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.
2854635_dahl5_210132b

 

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.
    WillyWonkaMoviePoster
     
  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."
    download
     
  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!!!!!)
    pkqhfpfqjmxrbe6t7ly1
     
  8. His grave is at St. Peter and Paul’s Church in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, England, where children continue to leave toys and flowers.
    2373429_dd5f7bad
     
  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.  

6ee8d1e9108086ab93c8d55605910ed0article-2186961-146F60D5000005DC-465_634x434

 

So, what do you think?