Find out all the fascinating facts that didn't make it into the final version of James and the Giant Peach...
James and the Giant Peach was Roald Dahl’s first book for children, published in 1961. It tells the heroic story of James, a little boy who goes on a wonderful adventure on a gigantic peach, accompanied by a crew of large and fantastic talking insects.
But writing a brilliant book like this doesn’t just happen overnight, and Roald’s first draft of James and the Giant Peach has some juicy passages that don’t make it into the final version. In this blog we’ll tell you about a few of them – with a peachy theme, of course.
P – is for the Peach, naturally! But did you know that one of Roald Dahl’s most iconic images, the peach flying through the sky by seagulls, almost never happened? Roald first thought that the enormous fruit should be a cherry, pulled through the water by pond skaters and water boatmen.
Above: text showing Roald's idea of pondskaters and waterboatmen pulling the cherry.
E – is for the Earthworm. In the first draft he speaks with a muffled booming voice, which the Centipede explains is because Earthworm’s mouth faces inwards inside his head, so his voice has to go booming all the way down his body and come out of his tail. Roald researched a lot about the various insects that would be joining James, and you can read a little more about his research methods here.
A – is for the horrid Aunts, Sponge and Spiker. In the first draft James tells them about the crocodile tongues burrowing into the ground, and of course they don’t believe him. They discuss lots of nasty ways to punish James such as beating him or dropping him down the well, before deciding to put him up the chimney and light a fire underneath. While they are discussing this, hundreds of pink blossoms fall from the peach tree like a snowstorm, and then James spots the peach on the highest branch.
Above: the first edition cover of James and the Giant Peach, seen here on display in our galleries.
C – is for the Clouds that James and his friends travel through. In this draft there are no cloud men to meet, instead there is a ‘lovely green valley’ with cows the size of dogs, and men milking them who are as small as spiders. The next cloud is ‘alive with a mass of stumpy pink animals that looked exactly like human toes cut off from a human foot’, with toenails for faces.
H – is for the Hairy-Green-Caterpillar, a character who very nearly made it on the journey with James but was cut out of the final version. In this draft he sings a song called ‘The Wiggy Wiggy Wiggy Wiggy Earwig’ to try and cheer everyone up – but no one is very impressed.
Above: The Wiggy Wiggy Wiggy Wiggy Earwig song.
Y – is for “You’ve got your present. But now – I want mine!” – a horrible sentence uttered by the Old Man. In this version, the Old Man tries to steal James’s legs as payment for the green crocodile tongues, because his own are old and don’t work very well anymore. The Old Man shows James his hands, which he stole from a young boy named William… luckily James manages to escape! Roald eventually makes him a much nicer character who helps James out.
If this has whet your appetite and you want to find out more about James's adventures, why not come along to the Museum where we are celebrating all things peachy throughout Summer 2019! You can find out more here.