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Who is Roald Dahl?

Roald Dahl was a master storyteller whose whimsical tales have enchanted readers for generations. His imaginative worlds and memorable characters, like Willy Wonka and Matilda, capture the essence of childhood wonder. His stories often blend humor with a touch of the macabre, appealing to both young and old. What magic might you discover in Dahl's literary universe? Explore his legacy with us.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Roald Dahl is a British author well known for writing books and stories for children and adults. He was born in Cardiff, Wales in 1916 to Norwegian parents and named for Roald Amundsen, a popular Norwegian polar explorer of the time. When he was four, his sister Astri and his father both passed away within the period of one month. His mother decided to remain in England, because Dahl's father had specified that the children be educated in British schools, which he firmly believed to be the best in the world. It was an unusual decision for the time, when women were not generally encouraged to strike out on their own.

Dahl started at Llandaff Cathedral School, and later went to a series of boarding schools, an experience he profoundly disliked. He often wrote about his experiences in boarding schools, detailing them at length in his autobiography Boy: Tales of Childhood. After he graduated from school, he went to work for the Shell Oil Company, which posted him in Africa. There he lived in relative luxury with a handful of other Shell employees in company housing until the outbreak of the war.

Roald Dahl was born in Wales in 1916.
Roald Dahl was born in Wales in 1916.

As one of the British citizens in Dar-es-Salaam, Roald Dahl was pressed into service to round up the Germans living there at the outbreak of the war. This surreal experience is described in Going Solo, a continuation of Dahl's autobiography. Dahl quickly saw that the war was going to drag on, and he terminated his employment with Shell to join the Royal Air Force, to fly planes during the war.

Roald Dahl wrote several books for children, including the popular "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and "Matilda."
Roald Dahl wrote several books for children, including the popular "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and "Matilda."

Roald Dahl ended up crashing in Libya, and in 1942, the Saturday Evening Post printed Shot Down Over Libya, his first published work. After his recovery, he joined the rest of his squadron in Greece, where most of the men were later shot down. He began to suffer from blinding headaches related to his crash injuries and was sent back to England.

From 1953 to 1983, Dahl was married to Patricia O'Neal, and they had five children, one of whom later died. Several of the children, as well as O'Neal herself, had health problems, which spurred Dahl to donate to several health related causes, a legacy his widow has carried on since his death through the Roald Dahl Foundation, which also supports literacy efforts. Dahl married Felicity Crosland after his divorce from O'Neal, and they remained together until his death in 1990 of leukemia.

Roald Dahl's writing is very well known, and some of his work has won awards. His adult writing includes many macabre short stories which were published in a variety of magazines and collected into anthologies. He also wrote for television and adapted several movie scripts, including the script for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971).

Dahl also wrote a number of books for children, famously including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964), Danny the Champion of the World (1975), The BFG (1982), The Witches (1983), and Matilda (1988). All of his children's books include children teaming up against evil adults, with one good adult figure assisting. Many of them also include the themes of class and social status, issues that he felt passionately about.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was Roald Dahl and why is he famous?

Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer, poet, screenwriter, and wartime fighter pilot. He is famous for his captivating children's books, which include classics such as "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Matilda," "The BFG," and "James and the Giant Peach." His works are known for their imaginative plots, memorable characters, and sometimes dark humor. Dahl's books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide, according to the official Roald Dahl website.

What are some of Roald Dahl's most influential works?

Some of Roald Dahl's most influential works include "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," which has been adapted into two major films and a stage musical; "Matilda," which also became a successful film and Tony Award-winning musical; "The BFG," adapted into a film by Steven Spielberg; and "Fantastic Mr. Fox," which was turned into an animated film by Wes Anderson. These stories have left a lasting impact on children's literature and popular culture.

How did Roald Dahl's experiences influence his writing?

Roald Dahl's experiences as a fighter pilot in World War II, which included surviving a plane crash, influenced his writing by providing him with a sense of adventure and an understanding of human resilience and the darker aspects of life. His time in the British intelligence service alongside figures like Ian Fleming also provided material for his adult fiction. Dahl's varied life experiences enriched his storytelling with depth and authenticity.

What themes are commonly found in Roald Dahl's children's books?

Common themes in Roald Dahl's children's books include the triumph of the underdog, the critique of adult behavior, the macabre, and the fantastical. His stories often feature children who face off against villainous or foolish adults and come out victorious. Dahl's work is also known for its moral lessons, with good characters often rewarded and bad ones facing comically grotesque punishments.

How has Roald Dahl's legacy been preserved and celebrated?

Roald Dahl's legacy has been preserved and celebrated through the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden, where he lived for many years. His birthday, September 13, is celebrated as Roald Dahl Day. Additionally, the Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity supports seriously ill children, and The Roald Dahl Literary Estate continues to manage his works, ensuring that his stories continue to be enjoyed by new generations of readers.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a PublicPeople researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon170943

did roald dahl accept any big time awards for his children's books?

GrumpyGuppy

@anon126603 and @anon71123:

In 1990, Roald Dahl was diagnosed with a very rare blood disorder called Myelo-dysplastic syndrome. He died on November 23, 1990 at the age of 74. He died in his home (Gipsy House) in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. He was buried in the cemetery at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Great Missenden.

According to his granddaughter, the family honored him with a “Viking-like” funeral. He was buried with some good burgundy, chocolates, snooker cues, a power saw and some HB pencils.

anon126603

how did he die?

anon71123

roald dahl: is he alive or is he not?

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    • Roald Dahl was born in Wales in 1916.
      By: sas
      Roald Dahl was born in Wales in 1916.
    • Roald Dahl wrote several books for children, including the popular "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and "Matilda."
      By: Lisa F. Young
      Roald Dahl wrote several books for children, including the popular "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and "Matilda."