Roald Dahl, born September 13, 1916, led a versatile life. Many of us know him as the beloved children’s author and poet, but some might not know that he was a wartime fighter pilot who later worked as an intelligence officer as well. Dahl started his writing career in 1942 and proceeded to pen some of the most ingenious and evergreen books such as “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Matilda.” These, along with some of his other works, have also been adapted as films that have gained worldwide popularity. Today, the world remembers him for his many traits. We have compiled some amazing facts about this infamous author to help you celebrate him.
Roald Dahl is undeniably one of the best children’s storytellers. His inventive tales and unique style of narrating contributed to his very successful writing career. Dahl was born in the Llandaff district of Cardiff — the capital of Wales — in the U.K. He was the son of wealthy Norwegian parents, Harald Dahl and Sofie Magdalene Dahl. His father worked as a shipbroker who migrated to the U.K. from Norway in the 1880s. Dahl started his schooling at The Cathedral School, Llandaff, and later transferred to St. Peter’s boarding school in Weston. He then enrolled at Repton School, a renowned British public school in Derbyshire, and graduated from there after five years of education.
Dahl left a lasting impact on his readers with his tales. He wrote a story for “The Saturday Evening Post” titled “A Piece of Cake” in 1942, which was changed at the time of its publication to “Shot down over Libya”, where he recounts his experiences as an R.A.F. fighter pilot. This was his foremost work as a writer. His exceptional career as a children’s author started in 1943 when he published his first book “The Gremlins” for Walt Disney Productions. The story was anticipated to be made into a film, but the project didn’t come through. Dahl enjoyed writing for children and adults and made a successful career in both. He wrote more than 60 stories intended for mature readers, such as “Someone like You” (1953), and “Kiss Kiss” (1959); the former made him a bestseller author. Dahl’s focus then shifted to children’s stories above all else, and his distinctive writing style speaks for itself, even to readers today. His children’s stories are best known for having cruel and vile adult villains that are against the sweet and kind child protagonists. Dahl wrote some of the most cherished children’s stories of all time, such as “James and the Giant Peach” (1961), “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (1964), “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (1970), “The B.F.G.” (1982), and “Matilda” (1988), to name but a few.
Dahl married twice during his lifetime. His first marriage was to an American actress named Patricia Neal and lasted 30 years. They had five children together. Dahl and Neal were divorced in 1983, and he remarried Felicity d’Abreu Crosland the same year. His second marriage lasted until his demise in 1990. Dahl lived an extraordinary life. He served as a World War II fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force; he also served as an air attaché in Washington D.C. following his plane’s crash landing, which brought him serious injuries. Aside from publishing stories, Dahl also wrote screenplays and scripts for popular films like “You Only Live Twice” (1967), and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (1968). He passed away at the age of 74, on November 23, 1990, in Oxford, after suffering from blood cancer. He has left an everlasting impact on his readers and admirers and continues to receive love in the form of flowers and toys sent to his resting place by his young fans.
“A Piece of Cake,” eventually published under the title of “Shot Down Over Libya”, is Dahl’s first piece of writing made available to general readers.
Dahl’s journey as a children’s author starts with the book titled “The Gremlins,” published for Walt Disney Productions, and his stories begin to appear in various American magazines after he hires a literary agent to manage them.
Dahl receives an ‘Edgar Allen Poe Award’ as the first honor for his short story collection, “Someone Like You.”
He starts writing mostly for children, with books “James and the Giant Peach,” and later, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” which receives worldwide acclaim and is later adapted into a film (1971), followed by a remake (2005).
In the book “Boy: Tales of Childhood,” Dahl self-writes about his childhood experiences during the time he spent at school in Britain.
Dahl is posthumously awarded the B.B.C’s “Blue Peter Gold Badge” honor.
Why We Love Roald Dahl
He had a unique writing style
Dahl gained popularity because of his unique stories and writing style. He is known for his neologism, introducing words that are not only understandable by adults but by children, too. He incorporated his real-life experiences into his books, turning them into masterpieces. His stories are timeless and magical.
His stories catered to everyone
Dahl did not always write stories depicting children with perfect families. He understood that not all children are fortunate enough to have loving and caring parents or a luxurious lifestyle. Therefore, he showcased simple and less-fortunate kids as the main characters in his books. A perfect example would be Charlie from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
He taught valuable life lessons
Roald Dahl wrote tales that teach many important life lessons. He taught us to focus on our inner selves and that what matters is the kind of people we are. His depiction of humble characters also encourages young readers to practice and incorporate humbleness into their lives. Perhaps the most consistent idea in his stories is that good always triumphs over evil.
5 Surprising Facts
He was inspired by chocolates
During his childhood, Dahl’s school received chocolates from the Cadbury Company which, his biographers contend, is why he referred to chocolates in many of his children’s books.
He invented many new words
Dahl introduced more than 250 new words, all of which are documented in the official Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary.
He had a writing schedule
He used to write stories in his shed every day from 10 am to 12 pm, and from 4 pm to 6 pm, using his H.B. pencils, and never preferred typing.
His characters were based on real life
His stories include characters — including the villains — that are inspired by or based on the people he’d met in his life.
He was buried with his favorite items
His family gave him a grand funeral and buried some of his beloved and most used items such as chocolates, H.B. pencils, snooker (British billiards) cues, and a power saw.
Roald Dahl FAQs
What is Roald Dahl’s most popular book?
“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was declared Dahl’s most popular book on his 100th birthday.
How many siblings did Roald Dahl have?
He had five siblings.
What is Roald Dahl Day?
Roald Dahl Day is observed every year on September 16 — the author’s birthday — to celebrate him and his achievements.
Roald Dahl’s birthday dates