Roald Dahl: 10 Impressive Facts You Didn’t Know

On this day, 28 years ago we lost one of the world’s most gifted authors. Roald Dahl’s writing is unique and in life, Dahl was just as special. 

Here are 10 interesting things you didn’t know about Roald Dahl:

Originally published on November 5, 2015


1 ) Dahl’s last words were “Ow, fuck!”

2) His son Theo had his skull shattered as an infant in which, he developed hydrocephalus or “water on the brain”. Dahl was so determined to help his son that he helped create the Dahl-Wade-Till valve, which helped relieve the excess cerebrospinal fluid. He was able to help about 3,000 different children with this invention.

3) Dahl was known for being irritable, stubborn and quick to temper yet had a low-key gentleness to him. He had a unique sense of humour and loved to talk and push social boundaries.  He was mesmerizing yet intimidating.

4) While serving with the Royal Air Force in WWII, he suffered a severe accident in which his nose was pushed back into his face and his skull fractured.  He suffered from postconcussive syndrome, symptoms which include pain, fatigue and irritability which plagued him for the rest of his life. The condition is also known to change perceptions. Some of Dahl’s most imaginative pieces were written after his accident, such as James and the Giant Peach.

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5) He had a hut out in his garden in which he did all of his writing in. Within it, he had a chair in which removed the back of to ease the discomfort in his back. He had a total of six surgeries on as a result of his injuries in the war. He also had a steel hip prosthesis decorating this room from a failed hip surgery.

6) He absolutely loved chocolate. He had ball of chocolate wrappers that he kept in his writing hut.

7) During the war, he provided information from Washington for MI6 and worked with Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. 

8) While his children’s work was imaginative, humorous and pleasant, his adult pieces showed a different side. He wrote many short stories for Playboy magazine that depicted just how awful adults are to each other. His stories, discussed sex, adultery and rape.

9) He wrote the screenplay for You Only Live Twice and for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. 

10) He was a womanizer. Notoriously unfaithful, his adult stories were an attempt to depict women as “brutal lascivious creatures”.

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Sturrock, Donald. Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl. Toronto, ON: Mcclelland & Stewart Ltd, 2010. Ebrary.

                Web. 10 Jul. 2014

Switch Bitch by Roald Dahl

4/5 stars.
ebook, 100 pages.
Read from February 18 to 22, 2014.

If you’re like most people, you know Roald Dahl for his wonder contributions to children’s literature. What most people don’t know is that he published quite a bit adult content and there is nothing child-friendly about these pieces. The stories in Switch Bitch were actually written for Playboy and published separately in 1965. Also, on a complete side note, did you know that Roald Dahl wrote two scripts based off the works of Ian Flemming, the author of the notorious James Bond series. One was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the other was the Bond film, You Only Live Twice . With the Bond film, it was the one Bond movie that was the furthest away from the plot and story line of the actual book by Flemming. So there you have it, now you know that Dahl was a successful bad-ass adult writer as well. You were just likely too young to know that before. I know I was.

Knowing that these stories were written for Playboy really gives me a better understanding as to why these stories were so graphic. Yes all of the stories were about sex but that isn’t what made them graphic. It was that each one of the stories in this collaboration had a the undertones of a horror story. Like his other works of short stories, these continue to emphasize just how awful adults are and with this collaboration, specifically men.

In the story The Visitor, the main character of Oswald, whose womanizing adventures Dahl would eventually write a full length novel on called My Uncle Oswald, is one of the few stories in which by the time you finish the story you are satisfied and a bit less horrified with the outcome as Oswald is not a likeable character. Oswald is travelling in the middle east, where he has been bedding a lot of women and ditching them as soon as he can. In an effort to disappear from his last one night stand,  he finds himself stranded at a gas station in the middle of no where. The circumstances of the stranding are in themselves suspicious as the gas attendant appears to be physically suffering from a condition and is overly attentive to the weary Oswald who is terrified of catching whatever it is this man has. However, it appears to be Oswald’s lucky day as a rich man drives by shortly and offers for him to come and stay up in his mansion for the night while his car gets repaired. The man has a gorgeous wife and daughter. Outwardly, Oswald promises to be decent but inwardly he is already scheming to get one or both of the women into his bed. The events that follow are indeed maniacal and comical.

The Last Act, is by far the most cruel story in the book. I know that I felt particularly horrified and disgusted with the presumed ending of this story.  Anna Cooper finds herself widowed and it was like half of her soul was taken from her. She moves on but not willingly. After finding some moderate success in life after her husbands death she encounters the man who she was dating in high school before she met her late husband. What initially appears to be a promising romance turns into one of long held grudges and cruelty.

Honestly, there is something addicting about Dahl’s writing as I’ve devoured a few books of his short stories now. He is able to make his stories entertaining, funny and dark all at the same time. I believe he also has a great understanding of the human condition, both the good and the bad spectrum’s and he uses them to his advantage. If you are ready to shake up your childhood then I would highly recommend reading some of Dahl’s short stories and adult work. You can find one collection that compromises of the core of his short stories in, Twenty-Nine Kisses.

Over to You by Roald Dahl

3/5 stars.
ebook, 164 pages.
Read from December 16 to 24, 2013.

This collaboration of stories emphasizes Dahl’s experiences as a flying ace for the RAF during World War II. I imagine that Dahl used many personal references and emotions in these stories, though from what I can find, from my very brief internet search, nothing specific has been directly referenced in the stories. Please feel free to comment if you know of a specific experience that has made it in one of these stories.  Additionally, I also wonder if writing these stories was a method he inadvertently used to deal with his own dreadful experiences in the war. Regardless, his renditions of the flying ace at war are detailed and provoking.

Beware of the Dog was by far my favourite in this collaboration as it brought a situation to my attention that I would not have even considered, having never been a solider, and the sheer terror that would follow. The character in the story finds himself in hospital and he isn’t sure what has happened, though he believes his plane has crashed. The nurse then proceeds to tell him where he is but other warning signs tell he may be elsewhere, like in enemy territory. In typical Dahl style, the reader is left not knowing if the main character is indeed in enemy territory or if he is just delusional and paranoid from the plane crash.

Overall I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to see a more adult side to their favourite childhood author or anyone interested in WWII experiences.