10 Things You Didn't Know About Roald Dahl
We all know Roald Dahl, the prolific author, and a true ponderer of childhood imagination.
Whether it be befriending a giant, turning into a blueberry, escaping witches, living in a peach or using telekinesis to make objects dance, Dahl created a marvellous timeless world transpiring from paper, and tv screens, to hearts.
What was your favourite Roald Dahl novel? I’m indecisive, trying to decide between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda is not an easy gig.
Maybe you can instantly think of your favourite? There are plenty to choose from; Dahl wrote 49 of them! This includes children’s novels, poetry and even contemporary adult fiction like the ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ found in his previous works Kiss Kiss and someone like you…didn’t know that, did you?
The Times names Dahl as one of the “50 Greatest British writers since 1945”, and this is an understatement in my belief, I think he should be number one British writer of all time. Not everyone can write a story about turning your cranky grandma into a giant using homemade medicine, then shrinking her until she disappears and bringing joy to the family that she’s gone. True art.
A mind like this must come from someone with an exciting life, so, let’s ponder on the ten things you didn’t know about Dahl’s life.
Roald Dahl wrote movie screenplays!
Dahl is not just your average joe blow author, he also wrote screenplays for movies like ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’, and the James Bond film ‘You Only Live Twice’. Not only did he write screenplays, but he had excellent TV success with his stories, such as being featured for a six-episode season on the award-winning US series ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’ for ‘Tales of The Unexpected’. Watch below one of the famous episodes, ‘Lamb to the Slaughter’, which aired on April 13 1958.
2. Roald Dahl was a World War II air force pilot, and an MI6 Spy!
Dahl enlisted in the Royal Airforce at 23 years old, and in September 1940 he received severe injuries after his Gladiator plane crash-landed in the Western Desert. He later took part in the Battle of Athens, and then was sent to Washington to become an MI6 spy. What is even more fascinating, is when providing intelligence for MI6, Dahl worked along with partner Ian Fleming (aka, 007 creator), and both of them used their spy experiences to help Fleming create the James Bond 007 series!
And for some comical adult themes, well here’s a little insight into possibly what Dahl was up to as a spy…
3. Roald Dahl has a history of women.
Roald Dahl was a ladies man, a tall, handsome spy, who loved children and could write, I mean, you can’t blame him. But, Roald did settle down, he married Oscar-nominated Hollywood actress Patricia Neal in 1953, and they were married for 17 years, and had five children. Neal found out about an on-going affair Dahl was having with her friend Felicity Crosland who she invited to their abode in Great Missenden, and the rest is history. Dahl and Neal divorced in 1983, and later Neal termed Dahl “Roald Dahl the rotten”. Dahl then went on to marry Felicity Crosland in 1983, the same year he got divorced from Neal! Ouch. Dahl remained married to Felicity until his death in 1991.
4. Roald Dahl has an interesting family tree, with both fame and tragedy.
In tragic circumstances, Dahl at a young age lost both his sister and father to illness. His sister Astri Dahl died of appendicitis, and his father Harald Dahl died of pneumonia. Later in life, Dahl’s first daughter Olivia died at age seven from measles, and his son Theo was severely brain damaged at four months old when his pram was hit by a taxi, resulting in built-up fluid in his cranial cavity. Also, his first-wife Patricia suffered from three burst aneurysms and strokes when pregnant with their fifth child Lucy. On a positive note, Dahl’s daughter Tessa Dahl grew up to be a wonderful actor, and her daughter Sophie Dahl is now a famous model, designer and author.
5. Dahl helped pioneer a new medical treatment to help his son and children around the world.
Roald Dahl worked with Stanley Wade, a toymaker, and Kenneth Till, paediatric neurosurgeon, to create the Dahl-Wade-Till valve, which was a cerebral shunt to drain fluid from his son’s brain and prevent blockages. This valve helped his son Theo and over 3,000 other children around the world with hydrocephalus.
6. Dahl helped save Patricia Neal’s life.
When Patricia Neal suffered from three burst cerebral aneurysms in 1965 when pregnant with her daughter Lucy, Neal was left blind, unable to talk and walk. Roald Dahl would not let this ruin Neal’s life and put her on a hardcore routine back into health. As a result, Neal learned to walk again, talk again, and with so much success, she got back into acting and received an Oscar nomination in 1969 as the best actress in a leading role for film ‘The Subject Was Roses’.
7. Cadbury inspired Dahl’s Charlie and The Chocolate Factory!
Roald Dahl as a child went to Repton Public School, and while there the Cadbury chocolate factory nearby would let the students taste test samples. With an avid love for chocolate, Dahl’s experiences as a child led to the creation of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. Also, Dahl’s postman’s name was Willy Wonka.
8. Roald Dahl has a Marvellous Children’s Charity.
Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity (previously the Roald Dahl Foundation) was created in his honour by his wife Felicity after his death in 1991. The charity helps over 21,000 seriously ill children and their families at any one time around the UK. Each year, the Dahl family gift 5% of Roald Dahl’s worldwide royalties from his work to the charity, equalling around $850,000 donated each year.
9. This may not come as a surprise, but Roald Dahl was a prankster.
Dahl’s 1984 memoir ‘Boy: Tales of Childhood,’ reflects on all sorts of devious things Dahl got up to as a child, including the great mouse plot where he and his friends put a dead mouse in a gobstopper jar in cranky Mrs Pratchett’s lolly shop. He also put goat poop in his “ancient” sister’s fiancé’s smoking pipe.
10. Matilda was a devil child and Ms Honey was a gambling addict.
In the early original drafts of Matilda, Matilda Wormwood was a “wicked child” causing havoc at school and helped her teacher Ms Honey out of a financial pickle by ‘fixing’ a horse race. Roald Dahl admitted in 1988 in an interview that after writing several chapters, he decided he got it all wrong and re-wrote it. Matilda was the last children’s novel Dahl wrote before his death in 1990.
Oh, and I wouldn’t be a true Dahl fan if I didn’t play tricks on the readers…here is an eleventh fun fact for you.