Roald Dahl was a famous and celebrated British novelist and short-story writer, poet, and fighter. He is best known for his iconic novels Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, and The Witches.
Roald Dahl’s last words were to his friends and family who surrounded him as he lay dying. He said he wasn’t afraid of death, “It’s just that I will miss you all so much.” Moments later, when pricked by a shot, Dahl exclaimed his final words: “Ow, f**k!”
Dahl is still remembered for his humor, expansive creativity and his twist on children’s writing.
Roald Dahl was born on September 13, 1916 in Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales to Harald Dahl and Sofie Magdalene Dahl.
His parents had been married in 1911 and named their son after the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen.
Roald spoke Norwegian at home during his early years and saw tragedy at a young age. His sister Astri passed away from appendicitis at 7 years old in 1920, when Roald was only 3.
Only a few weeks later, Roald’s father died from pneumonia at the age of 57. But Roald and the rest of his family stayed in England because his father’s wish was to have him raised and educated in Britain.
Roald attended The Cathedral School in Llandaff and transferred to St. Peter’s boarding school in Weston-super-Mare a few years later.
When Dahl finally graduated from school, he worked for the Shell Petroleum Company.
In August 1939, Dahl was commissioned as a lieutenant in the King’s African Rifles and commanded a platoon of Askair men in Africa.
In late 1939, the soon-to-be author joined the Royal Air Force as an aircraftman and was accepted for flight training with others. He would continue to train as a pilot and experience six months of training.
In 1940, Dahl was involved in a serious airplane crash and was injured all over his body. His face was smashed and he was temporarily blinded by the incident but had the power to pull himself from the burning crash and wait for safety.
He would continue to fly during World War II and was involved in some major air raids during the conflict, including the Battle of Athens.
After the war, Dahl worked for the British government and even worked in espionage for a few years, supplying information from the Americans to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Dahl first had his writing published in 1942, when his “A Piece of Cake” was released by the Saturday Evening Post. The piece was about his time in the war and earned him $1,000.
In 1943, his first children’s book titled The Gremlins was released and again was heavily influenced by the war. It had many fans, including First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt who read it to her grandchildren.
Walt Disney commissioned The Gremlins for a film that was never made but the success of the book showed that Dahl had some serious skills not only in flying but in writing as well, specifically for young readers.
Through the years, Dahl would indeed find much success writing for young adults but he also kept his mind on adult literature too and wrote dark adult short stories which contained a heavy dose of humor and tension.
Dahl’s most popular books for children were all adapted into stage, television or screen. The most popular was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
His novels were often written with a dark sense of humor and featured good-hearted characters triumphing over evil or pure darkness. His books were not afraid to play on children’s fears.
He also had a habit of writing and drawing large, odd-looking characters. His art style is hard to replicate and is one of the reasons his books were so popular.
Many called his works haunting or macabre but they all had a childlike spirit to them. Despite that, many of his novels featured characters receiving harsh punishments for their actions.
Roald Dahl was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer of the blood in 1990 and passed away after his battle with the disease on November 23, 1990. He was 74 years old.
He was buried with some chocolates, good burgundy, pencils and a power saw.
His work has remained popular after his death, still being adapted into films, remakes and stage plays. His books are still read in schools across the globe and his writing style is still considered one of the pinnacles of youth writing.