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The weird, fascinating world of Roald Dahl has witches, giants and so much chocolate!5 min read

October 30, 2020 4 min read

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The weird, fascinating world of Roald Dahl has witches, giants and so much chocolate!5 min read

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Rewind with Owliver

Come October, and it’s officially the month for all things spooky and haunted. With Halloween just around the corner, there are so many scary movies to watch, and one among them is the latest adaptation of The Witches by Welsh author Roald Dahl.

A young Roald Dahl. Photo: Wikipedia

On this chapter of Rewind with Owliver, we look at the life and work of a man who created many-a magical world, and dozens of wicked, naughty yet loveable characters – some of whom have made it to the big screen too.

A life of travel and adventure

Dahl was born in Cardiff on September 13, 1916. He went to a strict boarding school as a boy, where he was very unhappy. Right after graduating, he started working for a company that would let him travel the world and go on many adventures. He then joined the Royal Air Force, and became fighter pilot during World War II. Unfortunately, due to an injury while on duty, he was forced to leave behind his pilot career.

Dark, twisted, but oh-so entertaining

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was one of the earliest books by
Roald Dahl. Photo: Pinterest

In 1960, Dahl, who had already grappled in writing by penning down his time at war, started a long and illustrious journey into the world of children’s books. He first started writing for his four children, and then wrote a total of 20 children’s books, 17 fiction books and three poetry books! Some of most famous works include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, The Twits and The BFG to name a few, which were widely popular among adults too.

The Twits is about a couple that play practical jokes on each other. Photo: Pinterest

One thing that set Dahl apart from other childrens’ writers was his style of writing – his works weren’t always rosy, ideal stories, but dealt with difficult topics, cruel characters and dark themes. Child-eating giants (in The BFG), evil aunts and grandmothers (James and the Giant Peach, George’s Marvelous Medicine) and extreme poverty (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) are just some of the topics Dahl explored. However, the stories always ended on a happy note, and often proved the innocence of children and the folly of the adult world.

Matilda is a heartwarming story of a young genius and her love for learning and books. Photo: quentinblake.com

Dahl preferred to write in his little garden, and spent the rest of his day caring for the animals on his farm. He died on November 23, 1990, of a rare type of cancer, but his legacy lives on as one of the greatest childrens’ writers of the 20th Century.

Quentin Blake and Dahl – A perfect match

Quentin Blake and Roald Dahl hard at work. Photo: Wikipedia

Dahl’s wild imagination, paired with Quentin Blake’s illustrations, made these books all the more charming. Blake started working with Dahl in 1976, and the first book he illustrated was The Enormous Crocodile (published in 1978). They soon became close friends, and worked together for many years, until Dahl’s death. Blake’s favourite book by Dahl is The BFG.

A boom about a little girl and giant? Owliver definitely recommends reading The BFG.
Photo: quentinblake.com

Owliver’s top picks of Roald Dahl books:

  1. The BFG – This touching tale tells the story of an orphan named Sophie and friendly giant who become best friends while going on some crazy adventures.
  2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – This story has been made into two movies, and is considered Dahl’s most popular book. It follows Charlie, a righteous boy who inherits a chocolate factory from a slightly cuckoo man.
  3. The Witches – Magic, evil witches and brave children star in this popular novel that has also been adapted twice into movies.
  4. James and the Giant Peach – A young orphan boy lives inside a peach and goes on adventures with seven, magical bugs!
  5. Matilda – This one is about a little girl, a genius, who has special powers. She uses these powers to help her friends, and also make a better life for herself.