Spotlight On: Roald Dahl

Hi everyone,

Today’s post is going to be another installment of my “Spotlight On:…” series. This month I will be writing about a well-known children’s author; Roald Dahl. Roald Dahl wrote so many of my childhood favourites that I thought it would be a good idea for me to learn a bit more about his life.

As always, the post will be divided up into 6 different parts:

1. A little bit about their life

2. Their works I have read

3. Their works I am yet to read

4. Great film/TV adaptations based on their works

5. Quotes

6. An author biography recommendation

Enjoy!


A Little Bit About Their Life

Roald Dahl was born 13 September 1916 in South Wales to Norwegian parents, Harald and Sofie. They had five children between them and Roadl Dahl was the middle child. He spent his childhood summers visiting his grandparents in Oslo, Norway. Roald Dahl as a child was described as a “troublemaker” and was very skilled at “finding trouble”.

Roald Dahl’s father died when Dahl was four and, following his father’s wishes, his mother sent Dahl to an English school. At Llandaff Cathedral School, Roald Dahl got into trouble for placing a dead mouse in a storekeeper’s candy jar. Dahl’s mother then moved him to St. Peter’s Boarding School, and later to Repton which was an excellent private school. Dahl described his school years as “days of horrors” filled with lots of rules, a lot of which inspired his fiction. Though not a fantastic student, his mother offered him the chance of attending Oxford or Cambridge University when he finished school. Apparently his reply, according to his biography Boy: Tales of Childhood, was, “No, thank you. I want to go straight from school to work for a company that will send me to wonderful faraway places like Africa or China”.

And he did just that… After graduating from Repton, Dahl began work for the Shell Oil Company in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in Africa. In 1939, he joined the Royal Air Force training squadron in Nairobi,Kenya, serving as a fighter pilot in the Mediterreanean during World War II. He suffered severe head injuries in a plane crash in Egypt. Whilst recovering, he was sent to Washington, D.C., to be an assistant air attache (a technical expert who advises government representatives). This is where he began his writing career, publishing a short story in the Saturday Evening Post. His stories soon appeared in many other magazines. Dahl described becoming a writer as “pure fluke”.

In 1953, Dahl married Hollywood actress Patricia Neal. The marriage did not survive but they did have five children together. As soon as the children were old enough, Dahl began making up stories for them each night before they went to bed. These stories became the basis for his career as a children’s writer, which began first with the publication of James and the Giant Peach in 1961. Dahl wrote so many fantastic children’s books throughout his life, the majority of which have been turned into films.

He often said that his children were his biggest critics of his storytelling – if they were getting bored of the story, he would have to change it up and regain their attention again. Roald then wrote screenplays for the James Bond hit You Only Live Twice and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Roald Dahl died on 23 November 1990, aged 74. He was buried in the parish church of St Peter and St Paul in great Missenden, Buckinghamshire (the village where the Roadl Dahl Museum is today).

I will leave you with this quote about writing from Dahl himself:

“two hours of writing fiction leaves this particular writer absolutely drained. For those two hours he has been miles away, he has been somewhere else, in a different place with totally different people, and the effort of swimming back into normal surroundings is very great. It is almost a shock.… A person is a fool to become a writer. His only [reward] is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it.”


Their Works I Have Read/Am Yet to Read

I have read the majority of Roald Dahl’s books (I was always a huge reader, as soon as I learnt how to read!)

The only books I haven’t read are: Boy, Danny the Champion of the World, and all of his adult books.

My favourite Roald Dahl books are: Matilda, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.


Great Film/TV Adaptations of Their Work

Oh, there are so many wonderful adaptations of Dahl’s works! I absolutely love the 1996 adaptation of Matilda (that film was perfect on every level). One of my favourite films of all time is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) which features one of my favourite songs of all time: Pure Imagination by Gene Wilder. I also really love the 1990 adaptation of The Witches. I haven’t yet seen the 2020 version with Anne Hathaway. What’s your favourite adaptation of Roald Dahl’s work?


Quotes

“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

“So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books.”

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

“So Matilda’s strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.”

“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.”

“The books transported her into new worlds and introduced her to amazing people who lived exciting lives. She went on olden-day sailing ships with Joseph Conrad. She went to Africa with Ernest Hemingway and to India with Rudyard Kipling. She travelled all over the world while sitting in her little room in an English village.”

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”

“The witching hour, somebody had once whispered to her, was a special moment in the middle of the night when every child and every grown-up was in a deep deep sleep, and all the dark things came out from hiding and had the world all to themselves.”

“I was glad my father was an eye-smiler. It meant he never gave me a fake smile because it’s impossible to make your eyes twinkle if you aren’t feeling twinkly yourself. A mouth-smile is different. You can fake a mouth-smile any time you want, simply by moving your lips. I’ve also learned that a real mouth-smile always has an eye-smile to go with it. So watch out, I say, when someone smiles at you but his eyes stay the same. It’s sure to be a phony.”

“A little magic can take you a long way.”


An Author Biography Recommendation

I would say the first stop for learning more about Roald Dahl’s life would be his autobiography from his childhood, Boy: Tales of Childhood. I haven’t yet read this, but from all the research I have done for this post, it looks like a great place to start.


Thank you for reading! I hope everyone is having a great month.

Love, Zoë x

4 thoughts on “Spotlight On: Roald Dahl

Add yours

  1. This was probably my favorite installment yet in your “Spotlight On” series – I LOVE Roald Dahl, and have loved him since childhood! And since 2018, when I finally got around to reading My Uncle Oswald, I think I actually have read every single one of his books 🥰 Although I didn’t know Roald Dahl had also written screenplays, so that was a really interesting fact you’ve taught me!

    As to my favorite adaptation – it’s probably also the 1996 Matilda one 😊 Although I kind of wish they’d have kept the setting in the UK – I feel like Roald Dahl’s books thrive off atmosphere, and moving the story to a whole different country changed a lot of those vibes… But I still really love it!

    Also, the quotes you chose!! 🤩

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Completely agree re: the setting of the film! It’s still one of my comfort movies though ❤
      So impressed you've read all his books! I feel like he's one of the authors I've read the most of but still have a couple more books to read on the list 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for all the background information. I knew nothing about Roald Dahl even if I am familiar with his books (love Mathilda). I didn’t even know he had links to Scandinavia. His name (Dahl) gives a big hint, though.

    Liked by 1 person

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