Celebrating Roald Dahl Day

Children will be dressing up as their favourite characters, hosting parties and trying out activities provided by the Roald Dahl Story Day Hub in aid of Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity. And this is how most of us know him, an amazing children’s storyteller. If you need a reminder of his most well-known, favourites are usually among these:

  • The Witches
  • Matilda
  • Danny the Champion of the World
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
  • James and the Giant Peach
  • The Twits
  • George’s Marvellous Medicine
  • The BFG
  • Fantastic Mr Fox
  • The Enormous Crocodile…

the list goes on. Is your favourite here?

A bit of history

This huge body of popular children’s fiction (19 in all) began to emerge in 1961 with James and the Giant Peach followed by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 1964, Fantastic Mr Fox in 1970 then Danny the Champion of the World, The Enormous Crocodile and My Uncle Oswald.

The following decade he published The Twits, Revolting Rhymes, The BFG and The Witches. At this point he took a break from children’s fiction publishing Boy in 1984 and Going Solo in 1986. Two years later, Matilda was published, then Esio Trot in 1990 and posthumously, The Minpins in 1991.

But there is another side to, arguably, the UK’s most loved children’s author. Did you know, he was a spy, a fighter pilot, a chocolate historian and an inventor? You probably could have guessed the last two, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory definitely makes more sense now, doesn’t it?!

After the publication of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he wrote the screenplays for the James Bond film, You Only Live Twice and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The dark side

He was also the author of the far more disturbing and adult fiction series: Tales of the Unexpected, a collection of 16 short stories taken from Kiss Kiss and Someone Like You. These stories take us in to the world of risk-takers, such as the man who wagers his daughter’s hand in marriage to a wine connoisseur, or the traveller who throws himself overboard on a cruise liner to win a bet.

Creating short stories is notoriously difficult, being able to shape believable characters within an engaging dramatic environment in such a short format is a skill not to be sniffed at. More difficult than a full-length novel where you have time to fully develop your characters, their motivation and the narrative they follow.

Our bookworm MD, Gareth, wanted to take this opportunity, on Roald Dahl Story Day, to introduce you to this other, darker side of Mr Dahl’s work, if you aren’t already aware of it:

First published in 1979, Tales of the Unexpected are stories of risk takers, mystery and revenge and are by far my favourite of all his works. Adapted for TV by Anglian Television, they were published to coincide with the first airing in 1979 and ran until 1988. They were also included in an awarding winning US TV series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Dahl himself starred in these episodes, introducing them from a drawing room studio set with a crackling fire.

Gareth’s favourite of all the novellas in the series is ‘Skin’. When asked why, he says:

"It’s just so macabre and shocking. There are loads in the series that are amazing – I think his finest work is within these short stories. ‘Skin’ is just the one that stands out to me".

First published in 1952, and set in 1946, the novella tells the story of a desperate man who discovers the financial value of the tattoo on his back.

We’d love to hear about your favourite and whether you remember Roald Dahl and the crackling fire! Happy Roald Dahl Story Day.

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