The 13th of September marked 100 years since the birth of one of the greatest children’s authors of all time. Whether you enjoy his stories or not you can not deny the wide reaching appeal of his books. This weekend, in the country of his birth, Cardiff is holding the City of the Unexpected. A massive celebration of one man’s extraordinary imagination and genius. But what is it that makes Roald Dahl such an intrinsic part of so many people’s childhood and how have his novels kept their appeal?
I don’t remember the first Roald Dahl book I ever read, it would seem I was born already enjoying his novels! It would be difficult to isolate any of them as my favourite, but I will say that I have never come across one that I didn’t enjoy.
So, what is it about Dahl’s books? I think the most important aspect of his writing, and perhaps, the reason why his stories have remained so relevant, is his ability to see through the eyes of a child. He sees and writes the world with a child’s fantastical imagination, full of colours and creativity. His books are full of kids who, in one way or another, save the day, children are firmly the heroes of their own imagination. In the same vein, he also makes the adults inferior to the children. Whether it be disgusting caricatures of people like the Twits or the outrageous headmistress, the Trunchbull.
The books are full of wit and cunning and magic! Surely I wasn’t the only child that mixed anything I could find in the bathroom in an attempt to create my own marvellous medicine? Who hasn’t dreamt of having free reign of a chocolate factory? Or wished to have telekinetic powers to use against those who have wronged us? Dahl creates stories that fulfil our childish desires and, lets be honest, they haven’t changed much in a century.
His books will always remain a firm favourite of mine and of my nephew’s and hopefully in the future, of my own children. Yes, I dreamed of travelling in a giant peach, or of having my windows cleaned by a girraffe, a pelican and a monkey, or going on a dream-catching adventure with the BFG. And I hope that further generations will dream of these impossibilities, that Roald Dahl, somehow, makes possible.
‘So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install, a lovely bookshelf on the wall.’ – Roald Dahl