“Roald Dahl – Author”;
When I say the name Roald Dahl, I doubt many of you have any idea who i’m talking about. But I would be willing to bet every single person in this room has heard of some of his books. Roald Dahl is the author of several classic childrens’ books, including James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the BFG, Fantastic Mr Fox and many more.
He was born the 13th of September, 1916 in Llandaff, Wales and was one of 6 children of Harald Dahl and Sofie Magdalene Hesselberg. That’s a picture of the house they lived in. Unfortunately his sister Astri died at the age of 7 and his father passed soon after. When writing about it in his autobiography Boy, Roald said "[Astri's] sudden death left him literally speechless for days afterwards. He was so overwhelmed with grief that when he himself went down with pneumonia a month or so afterwards, he did not much care whether he lived or died."
Roald began school at St Peter’s, in England. Dahl described boarding school as the first great adventure of his life, even though he was very homesick. He even faked appendicitis to get out for a few days. A few years later he moved to Repton, a famous British school to finish his schooling. He shared some of his more memorable experiences from the school, both good and bad in his memoir Boy. Some of them include a math teacher who brought a snake to class, warming the outhouse seat for the headmaster and cricket. Some of his books were inspired by events or people from the school. For example, the headmistress, Mrs Trunchbull from Matilda was a feminized version of the headmaster at Repton.
Roald Dahl didn’t always want to be a writer. After leaving Repton, he decided that he wanted to become a businessman. He heard that Shell Oil Company was hiring 3 people and applied for the job. There were over 200 applicants, and yet he was one of the lucky three. A few years later the company sent him to Dar-es-Saalam, in Africa. He traveled there by steamship and devoted a chapter of his autobiography Going Solo to the ship and its eccentric passengers. While in Dar-es-Saalam several adventures were had. Some include saving a man from a black mamba, a woman being taken by a lion and being released unharmed and learning Swahili.
World War Two
A little-known fact is that Roald Dahl was a fighter pilot during the Second World War.
He learned to fly alongside 16 other young men. He wrote in Going Solo "It is a fact, and I verified it carefully later, that out of those sixteen, no fewer than thirteen were killed in the air within the next two years." After completing his training, Roald Dahl was sent to fly across the ocean and join the 80th Squadron. But he was given the wrong location, and he crashed into the Western Desert of North Africa. He suffered severe wounds and spent 6 months recovering. He served again on many missions but in July 1941, Dahl began to suffer incapacitating headaches caused by his injuries in Libya. After one so severe he blacked out, he was examined by a doctor and deemed unfit to fly. He returned to Britain to live with his mother. Roald Dahl wrote about his experiences in the war in multiple short stories, including Shot Down Over Libya (now called Piece Of Cake), his first published piece of writing. This story began his career as an author.
After the excitement of the war, Roald had had enough of adventure for a while. He met his wife, american actress Patricia Neel. They had five children named Olivia, Tessa, Theo, Ophelia and Lucy. Tragedy struck the family when Olivia Dahl contracted the measles at age 7 and died. This was the same age Roald’s sister was when she passed, a sad coincidence reflected upon by Roald in the book Boy. Several years later he separated from Patricia and remarried. Shortly after his health began to decline and he died in 1990 of a rare type of blood cancer.
Roald Dahl is one of the most versatile writers of the 20th century. He wrote poetry, YA novels, short stories of all genres, screenplays and even a play. But what Roald is famous for are his kids books. One of the reasons his books are so popular is his unique style where Roald addresses his reader directly. His writing is so creative and full of original concepts. Even in the rare case when his book gets a sequel, everything but the characters are completely different. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory versus Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator is a good example. Another thing is the language. Roald had been known to say that he found the English language constricting, and therefore in Shakespearean fashion would make up his own words. He invented the words oompa loompa, scrumdiddlyumptious and witching hour. They were added to the Oxford Dictionary on what would have been his 100th birthday.
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