Home » Books » The Concise Roald Dahl The Concise Roald Dahl Mallory Ortberg on March 11, 2014 in Books 1240779 Commentshttp%3A%2F%2Fthe-toast.net%2F2014%2F03%2F11%2Fconcise-roald-dahl%2FThe+Concise+Roald+Dahl2014-03-11+14%3A00%3A31Mallory+Ortberghttp%3A%2F%2Fthe-toast.net%2F%3Fp%3D12407 James and the Giant Peach - An abused child murders his family, then flees the country. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - A small boy becomes the owner of a multinational food and beverage conglomerate after witnessing the deaths of several children. Fantastic Mr. Fox - Three sustainable-scale farmers are driven out of business. Danny, the Champion of the World – A young man becomes class-conscious and participates in property destruction. The Twits - A playful married couple with similar senses of humor die on the same day. George’s Marvellous Medicine – A child becomes the sole caretaker for his verbally abusive grandmother. He poisons her. The BFG - A deformed, flatulant stranger who controls the dreams of children enlists a little girl in his one-man war against a group of racist cannibals. The Witches – A young boy is trapped forever inside the body of the mouse and is delighted to discover he will not outlive his grandmother. Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator - Charlie hires his elderly relatives as high-level executives in his new factory, rather than qualified applicants. The Enormous Crocodile - A group of children watch an animal die. Matilda - A violent and abusive school principal is allowed to quietly retire, without facing legal action for any of her crimes. Tags: children's books, messed up, roald dahl Related PostsChildren’s Stories Made Horrific: Love You ForeverA Literary Child’s Guide to Her Dead MotherInevitable Fates of Beloved Children’s Book CharactersA Meat Processing Professional Reviews Cormac McCarthy’s The Road“Five Anniversaries”: On My Same-Sex Marriage(s)A Wrinkle In Time: Dirtbag Mrs. Whatsit About Author by Mallory Ortberg Mallory is an Editor of The Toast. 12407Latest Commentshttp%3A%2F%2Fthe-toast.net%2F2014%2F03%2F11%2Fconcise-roald-dahl%2FThe+Concise+Roald+Dahl2014-03-11+14%3A00%3A31Mallory+Ortberghttp%3A%2F%2Fthe-toast.net%2F%3Fp%3D12407 Ophelia Well, sure, if you put it THAT way. Ophelia Also, I like to think that James in the Giant Peach IS Roald Dahl. Bittersweet Although, to be fair, James doesn't actually murder his aunts before he flees the country… ThatOtherWench This post perfectly encapsulates why every child should be given access to Roald Dahl and slight supervision during the reading thereof. safvn You can pry The Twits from my cold, dead hands. anon210 Now do Henry Sugar! GreenGrasses The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More has always been one of my favorite books. That story where the kid just rides the giant turtle into the sunset? It has never left my brain. JessKTS Relevant: review of Esio Trot. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/850881820 catoclock Yes! This is the greatest thing. naglayaxuliganka How does the Twits get the only quasi-positive synopsis? That book scarred me so badly. I couldn't eat spaghetti for years (my brothers' wriggling their plates to make it look alive certainly didn't help). malloryelis cos they're the creepiest! farrisonhord Boy Fucked up childhood, but not all together bad times, of a Scandinavian boy in England cultivates delightfully wicked storytelling skillz. EPWordsnatcher Truly horrific and scarring descriptions of oral surgery sednarea51 And of noses being sliced off by old-fashioned windshields! Es_Petal Oh god I'd forgotten about that bit until now! lyetteann Yeah, the tonsil story certainly lodged itself in the "nightmare fuel" portion of my brain. bookwormV A girl in my class fainted when a teacher read out the adenoids section in a Year 7 English lesson. theskyrbeast I know Boy is horrifying, but there's something about The Great Mouse Plot of 1924 that speaks to my soul. The follow-up volume Going Solo is also fascinating, although I read it before I had a good handle on imperialism, so I might need to revisit that one with my historian hat firmly on… unrealcity What makes this great is that Roald Dahl wrote horror stories before he switched to children's lit. The creepiness was always there, he just changed his audience! Bumblebeebear Yes! When I was 12 or 13 my parents gave me a book of his stories for adults (the Roald Dahl Omnibus if anyone is interested) and as a kid who loved his children's stories I just ate that book up. I haven't read it in years and don't know if it aged well but if it did I I highly recommend it for the kind of child who will be fascinated by a man being murdered so a collector can skin the tattoo off his back or a child being turned into a mutant bee baby from excess royal jelly consumption. lilsebastian01 Oh my god, I read The Umbrella Man at the same age but I was NOT READY and it freaked me the hell out. I remember the one where people were getting their fingers cut off in a card game, but I think I blocked the rest of it out. bumblebeebear AHHH Yes! Man from the South!!!! That was one of my favorites, I was a weird