Roald Dahl Day: Here’s why the world celebrates this children’s author’s birthday
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Roald Dahl Day: Here’s why the world celebrates this children’s author’s birthday

It’s author Roald Dahl’s birthday, today, and here’s a list of some books that made him popular in his career.

books Updated: Sep 13, 2017 13:30 IST
Henna Rakheja
Henna Rakheja
Hindustan Times
Roald Dahl,Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,The Magic Finger
It’s author Roald Dahl’s birthday today. (Wikipedia)

Mention the name Charlie and what comes to mind is the chocolate factory and glass elevator. These aren’t morse codes for the ardent followers of Roald Dahl. His illustrious career spanned almost half a century, with short stories that had unexpected endings. On Dahl’s birthday, today, which is being celebrated as Roald Dahl Day, here are some facts about this popular children’s author that you would want to know:

Who was Roald Dahl (1942-1990)?
  • Born in United Kingdom, in 1916, Dahl was a popular novelist, poet and screenwriter.
  • Born in Wales to Norwegian parents.
  • Served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War.
  • Receipient of 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.

The Gremlins

Published in 1943, this was Dahl’s first children’s book, penned for Walt Disney Productions. This book was written keeping in mind promotions for an animation film that was eventually canned.

The story of this book has mischievous and mythical creatures — the Gremlins. The gremlins’ motivate the sabotaging of British aircrafts, as a revenge for razing their forest home for an aircraft factory. Eventually, the gremlins are re-trained by the Royal Air Force to repair rather than sabotage aircraft.

Dahl’s creations were later used by Warner Bros Cartoons in several World War II cartoons, most notably Russian Rhapsody and Falling Hare, of which the latter starred Bugs Bunny.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

This 1964 children’s novel narrates the adventures of young Charlie Bucket inside the chocolate factory of Willy Wonka — an eccentric chocolatier.

In the 1920s, Cadbury and Rowntree’s were England’s two largest chocolate makers and the two often tried to steal each others trade secrets by sending spies, in disguised as employees, into the other’s factory. The secrecy that developed towards the chocolate-making processes inspired Dahl to write this story.

The book has been adapted into two major motion pictures — Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005).

The Magic Finger

This fantasy story written in 1962 was first published in 1966 as a picture book illustrated by William Pène du Bois.

This book narrates the story of the Gregg family, for which hunting is just about fun. But the girl living next door, finds it horrible, and tries to talk them out of it politely, but the Greggs end up laughing at her. Then, one day the little girl uses her magic finger on them and turns them into birds!

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

This book is a sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Written in 1971, and published in 1972, its narrative picks up right from where the first book ended, with Charlie and his family aboard the flying Great Glass Elevator, enroute to the Chocolate Factory that Wonka intends to hand over to Charlie. The elevator ascends to a height that frightens Charlie’s family, and hence the elevator goes into an orbit, and docks at a Space Hotel.

Dahl had also planned to write a third book in the series but never finished it.

The Twits
This humorous book written by Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake, in 1979, was first published in 1980. It was also adapted for the stage in 2007.

Mr Twit is a wicked person, with facial hair that covers almost his entire face. Mrs Twit is his ugly, menacing wife, whose former beauty was distorted because of her horrible thoughts. This vindictive couple, who are retired circus trainers, live in a brick house without windows, and play practical jokes on each other out of hatred for one another.

The idea of The Twits was triggered by Dahl’s hatred for beards. In fact, the first sentence of the story is, “What a lot of hairy-faced men there are around nowadays!”

The Witches
This fantasy horror novel published in 1983 by Jonathan Cape in London, with illustrations by Quentin Blake, is set in Norway and the United Kingdom. It features the experiences of a young British boy and his Norwegian grandmother in a world where child-hating evil witches secretly exist.

The story takes a turn, when the little boy eavesdrops on a meeting of the Grand High Witch and her minions. They catch him and turn him into a mouse. The rest of the plot follows him trying to foil their evil plans to eliminate all children.

However, The Witches was banned by some libraries due to misogynistic reasons.

The Minpins
With illustrations by Patrick Benson, this book was published in 1991, just a few months after Dahl’s death in November 1990.

It’s story is based on the character of Little Billy, who is forbidden by his mother to enter the Forest of Sin behind his house. She tells him of the Whangdoodle, Hornswogglers, Snozzwanglers and Vermicious knids that live in the forest. Little Billy, however, doesn’t believe his mother and the Devil whispers to Little Billy that monsters don’t exist. When Little Billy is walking through the forest, he hears someone coming after him, and runs to escape, but looks back to see puffs of orange-red smoke catching up with him. He climbs up a tree, and discovers a whole city of people— the Minpins living in the tree.

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First Published: Sep 13, 2017 13:30 IST