For being remem­bered as the great­est children’s sto­ry­teller of all time, Roald Dahl had a some­what trag­ic exis­tence.  His child­hood was per­me­at­ed by loss (a sis­ter and a father), as was his adult life.  He spent his child­hood away at board­ing school where he suf­fered abuse.  He was in WWII and rumored to be a James Bond type spy. Despite a some­what trou­bling life, it was filled with love.  Ralph Wal­do Emer­son once said, “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of the intel­li­gent peo­ple and the affec­tion of chil­dren; to earn the appre­ci­a­tion of hon­est crit­ics and endure the betray­al of false friends; to appre­ci­ate beau­ty; to find the beau­ty in oth­ers; to leave the world a bit bet­ter whether by a healthy child, a gar­den patch, or a redeemed social con­di­tion; to know that one life has breathed eas­ier because you lived here.  This is to have suc­ceed­ed.”  Well, Mr. Dahl, you have suc­ceed­ed.  More than most peo­ple, you have suc­ceed­ed.


Thir­teen Facts to Cel­e­brate Roald Dahl’s Life and Birth­day on Sep­tem­ber 13th:


  1. A high rank­ing church offi­cial once said that although Dahl’s young daugh­ter who passed away was in Par­adise, her beloved dog Row­ley was not.  Dahl stat­ed, “I want­ed to ask him how he could be so com­plete­ly sure that oth­er crea­tures did not get the same spe­cial treat­ment as us.  I sat there won­der­ing if this great and famous church­man real­ly knew what he was talk­ing about and whether he knew any­thing at all about God or heav­en, and if he didn’t, then who in the world did?”
    Okay cranky church man, we all know all dogs go to heaven!

    Okay cranky church man, we all know all dogs go to heav­en!



  2. Dahl acquired a tra­di­tion­al Romanichal gyp­sy wag­on in the 1960s, and used it as a play­house for his chil­dren.  Lat­er, he used it as a writ­ing room.  Um cool and mag­i­cal, just like he was!!!!
    Well doesn't that look magical!

    Well doesn’t that look mag­i­cal!



  3. In the 1960’s he wrote screen­plays.  He even began adapt­ing his nov­el Char­lie and the Choco­late Fac­to­ry.  Much like all artists, he failed to meet dead­li­nes and some­one else was given his project.  He even­tu­al­ly dis­owned the film entire­ly stat­ing that the movie put far too much empha­sis on Willy Wonka and not enough on Char­lie.  He was infu­ri­at­ed with the plot devi­a­tions.  I won­der how he would feel about the Tim Bur­ton ver­sion.
  4. Dahl’s moth­er, Sophie, used to tell him tales of trolls and oth­er myth­i­cal Nor­we­gian crea­tures.  His nov­els were inspired by his child­hood.  He was an avid read­er, lov­ing ghost sto­ries and tales of hero­ism and tri­umph.  He said of his moth­er, “She was a great teller of tales. Her mem­o­ry was prodi­gious and noth­ing that ever hap­pened to her in her life was for­got­ten.”
  5. His auto­bi­og­ra­phy Boy: Tales of Child­hood detailed the abuse he suf­fered in board­ing school.  Is there any­one that ever had a decent board­ing school expe­ri­ence?  Judg­ing by mem­oirs, I’d say no. 
  6. In 1960, his four mon­th old son, Theo, was severe­ly injured when his pram was hit by a taxi.  Theo suf­fered from hydro­cephalus.  Sub­se­quent­ly, Dahl involved him­self in the devel­op­ment of the “Wade-Dahl-Till” (WDT) Valve.  This WDT Valve was a device to alle­vi­ate this con­di­tion.  It was suc­cess­ful­ly used on thou­sands of chil­dren world­wide.  
  7. In 1962, his daugh­ter Olivia died of Measles and encephali­tis at age sev­en.  He was wracked with guilt over her death.  He felt as though her death was avoid­able and became a pro­po­nent of immu­niza­tion. (Hear that anti-vaxxers?…Roald Dahl HATES YOU!!!!!)
  8. His grave is at St. Peter and Paul’s Church in Great Mis­senden, Buck­ing­hamshire, Eng­land, where chil­dren con­tin­ue to leave toys and flow­ers.
  9. He served in the RAF dur­ing WWII.  Dur­ing one flight, he couldn’t find an airstrip and attempt­ed a land­ing in the desert.  The under­car­riage hit a boul­der and he crashed.  He frac­tured his skull and was tem­porar­i­ly blind.  Luck­i­ly he dragged him­self out of the wreck­age before the plane burst into flames.  His first pub­lished work is about this crash.
    Roald Dahl and Ernest Hemingway...29 May 1944, London, England, UK --- War Correspondent Waits for Invasion. London, England: Ernest Hemingway (right) walks a London street in the company of an RAF officer. Hemingway is in England and awaiting the opening of the second front. The luxurious foliage decorating his jaw is there on his doctor's orders. He has been forbidden to shave it off for two months. --- Image by  Bettmann/CORBIS 


  10. In 1920, Dahl’s old­er sis­ter died of pneu­mo­nia, fol­lowed weeks lat­er by his father who died whilst on a fish­ing trip in the Antarc­tic.
  11. In 1983, Dahl reviewed Tony Clifton’s God Cried, a pic­ture book about the 1982 Lebanon War.  It depict­ed Israelis killing thou­sands of Beirut inhab­i­tants by bomb­ing civil­ians.  Dahl’s review stat­ed that the book would make read­ers “vio­lent­ly anti-Israeli”, writ­ing, “I am not anti-Semit­ic. I am anti-Israel.” 
  12. He was named after Roald Amund­sen, a polar explor­er and nation­al hero in Nor­way.  
  13. Dahl’s writ­ing influ­enced film direc­tor Tim Bur­ton who was impressed by his “mix­ture of light and dark­ness, and not speak­ing down to kids, and the kind of polit­i­cal­ly incor­rect humour that kids get.”

Thank you Roald Dahl.  Thank you for the beau­ti­ful sto­ries I love to redis­cov­er.  Thank you for not talk­ing down to me.  Thank you for the macabre, and your dark sense of humor.  Many peo­ple don’t think chil­dren can han­dle real life issues, so they shield them from death, despair, and tragedy, but hon­est­ly, the­se peo­ple aren’t doing their kids any favors.   Kids are per­cep­tive and can han­dle more than peo­ple think. 



So, what do you think?