kid. Strangely, I always hated/couldn't handle horror movies or even horror books (IT traumatized me for years after I read it in high school) but something about the specific kind of Roald Dahl creepy appealed to my twisted child brain in he most perfect way. bumblebeebear For context, my grandmother was German and gave me many copies of Max und Moritz and Struwwelpeter as a child so…that probably ruined my brain. malloryelis "male shirley jackson" NicoleCliffe ARE YOU AWAKE?? COME UPSTAIRS!!!! C.B.Blanchard Point of order: The children do not die in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory – at the end of the book they are all witnessed alive but disastrously, horribly changed by their experiences. Mutilation may be a better word. Bittersweet Violet's fate gave me nightmares for years and made me pause before chewing gum for a very long time. deitybox I JUST REALIZED THE HUNGER GAMES IS AN ADAPTATION OF CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY AND NOW MY MIND IS BLOWN. editrickster This makes me really want to finally read the Hunger Games. EPWordsnatcher NO BUT SERIOUSLY WTF HAPPENED WITH TRUNCHBULL EPWordsnatcher She kept a goddamn IRON MAIDEN in her office! She force-fed a child cake! She SWUNG A GIRL AROUND BY HER PIGTAILS, WHAT DOES IT TAKE WITH YOU PEOPLE. literaltrousersnake S'traditional, that. Traditions is how we get more girl's schools. super_novice Yeah! The worst for me was actually when she first notices the girl's pigtails and the girl sadly and quietly defends them by saying something along the lines of "my mom says I look cute." AH it's making me tear up and I don't know whyyyy EPWordsnatcher Ah shit, now I am too. Poor baby. Bittersweet We are taking our daughter to see the Broadway show in June, and it's going to take me that long to woman up to cope with seeing The Trunchbull in the flesh, so to speak. littlehuntingcreek Spare the rod, spoil the child. Discipline makes children, and our Country, Stronger! My kids LOVED this stuff ginkgotree These are all pretty accurate and capture precisely why I hate Roald Dahl. Sorry not sorry. Lu3 Yeah, he was a pretty sick bastard, at least on paper*. From what I hear of his personality and personal life, he was no walk in the park in reality, either. There's that sadistic edge to his work. I do love James and the Giant Peach, though. *and not in a fun way like Edward Gorey. Bumblebeebear Yeah I love love love his books but as a person he was terrible and I avoid reading about him so I can quietly enjoy Man from the South and the BGF in peace. britomartian That's funny, because these are all pretty accurate and capture precisely why I love him. grandma_nancy I credit the ending of The Witches with causing my first terrified awareness of my own mortality. logicbutton No, see, he was a special mouse. The kind that lives longer than a regular mouse, which we know because Grandmother says so, even though she has absolutely no reason to think this and probably is saying it more to herself than to him. LeastBittern Ahhhhh. robot_dinosaur RE: Danny: so much poaching. Jizzcliner http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wade-Dahl-Till_valve catoclock I missed out on most Roald Dahl as a kid. No regrets. gurukalehuru Read some of his adult stuff. Uncle Oswald is essentially James Bond, without all the spy nonsense. Rarespawn I love Roald Dahl. Maybe I don't have a sense of humor, but I kind of feel like this trivializes his work. I think people who haven't read Roald Dahl are missing out on a significant portion of life. This is not the brussel sprouts of life either, it is the equivalent of a chocolate cake portion of life. NicoleCliffe I love Roald Dahl too, but I also love these. C.B.Blanchard My love for these comes from my love for Roald Dahl malloryelis "As a rule, you see, I'm not lugged into Family Rows. On the occasions when Aunt is calling Aunt like mastodons bellowing across primeval swamps and Uncle James's letter about Cousin Mabel's peculiar behaviour is being shot round the family circle ('Please read this carefully and send it on Jane') the clan has a tendency to ignore me. It's one of the advantages I get from being a bachelor – and, according to my nearest and dearest, practically a half-witted bachelor at that." msjinxie Are you familiar with this website, and the other pieces that have been posted on this website? Rarespawn Yes, I am, and believe it or not, I do get the humor of it, but I'm struggling to really enjoy it. Perhaps I just want to see a companion piece about the good morals of his stories, such as Matilda (Just because you come from terrible people doesn't mean you have to be a terrible person), James and the Giant Peach (If someone is treating you badly you don't always just have to accept it, even if they are an authority figure over you), and the BFG (No matter how small you are, you can still find a way to make a big difference). I know it's unfounded, but I can't help but think some serious mom will read this and declare that her children will never read that awful nasty Roald Dahl, and some poor child will miss out on what I see as an essential part of my own childhood. malloryelis I WANT