Roald Dahl was born on the 13th of September 1916 and since 2006 the day has been designated Roald Dahl Day in celebration of the author and his work. To mark it, here we explore some of Dahl’s most popular work.
Roald Dahl is most famous for his children’s books, of which he wrote over 20, with ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, published in 1964, often topping the list. Telling the tale of poverty-stricken Charlie Bucket and his luck at finding a Golden Ticket to tour the factory of the elusive chocolate maker, Willy Wonka, the book inspired two incredibly popular film adaptations and has been translated into 55 different languages. ‘Matilda’ is another firm favourite. The story follows young genius Matilda Wormwood as she learns to control newfound powers whilst navigating the ups and downs of childhood. Since its publication in 1988, the novel has sold over 17 million copies worldwide and been adapted into a popular film and stage show. ‘The BFG’ is a another incredibly popular Dahl story, describing the adventures of Sophie and her new pal, the Big Friendly Giant. Published in 1982, the book is a dedication to Dahl’s daughter who died that year aged only 7. It has since sold over 37 million copies globally and inspired several screen adaptations.
The BFG has also been at the centre of much controversy as, earlier this year, the publishers, Puffin Books, announced it would be making numerous revisions* to make the language more inclusive – an approach taken to much of Dahl’s work which contains many racial and gender stereotypes. This is despite Dahl wishing his publishers not to “so much as change a single comma in one of my books”. Many public figures and authors spoke out against these revisions and, as a result, Puffin Books announced that they would publish both the revised and original editions of Dahl’s stories.
Much of Dahl’s poetry was written with children in mind – though it is known for its somewhat dark and twisted sense of humour. Popular examples include ‘The Pig’, ‘Cinderella’ and ‘The Three Little Pigs’, the latter two of which, both published in the poetry collection ‘Revolting Rhymes’ (1982) are humorous interpretations of the popular fairy tales of the same name.
However, Dahl didn’t just write works for children. He also wrote a vast collection of short stories for adults, with ‘Man from the South’ being one of the most popular. Published in 1948, it tells the tale of two men, the American narrator of the story and a South American man named Carlos, who make a potentially problematic bet – the narrator stands to either win Carlos’ Cadillac, or lose his little finger. Published in 1950, ‘Poison’ is the story of Harry Pope and his “encounter” with a venomous snake. The tale was turned into an episode of ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents…’ in 1958. Another short story, ‘Taste’ was first published in 1951 in The New Yorker newspaper. It describes a dinner party where things get a little heated after several bets are made.
Dahl famously wrote several autobiographies, one of the most popular of which is ‘Boy: Tales of Childhood’. As the title suggests, the book describes Dahl’s experiences growing up from early childhood until he left school, focussing on his experiences at public school during the 1920s and 30s.
For Further Interest
* For a more detailed look at the issues surrounding the editing of Dahl’s texts, click on the link here.