Ten Tremendous Roald Dahl Facts

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Roald Dahl HQ
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10:00am, 13th September
Charlie, Danny, Enormous Crocodile, Esio Trot, Fantastic Mr Fox, James, Matilda, Short stories, The BFG, The Twits, The Witches
10 Fascinating Facts for Roald Dahl Day

Happy Roald Dahl Day! Here are ten things you may not know about Roald Dahl's stories - from adult fiction to children's best-sellers...

1. Roald Dahl's first paid piece of writing was encouraged by author C.S Forester.

Shot Down Over Libya was based on his experiences flying in the Second World War and was initially published anonymously in The Saturday Evening Post, although you can now read it in the short story collection Over To You.

Find out more about Shot Down Over Libya.

2. Arguably, Roald's first story for children wasn't James and the Giant Peach...

In fact you could say it was The Gremlins - a story based on the gremlins of RAF folklore, and one which nearly became a Disney film.

Read Roald Dahl Museum archivist Rachel White on how The Battle of Britain helped inspire The Gremlins.

An extract from an early draft of Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, published in the US in 1964, went through several early drafts...

In one, Charlie Bucket visited Willy Wonka's home and fell into a chocolate mould, and in another there were ten children in the factory. What's more, it actually took several years to find a UK publisher.

Find out more about Charlie and those early drafts...

4. Roald Dahl co-wrote the script for classic children's fim Chitty Chitty Bang Bang...

...and it was he who came up with one of the scariest characters in children's literature, The Child Catcher.

Read Roald Dahl Museum archivist Rachel White on Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr Fox, illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake

5. Fantastic Mr Fox was partly inspired by a tree that grew outside Roald Dahl's home in the village of Great Missenden.

The family called it "the witches' tree," and Roald used to tell his children stories about the family of foxes who lived in it.

When Wes Anderson came to create the stop-motion film adaptation of Fantastic Mr Fox, he was also inspired by Great Missenden (where the Roald Dahl Museum is now situated) with some of the pub scenes featuring Roald's old local, The Nag's Head.

Find out more about Fantastic Mr Fox

6. Danny, the Champion of the World was another Roald Dahl story to be heavily influenced by the local countryside.

In fact, the caravan Danny and his Dad live in was drawn from a real-life one that sat in the back garden and was used as a playroom by the Dahl children.

Find out more about the inspiration behind Danny, the Champion of the World.

7. A number of characters appear in more than one of Roald Dahl's stories: for example, Muggle-Wump the Monkey and The Roly Poly Bird are in both The Enormous Crocodile and The Twits, with Roly Poly also appearing in Dirty Beasts, a collection of comic verse.

Many characters from Roald's short stories also appear in some of his children's fiction: Danny's Dad, William, is based on a local man who appears in the story collection Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life, whilst William and Mary - the name of a spooky adult story from the Kiss Kiss collection - were also the names of the boy's mice in The Witches.

Roald Dahl's The BFG, illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake

8. The Big Friendly Giant was another character Roald returned to.

Originally the star of a bedtime story told to Danny (the Champion of the World) by his Dad, Roald would also tell tales of this dream-catching giant to his own children. And when he came to write The BFG in 1982, he changed the original name of the character - who was initially a boy called Jody - to Sophie, after his first grandchild.

Listen to Roald Dahl himself read an extract from The BFG, and find more BFG facts here.

9. In early drafts of Matilda, not only was Miss Wormwood a "wicked child," but Miss Honey was a teacher with gambling debts...

Roald quickly realised he had (in his own words) "got it wrong" and re-wrote what would become his last long children's book significantly to create the story we now know and love.

Read more fascinating facts about Matilda.

10. The Minpins was Roald Dahl's last children's story.

Published in 1991 - shortly after his death in November 1990 - it tells the tale of Little Billy's trip into the Forest of Sin, and of the Fearsome Beast that lives in it.

The Minpins has connections to other Roald Dahl stories: Billy is also the name of the boy in The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me, the Forest of Sin houses Vermicious Knids (who also appear in Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator) and - as Roald Dahl Museum archivist Rachel explores - there are also similarities with his first children's story, The Gremlins.

Find out more about The Minpins.