Today marks what would have been
Roald Dahl's 100th birthday, and in celebration of his legacy we've
gathered some little known facts about the famous children's author. Known for
penning whimsical tales such as and The
Witches and Matilda the Welsh
born writer lived a life packed with adventure, bringing sparkle to children's
and adult's lives alike. Read on as we discover more about the real Roald Dahl...
He worked as a spy
Dahl wasn't always an author, in fact he didn't start writing children's
stories until he had his own. During the Second World War he was recruited to
work as a spy for MI6, providing intelligence for America. Incidentally Ian Fleming,
the creator of James Bond worked
alongside Dahl at MI6 and the pair remained life-long friends.
He survived a
plane crash, which then led him to become a writer...
Another of Dahl's past lives involved working as a pilot during World War II
where he came face to face with death. Dahl crashed in the Libyan Desert on
route to his first day of service for the RAF, suffering severe injuries including
a fractured skull and temporary blindness. Dahl later described the event as "A
monumental bash on the head", and claimed his brain injuries led him to become
a creative writer.
He created the
child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
...that infamously sinister character from the iconic family
film? Yup - that's another of Dahl's genius creations. He penned the screen
play from the original book - written by his old friend Ian Fleming, and introduced
the ominous child catcher to the story.
Dahl was ever
inspired by the countryside
Danny Champion of the World was written in a gypsy wagon
in his back garden, and Dahl credited his rural surroundings for inspiring the
story. Likewise, Fantastic Mr. Fox is said to be to be inspired by a huge tree
which grew outside his home in the village of Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire.
All Dahl's other stories were written in a shed at the bottom of his garden
- always in pencil and always on yellow paper.
He suffered many tragedies
As a boy Dahl lost his father and older sister both in
the same year. In 1960 his son Theo nearly died in a car accident, and in 1962
tragedy struck again as he lost his seven year old daughter to measles. He
recalled the death of his daughter in a heart breaking essay; "One morning,
when she was well on the road to recovery, I was sitting on her bed showing her
how to fashion little animals out of coloured pipe-cleaners, and when it came
to her turn to make one herself, I noticed that her fingers and her mind were
not working together and she couldn't do anything. ‘Are you feeling all right?'
I asked her. ‘I feel all sleepy,' she said. In an hour, she was unconscious. In
twelve hours she was dead."
He created his own
Gobblefunk is the name of the whizzpopping dictionary made up entirely by
Dahl himself. Dahl expressed an interest in playing with words very early on. As
one of his teachers said in a school report, ‘I have never met anybody
who so persistently writes words meaning the exact opposite of what is
intended.' An Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary also hit the shelves this year.
He was buried with
some of his favourite things
Upon Dahl's request he was buried with his snooker cues,
a bottle of red wine, a power saw, HB pencils, and chocolate.
The last book he ever
...was The MinPins, a fantastical tale about tiny people who live in trees -
also said to be inspired by the countryside. We'll leave you with the last line
from his last ever story...
"And above all,
watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest
secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe
in magic will never find it."
The Gloriumptious Worlds of Roald Dahl is priced at £16.99 from all good bookshops and online stores, as well as from www.carltonbooks.com