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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl was born to Norwegian immigrant parents, Harald and Sofie in Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales on September 13, 1916. When Dahl was three, his father died of pneumonia at the age of 57 while on a fishing trip in the Antarctic.

Roald's first language during childhood was Norwegian.

Dahl was named after the polar explorer Roald Amundsen, a national hero in Norway at the time.

When he was seven, Roald was sent to St Peter's boarding school St Peter's in Weston-super-Mare. In later accounts, he related the bullying and beatings he endured there.

Roald Dahl was a taster for the Cadbury chocolate company when he was a boy.

From 1929, Roald attended Repton School in Derbyshire where he excelled at sports, being made captain of the school fives and squash teams, and also playing for the football team.

Rather than go on to the university, Dahl opted to go to work for the Shell Petroleum Company in the hope, realized when he was sent to Africa, that he would get to travel.

Dahl joined the RAF at the outbreak of World War II, where he served as a fighter pilot, attaining the rank of wing commander..

He made a forced landing in the Libyan Desert and was severely injured,fracturing his skull, smashing his nose and temporarily blinded. As a result, Dahl spent sixteen weeks in the Royal Navy hospital in Alexandria.

Posted to America in 1942, to work at the British Embassy, Dahl was so popular among D.C. ladies that British intelligence came up with a whole new role for him: seducing powerful women and using them to promote Britain’s interests in America.

Dahl’s stint at the British Emassy also helped him realize his talent for writing. He discovered this skill while penning propaganda for American newspapers.

Dahl started work on his first children's book, The Gremlins in America.. Though he succeeded in getting a publishing deal, a proposed Disney film never materialized.

The story concerns mischievous mythical creatures, the Gremlins of the title, often invoked by Royal Air Force pilots as an explanation of mechanical troubles and mishaps. Dahl is credited with getting the gremlins known outside the air force.

Dahl was exceptionally tall, reaching 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) in adult life.

In 1953, Dahl married American actress Patricia Neal, and they went on to have five children. One daughter, Olivia, died of the complications of measles at age seven. Dahl subsequently became a proponent of immunization.

Patricia Neal suffered several major strokes and the marriage ended in divorce in 1983. Dahl went on to marry again.

Patricia Neal sometimes used nonsense words as a result of her strokes; Dahl devised a language, Gobblefunk, which was spoken by The BFG's enormous protagonist. It was based on some of the words his stricken wife came up with.

Patricia Neal and Roald Dahl

The only Dahl invented word in the Oxford English Dictionary itself is “Oompa Loompa”.

Roald Dahl wrote his books in a brick hut on the edge of his orchard. He wrote from 10.30am to midday and 4pm until 6pm  and always used yellow pencils with a rubber on the end and yellow legal pads.

Many of his books and stories have been made into films all over the world. However, the first movie adaptation of one of Dahl's books did not go well. After his screeplay for 1964's Charlie And The Chocolate Factory was rewritten, Dahl disowned the film. It was released in 1971, as Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Family, starring Gene Wilder.

In 1960, Dahl’s baby son Theo damaged his skull after being struck by a car. The standard treatment was proving to be ineffective so Dahl together with his friend Stanley Wade, an expert in precision hydraulic engineering, and paediatric neurosurgeon Kenneth Till created the Wade-Dahl-Till (WDT) valve. By the time the device was perfected, Theo had healed to the point at which it was not necessary for him; however, many thousand other children worldwide benefited from the WDT valve before medicine technology progressed beyond it.

In 1961 Dahl fronted his own US TV show, Way Out, a forerunner of the British show, Tales of the Unexpected.

His short story collection Tales of the Unexpected was adapted to a successful 1980s TV series of the same name, beginning with "Man From the South." When the stock of Dahl's own original stories was exhausted, the series continued by adapting stories by authors that were written in Dahl's style.

Roald Dahl in 1982. By Hans van Dijk / Anefo - Derived from Nationaal Archief, Wikipedia

Dahl wrote screenplays for two books for his pal, Ian Fleming. You Only Live Twice was released in 1967, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang  the following year.

Students from Leicester University showed that 2,425,907 seagulls would have been needed to lift a giant peach, not 501 as in Roald Dahl’s story.

Roald Dahl wrote a book, My Uncle Oswald, about a scheme to steal sperm from successful people and create the world’s most valuable sperm bank.

English author and former model Sophie Dahl is his granddaughter. Dahl was the inspiration for Sophie, the main character in her maternal grandfather's book The BFG.  In the earliest drafts of The BFG, the child was a boy called Jody. Roald turned him into a little girl called Sophie after her.

Dahl died on the morning of November 23, 1990 in Oxford, England from myelodysplastic syndrome, aged 74.

Dahl had a Viking-esque funeral, linked to his Norwegian descent. He was buried with his snooker cues, some good burgundy, chocolates, HB pencils and a powersaw.

There is a Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden which shows the work of Dahl.

Sources, Daily Mail,

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