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Roald Dahl

Updated on October 22, 2011

Life History

Roald Dahl (1916-1990). Dahl is best known for his classic children's books.

Born in Llandaff, on September 13, 1916, Roald Dahl, son of Harald Dahl, a Norwegian, was first sent to the Elmtree House School. That followed four years in St. Peter's and then Repton. Dahl despised school. He was academically weak and was well-known for his callousness and frequent homesickness. He describes his harsh treatment and revenge while a student. Later, the cruelty, revenge and the school beat-ups were all described in detail in most of his books. Not all memories of his school, specially Repton, were dreadful; he and his fellows used to receive grey cardboard boxes containing sample chocolates from a chocolate manufacturer, not only for sampling but even for critique by the students. It was due to this memory, which remained engraved in his mind, that thirty-five years later he wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Roald Dahl was raised to be very conscious of his Norwegian heritage, which is apparent in many of his books.

Deciding not to enter university, Dahl got a coveted position in an oil company, in 1933, because he was sure they would send him abroad. There, he got the adventure he had always cherished: great heat, crocodiles, snakes and safaris.

During World War II, he was prompted to enlist himself in the Royal Air Force as a fighter pilot. Unfortunately, his very first venture into combat territory resulted in his suffering serious injuries due to a plane crash in the Libyan Desert in 1940. However, he rejoined his squadron in 1941, but due to further injuries, was considered unfit for the position and hence, his career in the Royal Air Force was over forever.

Dahl's article in an African newspaper was his first published work. As time passed, Dahl became popular amongst Washington's affluent class. Being a serving officer, British Information Services read everything he wrote. His first book, Gremlin Lore, is about the mythical creatures that supposedly sabotaged RAF planes. The officer, who read it, was enthralled by it to such an extent that he decided to give it to his friend Walt Disney, who sought war-related features for his film company. Disney, therefore premeditated on making Dahl's story into an animated film called The Gremlins but didn't. However, Roald for this very reason became acknowledged as a writer.

In 1953, he married actress Patricia Neal. They had five children, who died. Nevertheless, he was so fond of them that he attributed his success as a writer of children's books to them and even stated, "Had I not had children of my own, I would have never written books for children, nor would I have been capable of doing so."

In 1983, Roald Dahl and Patricia Neal divorced after thirty years of marriage and he soon married Felicity Dahl. Consequently, the last years of his life were relatively blissful and prolific, and he wrote his superlative books during this period. Dahl received numerous awards including the Edgar Allan Poe Award.

Roald Dahl is still remembered by his schoolmates as a lofty, supple-faced boy, not particularly admired, though very close to a few boys who became his acquaintances not only in school but also even later on in his life. The sports in which he was particularly proficient at included cricket and swimming. One of his most important hobbies was reading, and he loved reading electrifying books about adventure and voyages.

A number of Roald Dahl's preferred novelists and adventure writers included Rudyard Kipling, Captain Marryat, H. Rider Haggarrd, and G.A. Henty. Their books emphasized a sort of intrepidness and manliness that later on manipulated both Dahl's life and his writings.

Roald Dahl died on November 23, 1990 in Oxford, England and was buried in Great Missenden. Dahl was sophisticated, lively and loquacious. He is one of the most widely read and significant writers of our time.

His works

Dahl wrote 19 children's books. The best known, which were also made into movies or motion pictures, are James and the Giant Peach (1961) and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964).

Roald Dahl described his life in two books, Boy (1984), and Going Solo (1986). The first volume contains tales of his childhood experiences; the second one deals with his life after school.

Other popular books, autobiographies, novels, TV and film scripts by Dahl comprise The BFG (1982), Matilda (1988), Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968), Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories, Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970), Danny the Champion of the World (1975), You Only Live Twice (1967), Sometime Never (1948) - describing the Battle of Britain and which was an absolute failure - Someone Like You, Sweet Mystery Of Life, Kiss Kiss, Tales of the Unexpected, My Uncle Oswald and many others which have been translated into several languages, best sellers worldwide. However, the books written by this famous writer in the beginning of his writing career comprised various styles, though Dahl made certain that each story contained a few blatant propaganda for the war effort.

On the whole, Roald's books are generally fantasy and ingenious. They are a stimulating concoction of the grotesque and comic with a moral. Fundamentally for children, they have a lesson for them to be taught and learnt for the future, it is that "people are not, what they appear to be". About his children's stories, which either featured or was written for children he had said once: "I make my points by exaggerating wildly. That's the only way to get through to children. They love being made to giggle, spooked, chocolates, toys and money."

The stories of Roald Dahl are no doubt treasures for all ages and even for the future generations.


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      a very unlucky life for him

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      I loved Fantastic MR Fox

    • Wokar'Gwa profile image


      9 years ago from Nigeria

      I first had a brush with Dahl in the early nineties,when I watched the movie adaptation of his book,"The Witches".I would go on later to read the book.Then I watched "Matilda" and vainly cursed the tv channel for not completing the movie."Charlie and Chocolate Factory" is of course another meal altogether. I do not believe that Dahl wrote for only children.Most of his "children's books" deal with issues which are also important to adults:missed childhood pleasures,missed adventures.They are like mirrors to the kind of life that some adults would like to live.I think Dahl would be long remebered for these.

    • It's just me profile image

      It's just me 

      9 years ago from Alaska

      My sons loved "The BFG" and many others.

    • Aya Katz profile image

      Aya Katz 

      9 years ago from The Ozarks

      Hassam, thanks for this interesting hub about Roald Dahl. Surely not all of his children died!?

    • Nicu Gecse profile image

      Nicu Gecse 

      9 years ago

      It is amazing how a man's life can fit into a few words or phrases. It takes a certain talent and a sort of detachment to do that, but also a special generosity from the person that does it. On my opinion, Roald Dahl was a generous person, like most of the real important writers are. It was a kind gesture to propose a remember page and you did a great hub, Hassam.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      you should read "the witches" its an amazing book by my favorite author

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      love it

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      Roald Dahl writes cool books I especially like Matilda

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      10 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I just dreamed about all of Roald Dahl's books last night, one story following the next! I reviewed them all for a Classic Literature website some six months ago. I wish he were around to write more.

    • glassvisage profile image


      10 years ago from Northern California

      Roald Dahl is certainly my favorite author! :D

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 

      10 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      Very good hub, thanks :)

    • hassam profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Pakistan

      Thanks tinyteddy undoubtedly he is the among the best there ever have been and I still enjoy a lot reading his work.

    • tinyteddy profile image


      10 years ago from INDIA

      fantastic hub

      roald dahl is the most realistic writer a mystic maverick and a marvellous author who made compelling read

      a wonderful writer indeed

      thanks to bring him into the hub pages


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