From 'horror' school days and flying ace to spy and writer - celebrating children's favourite author Roald Dahl -

Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 8:44 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th September 2020, 8:54 am

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits, James and the Giant Peach ... children and adults have been delighted by Roald Dahl’s books for generations.

This month sees the anniversary of his birthday so what better time to look at his life and work?Who was Roald Dahl?

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He is one of the most famous authors in the world. His children’s books have been translated into almost 60 different languages and sold more than 250 million copies worldwide. He was born on September 13 1916 in Llandaff, South Wales. His parents were Norwegian.

School lifeRoald joined Llandaff Cathedral School in Wales when he was seven. He was said to have been a mischievous child. On one occasion, he and his friends devised the “Great Mouse Plot” when they hid a dead mouse in a jar of gobstoppers in order to give an unpleasant old sweet shop owner a fright.The boys were later found out and caned by their headmaster while the sweet shop owner watched.As a result of the caning, Roald’s mother withdrew him from the school and sent him to St Peter’s Boarding School in Weston-super-Mare.When he was 13, Roald became a pupil at Repton School in Derbyshire. One of the rare highlights of being a pupil there was when the boys were asked to sample and rate new chocolate bars for Cadbury!Overall, however, he did not enjoy his school days, calling them “days of horror” that were filled with “rules, rules and still more rules that had to be obeyed”.When, aged 17, he was asked by his mother if he wanted to go to university, his reply was: “I want to go straight from school to work for a company that will send me to faraway wonderful places like Africa or China.”

African adventureRoald’s first job with an oil company sent him to work first in Kenya, and then Tanzania. In Tanzania, Roald saw many wild and dangerous animals, including lions, rhinos and hyenas, but it was the snakes he feared.

Flying aceRoald joined the Royal Air Force in Kenya at the outbreak of the Second World War, and became a fighter pilot. He crash-landed in the Western Desert of North Africa and was badly injured.

I SpyAfter being discharged from the RAF, Roald became a British Intelligence Officer passing on important information to the government. He worked alongside another spy, Ian Fleming, who later became famous for his James Bond 007 series.

Becoming an authorIn 1961, Roald Dahl’s first novel for children James and the Giant Peach was published. In total, he wrote 20 children’s books, 17 fiction books and three poetry books.

Do not disturb!Roald had a small hut at the bottom of his garden where he would go to write. It contained a battered old armchair and a table of strange mementos, including a silver ball made from old chocolate wrappers, and a piece of his own hip bone that was removed during an operation.

Books and adaptationsMatilda has been turned into a stage musical and a film starring Mara Wilson and Pam Ferris.Danny Champion of the World , with Jeremy Irons and his son Samuel, has been turned into a film and so as the BFG, with Mark Rylance in the title role, Fantastic Mr Fox and The Witches which starred Angelica Houston and Mia Zetterling.Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been adapted for the big screen twice, once with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka and then Johnny Depp in the role.James and the Giant Peach and Esio Trot have also made it to the big screen.