Roald Dahl led such an interesting life. Born to Norwegian parents in Wales, he was the only boy out of four children. When he was 13, he went to a school near a Cadbuy factory in Derbyshire. It was routine for the factory to test out its wares on the local school boys. When he was 18, he worked for the gas company Shell in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He was 6 ft 6in tall at age 23, when he joined the Royal Air Force at the outbreak of WWII. Details about his involvement in the war are in his autobiography Going Solo. According to his official website biography: “Roald Dahl’s first children’s book was not James and the Giant Peach, as many suppose, but The Gremlins, a picture book published in 1943 and adapted from a script written for Disney. The movie version was eventually trashed but the book remained.” He never liked the book but it caught the eye of the then-first lady Eleanor Roosevelt who started inviting him to the White House. He actually started first writing books for adults before writing children’s books in the 1960s. Dahl was married twice and had five children with his first wife (four survived to adulthood). He couldn’t type and always wrote with a pencil.
I have loved Roald Dahl as a children’s writer ever since I fell in love with the book The BFG (the movie was good too). I will say that Quentin Blake’s illustrations for Dahl’s books are a good part of the reason I read them. I have read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (liked both version of the movies), Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox (thought the clay-mation version of the movie was brilliant), and The Vicar of Nibbleswick (which was the last thing that Dahl was working on before he died). I tried to read his adult book My Uncle Oswald and the first part was funny, but the rest of the book just felt like I was reading a horny 16 yr old Roald Dahl writing about sex. It is rather demeaning to women, I guess b/c it is supposed to be set in the 1910s-20s. It’s a good thing he started writing children’s books after this, but that was definitely where his best work was from. I’ve even read Memories with Food at Gipsy House by Felicity and Roald Dahl (his second wife), which included little anecdotes about the authors’ families and how they ate during WWII and afterwards. For anyone interested in the author and his books, check out this website.
I have never read his book Revolting Rhymes, probably the name put me off, but after seeing this poem, it makes me want to give the book a try. You got to love English wit and macabre poetry.
Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf
As soon as Wolf began to feel
That he would like a decent meal,
He went and knocked on Grandma’s door.
When Grandma opened it, she saw
The sharp white teeth, the horrid grin,
And Wolfie said, ‘May I come in?’
Poor Grandmamma was terrified,
‘He’s going to eat me up!’ she cried.
And she was absolutely right.
He ate her up in one big bite.
But Grandmamma was small and tough,
And Wolfie wailed, ‘That’s not enough!
I haven’t yet begun to feel
That I have had a decent meal!’
He ran around the kitchen yelping,
‘I’ve got to have a second helping!’
Then added with a frightful leer,
‘I’m therefore going to wait right here
Till Little Miss Red Riding Hood
Comes home from walking in the wood.’
He quickly put on Grandma’s clothes,
(Of course he hadn’t eaten those).
He dressed himself in coat and hat.
He put on shoes, and after that,
He even brushed and curled his hair,
Then sat himself in Grandma’s chair.
In came the little girl in red.
She stopped. She stared. And then she said,
‘What great big ears you have, Grandma.’
‘All the better to hear you with,’
the Wolf replied.
‘What great big eyes you have, Grandma.’
said Little Red Riding Hood.
‘All the better to see you with,’
the Wolf replied.
He sat there watching her and smiled.
He thought, I’m going to eat this child.
Compared with her old Grandmamma,
She’s going to taste like caviar.
Then Little Red Riding Hood said, ‘ But Grandma,
what a lovely great big furry coat you have on.’
‘That’s wrong!’ cried Wolf.
‘Have you forgot
To tell me what BIG TEETH I’ve got?
Ah well, no matter what you say,
I’m going to eat you anyway.’
The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head,
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.
A few weeks later, in the wood,
I came across Miss Riding Hood.
But what a change! No cloak of red,
No silly hood upon her head.
She said, ‘Hello, and do please note
My lovely furry wolfskin coat.’