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Roald Dahl Facts

15 Facts About Beloved Author Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl is among the greats when it comes to children's book authors. More than 25 years after his death, his work — which boasts the likes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, and Fantastic Mister Fox — continues to inspire millions of children and adults. The man simply had a way with words . . . words that have left a lasting impact on the world. Below are 15 fascinating facts about the creative icon you may not have known.

  1. He got in trouble for playing practical jokes at school as a kid. At Llandaff Cathedral School, Dahl was punished by his principal for playing a practical joke. We're thankful he never lost his free spirit, even after the incident!
  2. He wrote his children's books in a small hut located in his garden. It was his private sanctuary where he could work uninterrupted.
  3. He kept a sleeping bag in the hut for when his legs got cold. He also didn't want to leave his chair, so everything he needed was within reach.
  4. He kept memorabilia from chocolate bars. On the table in his writing room was a silver paper ball, collected from candy bars since he was a young adult. Can we assume it served as a token of inspiration for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?
  5. He created his stories on yellow legal paper. He would close the curtains, and write in the mornings until lunchtime with his favorite pencils.
  6. He was the screenplay writer for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It makes total sense now that you think about it, right? The film is whimsical, imaginative, and endearing . . . just like the rest of Dahl's work.
  7. He was a fighter pilot in World War II. He was injured while serving in the Mediterranean, which resulted in a hip replacement and two spinal surgeries.
  8. He turned down his mother's offer to pay for his education at Oxford or Cambridge. He said to her, "No thank you. I want to go straight from school to work for a company that will send me to wonderful faraway places like Africa or China." (From his autobiography Boy: Tales of Childhood).
  9. He remained true to his word and took a job in Africa. He worked for the Shell Oil Company in Tanzania until 1939.
  10. His first children's story was for Walt Disney. It was written in 1942, titled The Gremlins (not the same as the 1984 film).
  11. He was friends with Ernest Hemingway. They sparred in a boxing ring together, and Hemingway's literary guidance influenced Dahl's work.
  12. He was a terrible gossip. His daughter Lucy said, "Dad never could keep his mouth shut. He gossiped like a girl." Ironically, he worked as a spy in the war.
  13. His first wife was an Academy Award-winning actress. Patricia Neal, to whom he was married for three decades, won an Academy Award for her role in the 1961 film Hud.
  14. He wrote articles for magazines such as The New Yorker. His first short story was published in the Saturday Evening Post, and he continued to write more articles for well-known magazines.
  15. He told his kids bedtime stories. This seeded the inspiration behind his career as a children's author.
Image Source: Everett Collection
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