As you probably know, Spielberg has brought The BFG to the silver screen and while I haven’t seen it, the trailer and all the bus shelter ads have been making me nostalgic for some gloriumptious Roald Dahl reading.
Real life stories as good as bottled dreams
Interestingly enough Dahl was actually the original BFG himself. He would tell his children, and later his grandchildren, tales of a dream-catching giant. Then, before they headed off to the land of nod, he would climb out through their window and onto a ladder, blowing good dreams to them. I don’t know about you but I sure want a friendly giant to send some phizzwizzards my way.
And sleep certainly is bliss in Dahl’s world. Just think, Danny and William’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ method of catching pheasants lands the former with the title ‘Champion of the World’ while Mr Hoppy’s tortoise swap in Esio Trot (whilst the lady of his affections is sleeping of course) earns him her hand in marriage!
But it’s not only sleep that’s bliss
It’s the ingenious satire of Revolting Rhymes. The delight of a fox out-foxing Boggis, Bunce and Bean (one fat, one short, one lean). The thought there could be such a thing as lickable wallpaper. It’s the ridiculousness of a giraffe with an extending neck, a pelican with a bucket-sized beak, a dancing monkey and a boy with big ideas joining forces to create the Ladderless Window-Cleaning Company (perhaps not that ridiculous now I think on it).
Not to mention the thrill of blowing up Grandmas and peaches
One of my favourite Dahl stories has to be George’s Marvellous Medicine. It was the first of his books I ever read and far from being medicine it was contagious—I was obsessed with Dahl’s stories from that moment on. I remember being rolled up in my doona on the lounge in our old sunroom, home sick from school when my mum presented it to me with a side of chicken soup. I read it to my two cats (also snuggled in the doona) three times in the three days I was off. It certainly made me feel better and the next time I was sick she bought me James and the Giant Peach. I made a fast recovery fantasising the bullies in the playground would meet the same fate as Sponge and Spiker—revenge never tasted so sweet.
And that’s the best thing about Dahl. He knew that with everything good there is always something bad, very true of the man himself and of course, his characters. Think Henry Sugar or the girl with the magic finger (needless to say I’d be using both of their powers against trophy hunters too).
From bad to worse
And then sometimes in life there’s even worse like the woman in Lamb to the Slaughter who feeds the investigators the weapon she used to murder her husband, the titular character in The Enormous Crocodile who eats children, or what about the Twits who hold all those poor monkeys prisoner and store morsels of food in facial hair?
Indeed one of my favourite quotes ever comes from The Twits:
“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.
A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
From worse to gruncious (aka awful)
If you’ve read the short stories in Dahl’s anthology Kiss Kiss you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not let’s just say you’ll be kept awake at night by characters, which include but are not limited to, sex-obsessed priests, an old landlady with a penchant for Jeepers Creepers-esc taxidermy and Adolf Hitler.
Speaking of creepy
Miss Trunchbull. The chokey. Used car salesmen. Dahl’s novel Matilda perfected the recipe for a good dose of goosebumps. However nothing makes my toes tingle as much as a witch convention, perhaps because the creatures in question have none themselves. Props to them for owning all the sweet shops in England though. Except for Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of course. The oompa loompas would never let that slide.
What are your favourite Roald Dahl stories? Do you have a clear memory of the first time you read one? Have you read any tales from his adult collections? Let me know in the comments.