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Roald Dahl

By Patrick Van Roy On September 13th, 2020

Guest Post by Seimi

“…we all start out knowing magic. … But then we get the magic educated right out of our souls. We get it churched out, spanked out, washed out, and combed out. We get put on the straight and narrow and told to be responsible. Told to act our age. Told to grow up, for God’s sake. And you know why we were told that? Because the people doing the telling were afraid of our wildness and youth, and because the magic we knew made them ashamed and sad of what they’d allowed to wither in themselves.”

So wrote American author, Robert R. McCammon, in 1991. And he was correct, of course. How could he not be? After all, he was merely echoing the thoughts of one of the most gifted writers the English language ever produced.

Today is Roald Dahl Day, when those who know what Snozzberries and Humpy-Rumpys are, celebrate the birth of a man who refused to be shackled by cumbersome inconveniences like being a grown-up, living instead by mantras such as, “Never grow up…always down,”  and “Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

Dahl, the son of Norwegian immigrants, was born in Llandaff, Wales, on the 13th of September, 1916. During the Second World War, he joined the Royal Air Force, where he scored five confirmed victories, before being invalided back to England after the Battle of Athens.

Dahl was eventually sent first to Canada and then to Washington, as a member of British secret intelligence, from where he sent information to Winston Churchill on his US counterpart, Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was eventually promoted to Wing Commander, for the duration of the war.

He was accused of being anti-semitic, because of his stance regarding the siege of West Beirut by Israel in the Lebanon War of 1982. He wrote, “…a race of people”, meaning Jews, had never “switched so rapidly from victims to barbarous murderers.” (Wiki) He stated, “I am not anti-Semitic. I am anti-Israel.” And also said, of the USA, that they were, “…so utterly dominated by the great Jewish financial institutions” that “they dare not defy” Israelis. (Wiki)

But it is undoubtably for his children’s books which he is best remembered. The Twits, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach and on and on and on. His books have sold over 250 million copies worldwide, and his readership grows by the day. His books followed eight basic rules:

  1. Just add chocolate
  2. Adults can be scary
  3. Bad things happen
  4. Revenge is sweet
  5. Keep a wicked sense of humour
  6. Pick perfect pictures
  7. Films are fun…but books are better!
  8. Food is fun!

His philosophy was simple:

“I have a passion for teaching kids to become readers, to become comfortable with a book, not daunted. Books shouldn’t be daunting, they should be funny, exciting and wonderful; and learning to be a reader gives a terrific advantage.”

And his works are eminently quotable.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, so long as somebody loves you.”

“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”

And one of my favourites:

“Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world.”

Celebrate Roald Dahl Day today. Go find one of his many books (we all, those of us who are parents,  have them, somewhere in the house!) Laugh at the Twits. Marvel in the BFG’s wisdom and peculiar phrases. Despise Matilda’s parents and the Trunchbull. Wish you owned a chocolate factory, or at least a giant peach! Be a kid, just for one more day.

Happy birthday, Roald.

9 Responses to “Roald Dahl”

  1. That was an excellent post Seimi. Thanks.
    I’m a huge Roald Dahl fan, and I’ve read loads of his books. Starting, like many people in my youth, with James and the giant peach and his Charlie and the Chocolate factory series. What an imagination he had.
    He also co-wrote Chitty-chitty-bang-bang. Apparently the child catcher character in the film was his idea. That terrifying character did more scare me out of talking to strangers than any advice from parents or teachers ever did.

    Don’t forget the other thing he’s famous for, which is writing the early episodes of tales of the unexpected. There’s some great stories there, and this is one of my favorites:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpDb4EcSnLE&t=24s

  2. Superb post. And of course, who of us of s certain vintage could ever forget Tales of the Unexpected?

    And now to sully the subject with dirty politics:

    I am not anti-Semitic. I am anti-Israel

    In today’s currency that makes him an anti-Semite in many quarters.

  3. I’ll need to go hunting for my Roald Dahl books. I used to have a ton of them. My personal favourite is Fantastic Mr Fox.

    “In today’s currency that makes him an anti-Semite in many quarters.”

    I do think the “can’t oppose Israel because the Jews run the banks” bit does veer into antisemitism.

  4. Roald Dahl is wonderful. Our fella (7) has recently become a fan. He’s read Fantastic Mr Fox, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and just finished the Twits last night.

  5. Does veer into antisemitism

    I was making the point that criticising Israel today is for many weaponised as used as synonymous to anti Semetism.

  6. “I was making the point that criticising Israel today is for many weaponised as used as synonymous to anti Semetism.”

    Indeed.

  7. There is a wonderful Wes Anderson adaption of The Fantastic Mr Fox that I highly recommend.

  8. There is a wonderful Wes Anderson adaption of The Fantastic Mr Fox that I highly recommend.

  9. I had a short paragraph written, specifically about Tales of the Unexpected, but I forgot to add it!
    One of my favourite episodes was the one about the scientist who invents a machine which can hear plants experience pain. Another was called, I think, Royal Jelly, about a man slowly becoming a bee.
    It had one of the sexiest set of titles a young, growing boy could ever wish for!

    The Twits is one of my favourite Dahl books. I used to tell the young fella that all grown-ups turned into the Twits when we got older 🙂