Famed children’s author Roald Dahl not only created some of children’s literature’s most unforgettable characters but even the wonderful eccentric stories for adults—making him one of the most beloved storytellers in the planet!
1: 13th September 2017 would have been Roald Dahl’s 101st birthday!
Roald Dahl was born in Llandaff, South Wales, on September 13, 1916.
2: Dahl was born in Wales, but his parents were Norwegian
His parents were Norwegian. As a child, Roald spoke fluent Norwegian and English. He’s even named after the famous Norwegian polar explorer, Roald Amundson. He spent his summer vacations visiting with his grandparents in Oslo. His father died when he was 4.
3: Dahl was a mischievous student
Dahl was good in cricket and swimming; he was also quite a good reader, and some of his favorite novelists were the adventure writers Rudyard Kipling and H. Rider Haggard. However, he performed poorly in class. His earliest education was at Llandaff Cathedral School but after the principal gave him a harsh beating for playing a practical joke, Dahl’s mother decided to enroll his rambunctious and mischievous child at St. Peter’s, a British boarding school, as had been her husband’s wish. Later, he transferred to Repton, a private school with a reputation for academic excellence but Dahl resented its rules that he hardly excelled as a student. Still, his mother offered to pay for his tuition at Oxford or Cambridge University when he graduated.
4: He was a Hurricane fighter pilot in World War II
Being a lively, imaginative youngster, restless and lusting for yet more adventure, in 1939, Dahl joined the Royal Air Force. After training in Nairobi, Kenya, he became a World War II fighter pilot. While serving in the Mediterranean, Dahl crash-landed in Alexandria, Egypt– all because he’d been given the wrong directions! The plane crash left him with serious injuries to his skull, spine and hip. Following a recovery that included a hip replacement and two spinal surgeries. Dahl was transferred to Washington, D.C., where he became an assistant air attaché.
5: Dahl married twice
Dahl married twice Around the same time when Someone Like You was published, Dahl married film actress Patricia Neal, who won an Academy Award for her role in Hud in 1961. The marriage lasted three decades and resulted in five children, one of home named Olivia tragically died in 1962 of measles encephalitis. After Neal suffered from multiple brain hemorrhages in the mid-1960s, Dahl stood by her through her long recovery. The couple would eventually divorce in 1983. Soon after, Dahl married Felicity Ann Crosland, his partner until his death in 1990.
6: Dahl did not start writing for children until he had children of his own.
It was Dahl’s children nightly bedtime stories that inspired his future career as a children’s writer. These stories became the basis for some of his most popular kids’ books, as his children proved an informative test audience. “Children are … highly critical. And they lose interest so quickly,” he asserted in his New York Times book review interview. ” You have to keep things ticking along. And if you think a child is getting bored, you must think up something that jolts it back. Something that tickles. You have to know what children like.”Dahl wrote his first story for children, The Gremlins, in 1942, for Walt Disney which wasn’t terribly successful, so Dahl went back to writing macabre and mysterious stories geared toward adult readers. He continued in this vein into the 1950s, producing the best-selling story collection Someone Like You in 1953, and Kiss, Kiss in 1959.
7: Dahl first established himself as a children’s writer only in 1961
It was after he published the book James and the Giant Peach which met with wide critical and commercial acclaim that he established himself as a children’s writer. Three years later, another novel was a big winner, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. These books eventually made into popular movies. A film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was released as Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 1971, and an originally titled remake of the film, starring Johnny Depp, was released in 2005. The movie version of James and the Giant Peach was released in 1996. In addition to James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dahl’s most popular kids’ books include Fantastic Fox (1970), The Witches (1983) and Matilda (1988).
8: Dahl wrote for around four hours every single day
From 10am – 12pm, and then 4pm – 6pm.
9: Dahl never learned how to type
Instead, Dahl preferred to do all his writing in an old red book in pencil and only on a yellow paper.
10: There are strange mementos still sitting in his writing hut
These include a huge ball made of old chocolate wrappers, and a piece of hip bone that he had to have removed!
11: Dahl was a spy.
During World War II he passed intelligence to MI6 from Washington.
12: Dahl invented 500 words and character names.
Gloriumptious is one. And have you ever wondered what language Oompa-Loompas speak? There is now an official Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary to help you tell your snozzcumbers from your snozzberries.
13: Many of Dahl’s characters were based on people he’d met in real life.
The grandmother in The Witches is said to be based on Dahl’s mother, and the little girl in The BFG was named after his granddaughter, Sophie.
14: Dahl wrote all of his children’s stories in a little shed at the bottom of his garden.
Known as his ‘writing hut’, Dahl sat in a battered old armchair and penned famous tales such as Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
15: In 1971, a real man named Willy Wonka wrote to Roald Dahl
Despite being harsh, there was one good thing about Repton Public School. Every few months, the chocolate company, Cadburys, sent boxes of chocolates to Repton for the students to test. This happy memory gave Dahl the idea for his most famous novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who has one fictional character named Willy Wonka. Surprisingly, there was a real man with the same name— a postman from Nebraska.
16: Roald Dahl was a giant!
Okay, not quite like the ones in his stories, but he was 6 foot 6 inches tall! This earned him the nickname ‘Lofty’ when he served in the RAF.
17: Dahl wrote the screenplays for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Bond movie You Only Live Twice.
In 1966 Roald Dahl was approached by James Bond producers Harry Saltzman and Albert “Cubby” Broccoli to write the screenplay for You Only Live Twice.
18: Dahl was a medical innovator
While the family was living in New York City in December 1960, his four month-old-son Theo was hit by a taxi and suffered traumatic brain injury which developed into a medial condition called hydrocephalus. With neurosurgeon Kenneth Till and toymaker Stanley Wade, who specialized in making small hydraulic pumps that supplied fuel to model aeroplane engines, Dahl designed the Wade-Dahl-Till valve – a cerebral shunt used to drain excess fluid from the brain. The device has since been used in thousands of operations, although Theo himself recovered from his accident and did not require the valve.
19: When Roald Dahl died in 1990, he was buried with some of his favourite things
He died on 23 November 1990 and is buried in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Great Missenden. Buried with him included a power drill, chocolate, snooker cues and of course, his HB pencils.
20: He wrote at least 48 books!
Including the ones adapted into films such as The BFG’ (1989), ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ (1971), ‘The Witches’ (1990), ‘Matilda’ (1996), ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’ (2009), Dahl published 48 books (not including published screenplays and plays). This total does include treasuries and collected works and books published after his death. With a childhood marked with tragedy, this much-loved children’s author has lived an extraordinary life. You may think he’s an awesome person, you may think he’s not. Well, we suppose that just makes him human. However, as a writer Dahl is indisputably phizz-whizzing that every September 13 is Roald Dahl Day—a holiday dedicated to one of the world’s greatest storytellers!