Revolting Rhymes is Roald Dahl's answer to panto. Find out about this book of fairytales with twists you might not expect...
Although Roald Dahl wasn’t the biggest fan of Christmas, I think he would have agreed that a good pantomime is an excellent way to celebrate, as pantomimes and Roald Dahl stories have a few things in common;
But perhaps the biggest thing Roald Dahl’s stories and pantomimes share is the ability turn a much-loved classic tale into something completely different, and have a lot of fun along the way.
Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes are based on fairytales we all know and love. Roald rewrites six tales in his book, with Cinderella, Snow White, and Jack and The Beanstalk (to name just three) also being classic pantomimes. These stories are traditional and enduring, and because we all know them so well, they’re excellent ones to retell and spring some surprises on the audience.
Above: He's behind you! Early edition of Revolting Rhymes.
Roald’s Cinderella, for example, wishes that her Fairy Godmother would find her a decent man, instead of the Prince who is rather blood-thirsty in the poem. The Fairy Godmother grants her wish, and Cinderella marries a lovely jam-maker, and of course she lives happily ever after.
In the first draft of this poem, the Fairy Godmother is actually a Fairy Godfather, with Roald writing:
"Fairies are nearly always she
Not this one. This one was a he.
For fairy-men can still be found
By those who choose to look around."
Above: draft of Revolting Rhymes written by Roald Dahl.
This traditional character swap would make an excellent addition to any pantomime of Cinderella, as in pantomime tradition the magnificent panto Dame is often played by a male actor.
One of these brilliant Dames is Jack’s mother in Jack and The Beanstalk, which is also one of the stories Roald twists around in Revolting Rhymes. In Roald’s poem, Jack’s mother climbs up the beanstalk and… well I won’t spoil the ending for you.
At the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre you can explore our fairy-tale trail over Christmas 2019 to see how Roald Dahl twisted and changed the stories in Revolting Rhymes and make up a story or two of your own. We also have a display on Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes, and on some of his terrifying Giants and Witches – so if you can’t catch a pantomime this winter, you could always come and boo the Grand High Witch!