My Friends Matilda, Charlie, Danny and James

“Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop! The great big greedy nincompoop!”

I could recite pretty much the whole poem from memory. Like many people, I read Roald Dahl when I was a child but unlike most, I never really outgrew him. Some might have acquired a taste for the classics, others may have dived into the contemporary. But amongst all the books I have opened, all the pages I have turned, all the stories I have lived in, Roald Dahl’s remain my constant companions.

Why?

Well. Looking back at his work now, as an ‘adult’ (and I’m using that term loosely here), I’d by lying if I said my opinion hasn’t changed. I was telling my mother about one of my favourite parts in Matilda just hours ago – where Matilda puts superglue on her father’s hat. Saying it out loud made me realise just how strong her sense of vengeance is.

Fuelled by the occasional article skimmed online, I also began to wonder if books like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Witches are sexist. Some characters’ punishments seem a lot more cruel in retrospection (seriously, how harshly are the children in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory punished?!). And the enormous crocodile and the Twits scare me much more than they did years ago.

But despite everything, I can never forget the feelings his words evoked. Reading a book of his was like listening to my grandmother spin captivating tales out of thin air. It was chatting with someone who’s always ready with a spine-cracking joke at the right moment. It was laughing about everything and nothing with my closest friends on a lazy afternoon.

And it was Roald Dahl’s books that made me want to spin words into the same enchanting, scrumdiddlyumptious bundles. They made me dream that some child might equate a story of mine with comfort and laughter. And they sit on my bookshelf, a reminder of what I hope to achieve.

Roald Dahl is the reason I’m sitting here, nestled among book pages and scattered letters, trying to mould words with even a fraction of the creativity that he did. And I am only one of the countless people whose lives he undoubtedly brightened.

So I mean it with all my heart when I wish a happy 100th birthday to Roald Dahl.

“All you do is to look
At a page in this book
Because that’s where we always will be.
No book ever ends
When it’s full of your friends.”

– Roald Dahl, The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me

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8 Comments on “My Friends Matilda, Charlie, Danny and James

  1. I can’t think of a better inspiration. I didn’t even really discover Roald Dahl until I was an adult (listening to Danny, Champion of the World on BBC Radio 4). When my son was old enough I bought him every Dahl book I could find and we read them together. We’re still reading them — just not out loud to each other.

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