Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl


Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was born in Wales of Norwegian parents. He spent his childhood in England and, at age eighteen, went to work for the Shell Oil Company in Africa. When World War II broke out, he joined the Royal Air Force and became a fighter pilot. At the age of twenty-six he moved to Washington, D.C., and it was there he began to write. His first short story, which recounted his adventures in the war, was bought by The Saturday Evening Post, and so began a long and illustrious career.

After establishing himself as a writer for adults, Roald Dahl began writing children’s stories in 1960 while living in England with his family. His first stories were written as entertainment for his own children, to whom many of his books are dedicated.

Roald Dahl is now considered one of the most beloved storytellers of our time. Although he passed away in 1990, his popularity continues to increase as his fantastic novels, including James and the Giant PeachMatildaThe BFG, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, delight an ever-growing legion of fans.

Learn more about Roald Dahl on the official Roald Dahl Web site:

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl



Cardiff, 13 September 1916


Mr Midshipman Easy

A red, forty-year-old exercise book, which he wrote his ideas in.


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Bacon frying

How could anyone create such fantastic and imaginative stories? Roald Dahl truly had an overflowing imagination. Roald Dahl’s life was almost as fantastic as his books – here are just some amazing facts about Roald Dahl…

When he was at school Roald Dahl received terrible reports for his writing – with one teacher actually writing in his report, ‘I have never met a boy who so persistently writes the exact opposite of what he means. He seems incapable of marshalling his thoughts on paper!’

After finishing school Roald Dahl, in search of adventure, travelled to East Africa to work for a company called Shell. In Africa he learnt to speak Swahili, drove from diamond mines to gold mines, and survived a bout of malaria where his temperature reached 105.5 degrees (that’s very high!).

With the outbreak of the Second World War Roald Dahl joined the RAF. But being nearly two metres tall he found himself squashed into his fighter plane, knees around his ears and head jutting forward. Tragically of the 20 men in his squadron, Roald Dahl was one of only three to survive. Roald wrote about these experiences in his books Boy and Going Solo.

Later in the war Roald Dahl was sent to America. It was there that he met famous author C. S. Forester (author of the Captain Hornblower series) who asked the young pilot to write down his war experiences for a story he was writing. Forester was amazed by the result, telling Roald ‘I’m bowled over. Your piece is marvellous. It is the work of a gifted writer. I didn’t touch a word of it.’ (an opinion which would have been news to Roald’s early teachers!). Forester sent Roald Dahl’s work straight to the Saturday Evening Post. Roald was now a published writer and set on the path that would lead him to great success.

Roald Dahl’s growing success as an author led him to meet many famous people including Walt Disney, Franklin Roosevelt, and the movie star Patricia Neal. Patricia and Roald were married only one year after they met!

The couple bought a house in Great Missenden called Gipsy House. It was here that Roald Dahl began to tell his five children made-up bedtime stories and from those that he began to consider writing stories for children.

An old wooden shed in the back garden, with a wingbacked armchair, a sleeping bag to keep out the cold, an old suitcase to prop his feet on and always, always six yellow pencils at his hand, was where Roald created the worlds of The BFG, The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and many, many more.

And if you’d like to find out how he wrote these great stories…

Where did Roald Dahl get his ideas for stories?Roald Dahl didn’t believe that stories just appeared, but that you had to work hard to think of them! ‘You start with a germ of an idea,’ he once said, ‘…a tiny germ… a chocolate factory? … a peach, a peach that goes on growing…’

Roald Dahl would write all of these ideas in his beloved red exercise book. But if his exercise book wasn’t handy he would scribble a note on anything to remind himself – even if he had to write in crayon or lipstick!

Roald Dahl’s tips to becoming a good author.These are just some of the hints Roald Dahl wrote down for anyone who would like to become a successful author.

1. You should have a lively imagination.2. You should be able to write well. By this I mean you should be able to make a scene come alive in the reader’s mind. Not everybody has this ability. It is a gift, and you either have it or you don’t.3. You must have stamina. In other words, you must be able to stick to what you are doing and never give up, for hour after hour, day after day, week after week and month after month.

If he hadn’t been a writer what might Roald Dahl have been?Roald Dahl once said that if he had been able to stay on at school ‘I’d have studied and become a doctor’. Luckily for us he didn’t! It would have been terrible if Roald Dahl had never started writing! Imagine a world without Charlie and his Chocolate Factory, without the BFG, or without the horrible Miss Trunchbull!


Penguin Classics Deluxe
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Joseph Schindelman
James and the Giant Peach
Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Nancy Ekholm Burkert


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