 255–256.
  51. ^ Queen's honours refused. The Australian. Retrieved 1 June 2012
  52. ^ Roald Dahl among hundreds who turned down Queen's honours, Walesonline (also published in the Western Mail), 27 January 2012. Retrieved 27 January 2012.
  53. ^ Martin Chilton (18 November 2010) The 25 best children's books The Daily Telegraph
  54. ^ "Deaths England and Wales 1984–2006". Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  55. ^ a b c David Hurst (20 June 2005) "Roald Dahl's fantasy factory". The Daily Mail. Retrieved 3 June 2012
  56. ^ Sharron L. McElmeel (1999)100 most popular children's authors: biographical sketches and bibliographies Libraries Unlimited, 1999
  57. ^ Roald Dahl and the Chinese chip shop, WalesOnline, 27 March 2009.
  58. ^ a b Sally Williams (12 September 2006) A plateful of Dahl The Telegraph'.' Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  59. ^ "Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity". Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  60. ^ Clarie Heald (11 June 2005) Chocolate doors thrown open to Dahl BBC News
  61. ^ David Walliams up for Roald Dahl award BBC News'.' Retrieved 4 January 2011.
  62. ^ "The Roald Dahl Funny Prize". Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  63. ^ a b "UK | Wales | South East Wales | Blue plaque marks Dahl sweet shop". BBC News. 14 September 2009. Retrieved 25 October 2011. 
  64. ^ a b Roald Dahl Day expands into full month of special treats The Guardian'.' Retrieved 1 May 2011.
  65. ^ Roald Dahl Day celebrations, Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre . Retrieved 20 September 2007.
  66. ^ Roald Dahl's 90th Birthday!, Random House UK . Retrieved 20 September 2007.
  67. ^ ""UK world's best selling children author on Gibraltar stamps" ''World Stamp News''". 15 May 2010. Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  68. ^ Flood, Alison (9 January 2012). "Roald Dahl stamps honour classic children's author". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 January 2012. "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." 
  69. ^ Tim Burton, Mark Salisbury, Johnny Depp (2008). "Burton on Burton". p.223. Macmillan, 2006
  70. ^ "Books That Made a Difference to Scarlett Johansson". © 2012 Harpo Productions, Inc. Retrieved 28 May 2012
  71. ^ BBC – The Big Read – Top 100 Books. Retrieved 15 December 2010.
  72. ^ "From Beatrix Potter to Ulysses ... what the top writers say every child should read". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 May 2012
  73. ^ Frances E. Ruffin Meet Roald Dahl The Rosen Publishing Group, 2006
  74. ^ a b Donald, Graeme Sticklers, Sideburns & Bikinis: The Military Origins of Everyday Words and Phrases Osprey Publishing, 2008
  75. ^ Dahl's Gremlins fly again, thanks to historian's campaign. The Guardian. Retrieved 1 June 2012
  76. ^ a b Andrew Maunder The Facts On File companion to the British short story Infobase Publishing, 2007
  77. ^ a b James Mottram The Sundance kids: how the mavericks took back Hollywood Macmillan, 2006
  78. ^ "English Gypsy caravan, Gypsy Wagon, Gypsy Waggon and Vardo: Photograph Gallery 1". Retrieved 28 January 2011. 
  79. ^ Dahl, Roald (1975). "Danny, The Champion Of The World". p.13. Random House, 2010
  80. ^ a b c The Facts On File companion to the British short story p.417.
  81. ^ "Tales of the Unexpected (1979–88)" BFI Screenonline. Retrieved 28 May 2012
  82. ^ a b Darrell Schweitzer (1985) Discovering modern horror fiction, Volume 2. Wildside Press LLC, 1985
  83. ^ Books magazine, Volumes 5–7 p.35. Publishing News Ltd., 1991
  84. ^ AV guide, Volumes 77–82 Scranton Gillette Communications, 1998
  85. ^ Childcatcher is scariest villain BBC Retrieved 31 January 2011
  86. ^ Liz Buckingham, trustee for the Roald Dahl Museum, quoted in Tom Bishop: "Willy Wonka's Everlasting Film Plot", BBC News, July 2005
  87. ^ Tom Bishop (July 2005) Willy Wonka's Everlasting Film Plot BBC News
  88. ^ Roald Dahl: young tales of the unexpected The Telegraph (30 August 2008)
  89. ^ Influence of Sofie Dahl on Roald Dahl
  90. ^ Way Out (TV Series 1961) IMDB
  91. ^ "The Paley Center for Media: Way Out". Retrieved 28 May 2012
  92. ^ "BFI: Film and TV Database – Tales of the Unexpected". BFI. Retrieved 28 May 2012
  93. ^ Vincent Terrace (1985) Encyclopedia of Television Series, Pilots and Specials: 1974–1984
  94. ^ Source: written for a leaflet published c.1988 by Sandwell Health Authority (now Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust).


  • Philip Howard, "Dahl, Roald (1916–1990)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 Retrieved 24 May 2006
  • Donald Sturrock, Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl, Harper Press, 2010. ISBN 9780007254767 (See the link to excerpts in "External Links", below.)

External links[]

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Template:Roald Dahl Template:Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Template:Early20CBritChildrensLiterature Template:World Fantasy Award Life Achievement

NAME Dahl, Roald
SHORT DESCRIPTION British novelist, short story writer
DATE OF BIRTH 13 September 1916
PLACE OF BIRTH Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales
DATE OF DEATH 23 November 1990
PLACE OF DEATH Oxford, Oxfordshire, England

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at Roald Dahl. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.