2016 marks the 100th year since the birth of the much loved writer Roald Dahl. He was born on the 13th of September 1916 in Cardiff to Norwegian parents. The Welch capital will be marking Dahl’s Centenary with a two day celebration this coming September. The event will include theatre performances, art exhibitions, readings and much more. The Welch Government has promised it will be a celebration to remember. They of course want to use the opportunity to build on the success of Dylan Thomas’s Centenary in 2014 so they are pulling out all the stops in order to honour Dahl’s contribution to literature.
“For me, the pleasure of writing comes with inventing stories”, Roald Dahl
Dahl first became interested in writing during his time in the army. He met C.S. Forester and together they wrote a piece based on his adventures during the war. They entitled it “A Piece of Cake” and it was published in the Saturday Evening Post. Although Dahl is best known for writing children’s books, in the beginning he wrote for adults. Most of his stories were mystery novels, some of which were quite successful. After the war Dahl lived in America, that is where he met and married his wife actress Patricia Neal. They had five children together. His kids became his inspiration and the reason he wanted to write children’s books.
“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it”, Roald Dahl
When we think of Dahl it immediately con jours up images of his best known characters like Matilda, Charlie, Sophie, James and Danny but these characters aren’t the only thing that Dahl invented. In 1960 Dahl’s third child Theo, who was only four months old at the time was struck by a taxi on a walk home with his nanny in New York City. The infant was thrown from his buggy and shattered his skull suffering a brain injury. This accident resulted in the child developing secondary hydrocephalus. A Holter Shunt was used to treat his condition. This device is inserted into the cerebellum and it reroutes the built up of spinal fluid, stopping it from travelling to the brain. This seemed to do the trick and the child began to recover but unfortunately not for long. After a few months complications arose and Theo was back at the hospital. The shunt had become clogged and the fluid was backed up putting pressure on his brain. These complications occurred six more times over the next nine months and the baby was temporarily blinded as a result.
“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely”, The Twits, Roald Dahl
This event affected Dahl and his family greatly so he decided to take matters into his own hands. He got in touch with a friend who was interested in model airplanes. Together with Stanley Wade who was a hydraulic engineer, they designed a new kind of shunt using hydraulic pumps as their inspiration. They took their invention to Dr Kenneth Till and the new Wade-Dahl-Till valve was born. It was extremely successful and went on to help over 3,000 patients who were suffering from this condition. Although Dahl didn’t pursue any other medical endeavours his venture into medical science did make a real difference to many peoples lives.
“Grown ups are complicated creatures, full of quirks and secrets.” Danny the Champion of the World, Roald Dahl
Soon after Dahl shifted his attention back to writing. He wrote so many amazing children’s classics that I myself hold dear. I loved these stories and they became a big part of my childhood. So much so that whenever I was misbehaving my father would tell me that I was acting just like Veruca Salt. I took great offence to this comparison and it often stopped me in my tracks. I was horrified because to me it was the worst thing you could be.
“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men”, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Roald Dahl,
Dahl went on to write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, The Twits the list goes on and on. Children like myself fell in love with them all. Many of these stories have been adapted into big broadway musicals and major motion pictures. In the film version of The Witches the head witch is played by Anjelica Huston. I must admit that her performance in this movie terrified me as a child and to be honest still can as an adult. Even movie legend Stephen Spielberg has dared to take on one of Dahl’s most notorious characters The BFG. The Hollywood blockbuster is set to be released later this year.
This Trailer is Property of Disney
“I think it was kind of genius of Roald Dahl to be able to empower the children. It was very, very brave of him to introduce that combination of darkness and light”, Stephen Spielberg
Dahl’s stories continue to delight and entertain children the world over. Their light has never faded. They have truly stood the test of time, proving that a good story never dies. It can always be retold or reinvented without ever loosing its magic. These characters live on in the hearts of all those who loved them. So I guess I wanted to write this blog in honour of Dahl and his centenary. To say thank you for creating so many wonderful stories that captured my imagination and helped me keep the magic alive. Here is to a truly great writer. May his stories continue for many more hundreds of years to come.