TO KEEP HIM ehmgeebee I think the Toastian tendency to reframe cherished childhood stories and authors is wonderful because it's often shocking to recognize the brutality of the tales' contexts and plots in retrospect, but it's important. The terrors and weirdness that permeate classic childhood stories are part of what make those stories the classics. There's a Maurice Sendak quote that captures this: “. . .from their earliest years children live on familiar terms with disrupting emotions, fear and anxiety are an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, they continually cope with frustrations as best they can. And it is through fantasy that children achieve catharsis. It is the best means they have for taming Wild Things.” Being little and young is no picnic, and everybody can gather comfort and courage from encounters with imagined crises and villainy. XO you, Mallory and Nicole, for running pieces that acknowledge how all demographics need literature as equipment for living. Sugar&Spice When that final paragraph happens, then the poor child will just have to trundle themselves to the library, Matilda style. Then he/she will be inspired to plot gruesome revenge against Serious Mom, and it will all work out! Samk12345 Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator – poor people break glass ceiling, government officials freak out roumbaba I am always surprised that my very religious, eager to censor mother let me read Roald Dahl but not Harry Potter, all things considered. littlehuntingcreek I loved these when I was a kid and my kids loved these too. Obviously I have raised Sociopaths in my image figwiggin With "The Swan" you don't even have to jokingly shorten it. Children literally kill a swan, cut its wings off, tie the dismembered, bloody wings to another child, and push him out of a tree. EPWordsnatcher ???? figwiggin I mean, granted, I don't think that was one of his children's stories. But still. literaltrousersnake Yeah really, that's the plot, I wasn't saying anything because I still have nightmares about it sometimes. It's in Henry Sugar, along with the psychic card reader. Tafadhali After having tied him to train tracks. …I read the story a lot as a child. Not sure what this says about me. LeastBittern OK, yes, good. Did he die? Was he dead when his mother was cutting off the wings? Or did he actually fly home? Or did they dump his broken but not dead body on the front walk and leg it? Girl Named Jack I believe he momentarily transfigured into a swan and flew home. And then his mother cut off the wings? Memories of this are sketchy. Teka Lynn The narrator definitely states that he flew. He does make it home safely to his mother, who cries over him and ( IIRC) starts looking for something to cut the tied wings off his arms. That story freaked the HELL out of me as a kid. I could never read it more than wincingly. gurukalehuru That was an amazing story. I forgot that was Dahl. deitybox Also he was a horrible anti-Semite, so there's that. robot_dinosaur As a very bright child who frequently felt out of place and read through most of her elementary school classes, Matilda meant so much to me I cannot even say. Pwickup A friend told me that his mother did not allow him to read Roald Dahl as a child because she thought that the take-home message was essentially "Grownups don't take care of children, children (or friendly monsters sometimes) have to go it alone." I loved loved love all these stories, but I can see as how that's a terrifying thought. Also, the Henry Sugar story about the guy who can see without his eyes (and has bits of dough smooshed into his eye sockets before they are bandaged to be extra sure it's dark in there)?!!? It would not be a lie to say that that story forms a core part of my personal theology. anachronistique Vermicious Knids Echolocation Did anyone else have a teacher who was adamant that the BFG did not fart, and we couldn't call it farting because it didn't smell. This is terrible logic, since everyone knows that farts do not always smell. Betsy Murgatroyd His Revolting Rhymes was something I read as an older teen and when I finished it I was like, this was for kids? You're kidding right? Of course, I loved it. But then I learned that they were just a rhymed retelling of the original Grimm's Fairy Tales. But most kids don't know the original tales are truly scary and awful. EPWordsnatcher Right there with you. (Book sidebar: I'm reading Rags and Bones right now, which is a collection of fairy tale/classic story retellings by a variety of authors and it's gorgeous and creepy and great. If you like Revolting Rhymes, you'll probably be all about it.) Betsy Murgatroyd Thanks for the recommend! I will definitely check it out. Alexis The Magic Finger: Girl with anger issues takes revenge on a family of duck hunters. katytron little girl me thought the cinematic trunchbull was a good example of what happens when the patriarchy forces women into traditionally "feminine" roles. little girl me had BIG UPS FOR THE TRUNCHBULL'S FEMINISM BUT WAS NOT REALLY ABOUT THE ABUSE OF CHILDREN scd If you like Wodehouse and Dahl, you must love H. H. "Saki" Munro as well right?