Roald Dahl had his own misfortunes despite being from a fairly privileged background but fought relentlessly for his causes as he always believed dreams could come true no matter what the circumstances are, says the wife of one of the world’s most loved children’s authors.
Felicity Dahl also says Roald did not enjoy parties on his birthday and preferred to be at home having a glass of wine and some good food but would have really been tickled by the Roald Dahl Day parties happening in schools.
As his fans and followers gear up to celebrate the centenary of his birth tomorrow, Felicity shares her views on several topics including her husband’s works, his popularity among children and movie adaptations of his works.
She says her husband, who died in 1990 at the age of 74, would have been overwhelmed by the worldwide celebrations to mark the centenary of his birth.
“However he didn’t enjoy parties and preferred to be at home with his family where he could celebrate with a glass of wine and some good food – that is what he really enjoyed. He also enjoyed visiting children in schools and feeling he had helped the teachers to inspire literacy in their pupils, so I think he’d be especially tickled by the Roald Dahl Day parties happening in schools – and other venues – on his birthday in September,” Felicity says.
On his views on life and childhood connect to those one finds in his books, she says, “During sleepless nights he would create dreams of glory, which of course were then included in ‘The BFG’. As he wrote in ‘The Minpins’, ‘those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’ He believed that dreams could come true no matter what the circumstances. Matilda, James and Charlie’s dreams all came true.
Roald was from a fairly privileged background but he had his own misfortunes – his father died when he was a young boy and he experienced family tragedies later in life.
“However, he fought relentlessly for his causes, whether private such as the rehabilitation of his first wife after her strokes, or public, namely his passion for children’s literacy. He was practical and a realist too. When he was asked by young people how to become a writer, he would tell them to become a mechanic or a plumber first, then write later. The rent always has to be paid!” says Felicity. Asked story was Roald most proud of, she says “The BFG – he thought this was his classic. I would say one among many classics.” The BFG was written in 1982 and illustrated by Quentin Blake. It is an expansion of a short story from Dahl’s 1975 book “Danny, the Champion of the World”.
Roald shared a unique chemistry with Blake. Says Felicity about it, “For me, without doubt, it’s their observations of people. Quentin interprets Roald’s characters with a visual humour and irresistible wickedness. There was a mutual admiration and trust of each other’s work. They had fun working together – it’s as simple as that!”
Since Roald’s death in 1990, Felicity has set up two charities in his name – Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity (formerly The Roald Dahl Foundation) and The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.
“The two charities are immensely important to me. Literacy was Roald’s crusade in life and medicine his passion. He thought good teachers like Miss Honey were essential. His admiration for doctors and nurses, and the work they do to save lives and cure people, was immeasurable.”
One of the most exciting new publications is The Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary, which includes both conventional language (as used by Roald) and many examples of Gobblefunk -the language he made up himself.
Asked about her favourite Gobblefunk word, Felicity answers “Whizzpopping”.
On Steven Spielberg’s version of “The BFG”, she says, “Spielberg and Melissa Matheson have kept so true to the book and it captures the powerful bond between Sophie and the BFG which I think is the heart of the story. I think he (Roald) would applaud Mark Rylance’s cinematic BFG – an extraordinary performance – Ruby Barnhill’s feisty interpretation of Sophie and Penelope Wilton’s marvellous queen.”
Roald was born in 1916 in Wales of Norwegian parents. Educated in England, he started work for the Shell Oil Company in Africa. He began writing after a “monumental bash on the head,” sustained as an RAF pilot during World War II.