Roald Dahl’s literary legacy: 100 years on
2016 marks 100 years since the birth of one of the most beloved children’s authors in history, Roald Dahl, so what better way to celebrate his legacy than to remember some of his most iconic literary adventures. Here, writer Alice Dawes recounts her favourites…
Roald Dahl’s astounding CV makes choosing a favourite book of his a real challenge, mostly because I have a loyalty to so many of his stories after having read the majority of them throughout my childhood. I can confidently say that I barely touched George’s Marvelous Medicine, and I only tried reading it a few times on occasions if I was feeling brave enough to face the terrifying witch-like grandmother. My sister and I were still inspired to make our own special medicines from the contents of the bathroom cupboard, but it took a few tries before I reached the end of the story and learned that she received her retribution.
For me, The Twits was the best of a brilliant bunch. The hilarity of such a horrible couple playing practical jokes on each other and eventually getting their comeuppance is both brilliant and terrifying. If that’s what marriage was about, I wanted nothing to do with it, but I would still read the story repeatedly in awe of such a diabolical pair. For years I thought men with beards must be untrustworthy (because what could they be hiding under all that hair?!) and would certainly steal glances at their beards in case they had leftover scrambled eggs or fish fingers lurking amidst the bristles.
Dahl’s exceptional imagination for inventing creatures like the ‘giant skillywiggler’, and thinking up horrendous pranks is unmatched in children’s fiction. How terrible but ingenious is catching birds for bird-pie by painting a tree with glue? And who would ever think of intruding a neighbour’s garden in case they were made into ‘Boy Pie’? I won’t pretend that it didn’t cross my mind to put worms in my sister’s spaghetti, but what child would ever be brave enough to think or do terrible things after learning the fate of these awful Twits? I haven’t stood on my head in years just in case it shrinks into my body and I become a pile of clothes.
As well as scaring us with his gruesomeness, Dahl taught several generations of us to behave because we will always get caught and be forced to pay the price. But he also taught us that, no matter what we look like, ‘if you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely,’ and what better phrase than that to build self-esteem.
Dahl’s imagination is undoubtedly incomparable, and although 100 years since his birth has recently passed, I have no doubt that his stories will be told for many more years to come.