Roald Dahl was born on this day in 1916, so we’ve taken the opportunity to raise a glass of burgundy (apparently one of Dahl’s favourite drinks – see below) to the man who gave us Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Twits, Matilda, The BFG, and so many more classic books. Here are five of our favourite interesting Roald Dahl facts.
1. Roald Dahl didn’t do particularly well at school. One of his teachers wrote in his school report: ‘I have never met anybody who so persistently writes words meaning the exact opposite of what is intended.’ While he was at school, Dahl undertook what has to be one of the schoolchild’s dream jobs: he was an occasional taste-tester for Cadbury’s chocolate. This surely played a part in his later creation of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.
2. In 1971, a real Willy Wonka wrote to Roald Dahl. This is our favourite Roald Dahl fact relating to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This real-life Willy Wonka was a postman from Nebraska, and was probably inspired to write to the author by the release of the film adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s well known that Dahl hated Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, partly because of the change in title – Dahl thought that Charlie, and not the eccentric Wonka, was the real protagonist of the story. Dahl planned to write a third Charlie Bucket book, Charlie in the White House; but in 1990 he died before he could complete it.
3. Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach was originally going to be ‘James and the Giant Cherry’. There are other noteworthy working titles/character names which were later changed. In early drafts of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Willy Wonka was called ‘Mr Ritchie’. The original title of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was ‘Charlie’s Chocolate Boy’. And in early drafts of that book, the Oompa-Loompas were known as the ‘Whipple-Scrumpets’.
4. Roald Dahl’s book The Twits was triggered by his desire to ‘do something against beards’ – he had an acute dislike of them. Such beard-fear is known as pogonophobia. Dahl confided in an essay that he had always harboured ‘a fierce antipathy’ to beards, which he described as ‘hairy smoke-screens behind which to hide’.
5. Roald Dahl was buried with chocolate, red wine, HB pencils, a power saw, and his snooker cues. He wanted to be buried with some of his favourite things, which included some good-quality burgundy, some upmarket chocolate (Dahl took chocolate very seriously and even planned to write a ‘History of Chocolate’), and the pencils that had served him so well in his writing shed over the years.
If you enjoyed these Roald Dahl facts, check out our interesting facts about Dr Seuss.
Image: Portrait of Roald Dahl (author: Carl Van Vechten), public domain.