Five Facts You Might Not Know About Roald Dahl's Stories

Page from The Gloriumptious World of Roald Dahl
Category: Reading

Stella Caldwell's new book The Gloriumptious World of Roald Dahl (Carlton Books) is a delightful scrapbook of imagined letters, newspaper articles and other artefacts which bring to light the untold stories from Dahl's books. To celebrate our upcoming Dahl in Scots event with Matthew Fitt on Thursday 15 September, we asked Stella to tell us a little bit about writing the book and what she found out about Dahl on the journey.

When I was asked to write The Gloriumptious World of Road Dahl, I was absolutely delighted – after all, I’m a huge Roald Dahl fan! And then I felt a little daunted. It was clear the book would require a really novel approach – while staying true to Dahl’s tales, it also needed to be fresh and original.

Matilda was originally a rather horrid child, while her parents were perfectly nice...

First, I needed to get reacquainted with the stories. I read them over and over again, looking for the tiniest details that I could draw out and have some fun with. My task was to delve behind the storylines and try to imagine how a situation might play out, beyond what we’re told. For example, in James and the Giant Peach we discover that James loses his parents to an escaped rhino. Why not have a news article to bring out this aspect of the story? Or in Matilda, we all know what a holy terror Miss Trunchbull is – I had a lot of fun imagining what Crunchem Hall’s school rules would look like…

Page from The Gloriumptious World of Roald Dahl
I was invited to spend some time at the Roald Dahl Museum in Great Missenden, where I was able to look at the author’s original manuscripts and notes. It was fascinating to see how the stories had evolved. For example, Matilda was originally a rather horrid child while her parents were perfectly nice, and for The Witches Dahl pondered various child-killing methods for his witches (like teddy bears that bite at night!) These nuggets gave me invaluable ideas for the book.

Of course, Dahl’s stories wouldn’t be quite the same without Quentin Blake’s illustrations. The book’s design team was given access to a treasure trove of drawings, and by using these much-loved illustrations alongside new material I think the result is something that is very ‘Dahl’ yet also quite unique.

Five Facts You May Not Know from Roald Dahl’s stories

1. Did you know that in an early draft of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory there were ten horrible little boys and girls who win golden tickets? One of them is priggish Miranda Piker – the daughter of a school headmaster – who takes issue with Mr. Wonka’s invention Spotty Powder. This ‘sweet’ brings kids out in spots and keeps them out of school!

Page from The Gloriumptious World of Roald Dahl
2. As a tortoise owner himself, Dahl thought a great deal about how Mr. Hoppy could capture Mrs. Silver’s tortoise, Alfie, from his balcony above and replace him with a bigger version. He made several sketches of a ‘tortoise catcher’, which was used as the basis for Quentin Blake’s illustration.

3. Did you know that the BFG first made an appearance in Danny the Champion of the World? He was a character in a bedtime story that Danny’s father told him.

4. It was no secret that Roald Dahl absolutely loathed beards! It all came out in the character of horrible Mr. Twit, whose beard was infested with scrambled egg, cornflakes and other beastly things.

5. Could you name the many terrifying, human being-eating giants from The BFG? How many of the following did you get right? The Bloodbottler who prefers Chileans and Eskimos; the Gizzardgulping Giant who liked to eat Londoners, Parisians and New Yorkers; the Fleshlumpeating Giant whose speciality is Norwegians and Yankee-Doodles; the Bonecrunching Giant who likes bony grannies and granddads; the Childchewing Giant who loves the taste of little chiddlers; the Manhugging Giant who prefers Panamanians and Wellingtonians; the Meatdripping Giant who thrives on variety; the Maidsmashing Giant who likes beautiful maidens (especially royal ones); and the Butcher Boy who loves to gobble down tender Turks.

Stella Caldwell

Brought up on a diet of Everlasting Gobstoppers and Snozzcumbers, Stella Caldwell worked in book publishing as an editor for several years. She is the author of many other books for children, including Dragonworld, Fairy World, Gods, Heroes and Monsters, and Explore 360: The Tomb of Tutankhamun.

Subscribe to our monthly e-updates for book lovers