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A former RAF fighter pilot, intelligence officer, and diplomat, Roald Dahl is best known as one of the world’s best-loved storytellers. In books like “Matilda”, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, and “James and the Giant Peach”, Dahl brought readers into his wildly original imagination with richly detailed worlds, zany characters, and touching storylines. His children’s books feature villainous adults, heroic child protagonists, and fanciful worlds, and have been adapted into dozens of plays and films.
Though best known for his children’s fantasy novels, Dahl also wrote adult fiction, short stories, and screenplays for hit films like “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”
History of Roald Dahl Day
Born in Wales in 1916, Roald Dahl led a full and fascinating life before becoming one of the best-known and best-selling authors of the 20th century.
Named after Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, Dahl exhibited an adventurous spirit from an early age. After he finished school, he worked for Shell Petroleum in present-day Tanzania, then became an aircraftman for the Royal Air Force in 1939, when World War II loomed on the horizon. Narrowly surviving a desert crash landing and the Battle of Athens, Dahl then received an appointment as assistant air attache at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. During this time, he supplied intelligence to Winston Churchill, helping to smooth the relationship between the British Prime Minister and American President Franklin Roosevelt.
Dahl’s military career inspired much of his early writing. His first published story recounts his crash landing, while his first children’s book, “The Gremlins,” features mischievous creatures that sabotage RAF aircraft. He continued to draw inspiration from his immediate surroundings, basing many of his settings and scenes on true aspects of Great Missenden, the Buckinghamshire village he and his family called home. He went on to write more than 30 novels, creating iconic characters including Willy Wonka, Matilda, and Mr. Fox, and dozens of screenplays for shows including “Alfred Hitchcock Presents.”
His writing style is known for its unique, often original vocabulary, humorous poems, and ability to write from a child’s perspective. His books, though full of dark undercurrents and macabre settings, ultimately show good and kind children triumphing over evil, greedy adults.
Roald Dahl Day timeline
Dahl is born to Norwegian parents in Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales.
During a mission over Egypt, Dahl was forced to attempt a crash landing in the desert that resulted in a fractured skull, broken nose, and temporary blindness. He would later write about this experience in his first published piece, "A Piece of Cake."
Dahl's first children's book, “The Gremlins”, draws on Royal Air Force folklore about mischievous creatures that pilots blame for aircraft problems.
Dahl dies at age 74 in Oxford. He is buried with his snooker cues, chocolates, some "very good" burgundy, HB pencils, and a power saw.
Roald Dahl Day FAQs
How did Roald Dahl die?
Roald Dahl died on 23 November 1990, at the age of 74 of a rare cancer of the blood, myelodysplastic syndrome, in Oxford. According to his granddaughter, the family gave him a “sort of Viking funeral.”
What age should children read Roald Dahl books?
Dahl’s special dash of magic has transformed countless children into readers, and the recommended age for reading is ages 7-9.
How many hours a day did Roald Dahl write?
Roald Dahl spent around four hours every day writing stories from his garden shed! He is said to have had a cosy old armchair and a specially designed writing board which would sit on his lap.
How to Celebrate Roald Dahl Day
Reread your favorite book
Has it been a while since you read your favorite Dahl novel? Dust it off and immerse yourself in one of his fantasy worlds — or find a new favorite you haven’t read before!
Watch your favorite movie adaptation
Dahl’s books have been adapted into dozens of popular movies. Find your favorite adaptation of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “The Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Matilda,” or other Dahl novels and have a movie night with the whole family.
Donate some books to your local library
If you’re a Roald Dahl fan, help spread the love by donating a few of his books to your local library to make sure others have a chance to experience them.
5 Interesting Facts About Roald Dahl
He invented more than 500 new words and names
Calling his invented language Gobblefunk, Dahl created hundreds of new words ("frobscottle") and names (Oompa Loompas) to embellish his vividly original worlds.
The Chocolate Factory is inspired by Cadbury's
When he was a child, Cadbury's chocolate company would taste-test their treats at Dahl's school. The young Dahl dreamed of creating his own chocolate recipe that would impress Mr. Cadbury himself.
He worked alongside James Bond's creator
During his time as a British intelligence officer in WWII, Dahl worked with another spy named Ian Fleming. Fleming later wrote the James Bond books as well as “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang”, which Dahl adapted for the big screen.
Dahl wrote for Playboy
Though best known as a children's author, Dahl wrote many short stories for adults. His R-rated work was published in a variety of magazines including Playboy.
Dahl contributed to neurosurgery research
After his four-month-old son was struck by a cab and left suffering from hydrocephalus, Dahl poured his time and energy into helping to develop a device to treat the condition.
Why We Love Roald Dahl Day
It reminds us of some favorite stories
Roald Dahl created some of literature and film’s most iconic characters. Which of his books inspired you the most?
It celebrates reading
More than a crucial life skill, reading can also take us to fantastic worlds and broaden our horizons. Take some time to read to yourself or to a child in your life today.
It’s an excuse to host fun events
Roald Dahl Day events include live readings, movie screenings, themed museum events, and more. Check out your local libraries and educational institutions to find Roald Dahl Day events near you.
Roald Dahl Day dates