100 Years of Snozzcumbers, Trunchbull and Chocolate Factories

 

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Today marks the one-hundredth birthday of beloved children’s author, Roald Dahl. Dahl died in 1990, aged seventy-four. Had he lived to see one hundred, he would be, I hope, delighted to see children still enjoying his books, and cheering Bruce Bogtrotter and Matilda along as their school is terrorised by Agatha Trunchbull. Or enjoying a nice bottle of Frobscottle with the Big Friendly Giant, followed by a round of delightful whizzpopping before delivering some Phizz-whizzing dreams. Or maybe he would drift down a chocolate river with Willy Wonka and the Oompa Loompas.

 

Roald Dahl was born in Llandlaff, Wales, on the 13th of September 1916, in the midst of a World War. He was born to Norwegian parents, and spent his summers in Norway. He lived a varied life, from boarding schools to being a fighter pilot in the Second World War to writing short stories for adults, before starting to write for children in 1961, with James and the Giant Peach. His most popular children’s books include Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG and The Witches.

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From the sixties onwards, children were read Roald Dahl’s stories, nurturing at least three generations and counting with his words. Growing up meant a new Roald Dahl book for birthdays and Christmases; nights spent reading past bed time to find out what happened, and reading the books again as a comfort or just for fun. Everyone has their favourite book and character, someone they can identify with. I always loved Matilda – the reader who refused to stop reading.

 

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Dahl’s crude sense of humour wove its way throughout the books and stories for adults and children. His Revolting Rhymes retell traditional fairy tales in a very crude and perhaps not quite so politically correct way – in Little Red Riding Hood, she whips a pistol from her knickers and makes a wolf skin coat. In Cinderella, the prince chops off heads. His stories are far from perfect, happy and rainbows and unicorns. The horrible characters always get their come-uppance, and the good characters are rewarded. His adult fiction has echoes of reality in his stories inspired by his war time experiences and are also quite macabre. The macabre nature of his writing is terrifying and appealing – and this combination makes him popular with all ages today. Despite his popularity, Roald Dahl’s books have not been without controversy, and attempts to ban them. Children will always find a way to read them, and I think Roald Dahl would have a bit of a laugh at the attempts to ban his books with their outlandish punishments of adults. It is a good thing I was allowed to read Roald Dahl growing up, as it fuelled my love of reading and my imagination, and I have never looked back.

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