Children were his friends” says Roald Dahl’s widow Liccy, “they were his equals”. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why he was quite so exceptional at writing with kids in mind. The creativity and imagination of Dahl’s books couldn’t have existed without the fantastical mind of someone who had pink milk for breakfast and put hundreds-and-thousands in his jelly – all because it seems great fun!
Dahl’s vibrant writing exudes a happiness that not all of his life experiences correspond with: the death of his father at a young age, fighting as an RAF pilot (and being shot down over Libya), and the tragic death of his own seven-year-old daughter from measles. Yet throughout his writing, Dahl upheld a positivity that allowed his characters to overcome even the most disastrous of situations. And flying fighter jets in WW2 was just “marvellous fun!”, in case anyone was wondering…
It was after Dahl’s war experiences that he first fell in love with writing, retelling his own dramatic experiences of conflict. Writing in Lucky Break, he recalled, “for the first time in my life, I became totally absorbed in what I was doing”. This description fits totally with his writing style – you can just imagine a man completely lost in his own world of vivid imagination, shutting out the real, adult world, as he spent hours upon hours in his writing hut.
This small hut was nestled at the bottom of his garden – ‘small’ for a towering man of 6ft 5” – and it was here where his magical creations took form. Ferocious wolves supposedly guarded the hut to stop small children sneaking in and disturbing the master at work, but Dahl’s daughters would occasionally sneak a glimpse inside, after a polite knock on the door. Sitting in an old winged-back chair, their father could often be found munching on sweets and chocolate, surrounded by his children’s letters and artwork on the walls, with his own hip bone fashioning a rather unusual door handle. Scribbling away in HB pencil, on his trademark yellow paper, some of the nation’s favourite characters would no doubt be springing to life – as well as approximately 250 brand new words, all dreamt up by Dahl himself.
Today, the legacy of Roald Dahl continues, as his works are republished across multi-media platforms. He even has his very own museum with three “interactive galleries” where “you can enjoy free drop-in crafts every day”. In addition, Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity is a foundation set up to help seriously ill children, run by his widow Liccy Dahl since his death in 1990.
The man was clearly a genius, but he also lived a life of mystery, resulting in some fascinating facts and anecdotes. For example, he wrote the screenplay for the Bond film You Only Live Twice, adapting it from Ian Fleming’s book in 1967. In many ways, he’s as full of surprises as his characters!