September 13th is a very special day. It’s not just the day that comes after September 12th and the day that comes before September 14th, it also happens to be the day – back in 1916 – when the one and only Roald Dahl was born.
We at Wonder and Company – since we are merchants of adventure and whimsy – could not let this day, week, month, year slip by without honoring a man who paid tribute to both adventure and whimsy in almost all of this books. James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The Witches, Fantastic Mr Fox, George’s Marvellous Medicine and The BFG are just a handful of tales that have captivated, delighted, and entertained oodles of readers, young and old. These books have had a life beyond paper and ink, they have been transformed into cinematic cult classics, feats of stop-motion brilliance, and even a sold-out Broadway show.
While we all know Charlie, Matilda, and that Fantastic Mr. Fox, what do we know about Roald Dahl the man? If you are like most, then you probably don’t know that much. Here are eleven fascinating facts about one of our favorite authors EVER.
1. Roald Dahl was Norwegian
Although Dahl was born in Wales, and lived most of his life in England, his parents were both natives of Norway. In the summer his family would return to Norway to spend time with their extended families.
2. He was a flying ace during World War II
Dahl served not just as a pilot for the Royal Air Force during World War II, but he was also an intelligence officer and did a bit of spying.
3. Dahl was in a plane crash in Egypt
During the time he was a pilot for the Royal Air Force, he crashed his plane while trying to make an emergency landing, in Mersa Matruh, Egypt. He was hospitilized for six months and had temporarly lost his sight but made a full recovery.
4. He lived in Washington D.C. for a bit.
During the war he was assigned to being an assistant air attaché at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. The change from being a pilot in the war to D.C. life was jarring. “I’d just come from the war. People were getting killed. I had been flying around, seeing horrible things. Now, almost instantly, I found myself in the middle of a pre-war cocktail party in America,” Dahl said.
5. Dahl started in magazines
His first published work appeared in The Saturday Evening Post. It was a wartime story called “Piece of Cake.” He continued to write for magazines for many years including Ladies Home Journal, Harper’s, Playboy, and The New Yorker.
6. His first book was almost a Disney movie.
In 1943, he published his first children’s book – The Gremlins – inspired by little creatures that were part of the Royal Air Force folklore. It was a Walt Disney Productions (released by Random House) with the hopes of having it made into a movie.
Walt Disney brought Dahl to Hollywood where the two worked on two different screenplays but it never came to be. And if you are familiar with the game Epic Mickey, you will be familiar with Gremlin Gus, who is a character from The Gremlins.
7. He had a gypsy wagon in his back yard.
It was initially used as a playroom for his children, but later, he used it as his writing room.
8. He wrote screenplays.
He tried his hand at writing screenplays, and worked on the James Bond film You Only Live Twice and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, adaptations of novels by Ian Fleming. Both screenplays were totally rewritten, although his very memorable Kid Catcher (who he dreamed up) remained in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
9. The grandmother in The Witches was based on his mom
The Norwegian grandmother in The Witches was based on his own Norwegian mother who loved to tell him traditional Norwegian myths and legends, which were a big influence on his writing.
10. He was not a fan of the film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Although he had a big hand in writing the screenplay for the adaptation of his book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he was “disappointed” in the film. He apparently, “thought it placed too much emphasis on Willy Wonka and not enough on Charlie.”
11. Dahl was buried with some interesting things
He was buried with snooker cues, a bottle of burgundy, some chocolates, HB pencils, and a power saw.
Finally, if you find yourself in front of 81-83 High Street, Great Missenden, Bucks, Great Britain, you must go in. That is where the Roald Dahl Museum and Writing Centre is located. That’s one adventure we can’t wait to take!
Photo Source: The Roald Dahl Museum
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