As you all may know today marks the anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth and the world has taken to celebrating the much loved children’s author. Especially considering this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This milestone is partially being marked by Penguin through their new Classic edition which, as we have discovered recently, is a pretty controversial topic. To be honest, and at the risk of feeling the wrath of the internet, I’m not as opposed to the questionable picture as most seem to be. I admit there is a certain amount of sexualising the young girl at the centre of the photo but, after watching far too much Toddlers and Tiaras over the last few days, maybe I’ve become somewhat immune to it. Plus, I also quite like the combination. Dahl was a lot darker than people tend to appreciate. Of course, he wasn’t thatdark but I like the idea of an adult addition that pays attention to it.
Anyway, this wasn’t supposed to be a post where I, once again, weigh in on a topic that caused outrage online. This is intended to be my small way of paying respect to a writer that meant the world to me when I was a child. Dahl and Dick King-Smith were the two authors that flooded my bookshelves growing up. (Hell, King-Smith’s Sophie stories and Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Foxare probably still in my top books of all time.) Dahl understood children and there is a sense with his books that he was writing books for children written by children. They are funny, emotional, scary and memorable. He’s one of those authors that has been a large part of pretty much every child’s early years.
Today, the Telegraph ran a piece in which writers discussed their favourite Dahl character and it got me thinking. Who is my favourite? Instinct would suggest that I’d pick Matilda. She is a pretty awesome heroine: a girl who is not only magical but also a super intelligent, book lover. If I was ever going to be anyone in a Roald Dahl story then it would probably be Matilda. But is she my favourite? I’m not even sure that Matilda is my favourite character in her own story. I mean doesn’t every child love to hate Miss Trunchbull? She’s deliciously evil.
Then you have another favourite book of mine, Danny The Champion of the World. Danny is a fantastic character whose plan for poaching pheasants is not only incredible but much more humane than his father’s method. Danny was Champion of the fucking world so why wouldn’t he be the champion of my heart? Still, he’s not the most exciting of characters in the Roald Dahl cannon.
Of course, I could very easily go on like this for paragraph after paragraph whilst I extol the virtues of the bugs in James and the Giant Peach, the BFG, the Twits, Willy Wonka, George, the Giraffe and the Pelly. Lets be honest, all of Dahl’s characters are vastly superior to a lot of the alternative offerings. He has a way of bringing to life such crazy and unbelievable characters. It’s am impossible task trying to pick just one. Although, having thought about it I think I’ve got it down to two.
The first, Mr Fox. Those of you who read my review of Wes Anderson’s film adaptation will know my feelings towards this character. He’s amazing: a cheeky, cunning and brazen fox who, despite his role as thief, has you jumping for joy every time he gets one over his awful foes. Also, lest we forget, he’s a man that continues to do what he must despite the loss of his tail. How can you not love a guy who doesn’t let disability stop him from providing for his family.
Then there’s my second favourite and I’m tempted to say it’s a bit of an unusual one. I remember reading Esio Trot with my mother when I was younger and I loved it. I think this was probably due to the magical spell made up of backwards words. Plus, it contains a lot of tortoises. The story has been one of the tales that has stuck with my as I grew up and I now appreciate it on much more complex level than “hmmm tortoise”. My Hoppy, the hero of this delightful tale, has to be one of the greatest characters around. How can you not love him? He’s an adorably shy and caring man. We can all relate to him on some level. Then there’s the fact that his plan is just so incredibly romantic. This is a man who understands the meaning of a romantic gesture. A man who understands love. And what is love? Love is a bigger tortoise.