A Look at The BFG Author’s Life
by Alana Pedalino
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda, James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mr. Fox—these are just a few of the best-loved stories by Roald Dahl, one of the most well-known storytellers of children’s literature. To celebrate his many incredible books—including this week’s Dollar Deal, The BFG—we present seven interesting (maybe even surprising) facts about his life!
1. He’s No Stranger to the Movies
Lots of Roald Dahl’s books have been adapted into movies—including Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The BFG was adapted twice—first in 1989 and a second time in 2016.
The 1989 version featured a Whizzpopper Song.
The 2016 version was directed by Steven Spielberg and featured Mark Rylance in the role of the BFG.
Roald Dahl also wrote some famous screenplays in his lifetime—two of them were adaptations of the Ian Fleming book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and one was for You Only Live Twice (a James Bond movie).
2. He Kept Idea Books
Dahl would jot down story ideas inside these thought journals. He often mined these for ideas and kept track of the ones he had used by putting the name of the story next to the idea. He used some of these ideas for The BFG.
The Imaginormous Challenge encourages kids to submit 100-word idea pitches based on Dahl’s lifelong practice of writing his ideas in these books.
3. He Had a Writing Hut
Inspired by the poet Dylan Thomas, who owned a writing shed, Dahl had his own private writing hut constructed in the 1950s. Dahl enlisted his handyman friend, Wally Saunders, to build the hut. Saunders’s big ears and kind ways would eventually inspire the character of the BFG.
4. He Shares the Same Pair of Shoes as the BFG
Though not in terms of size! Illustrator Quentin Blake originally drew the BFG’s footwear to correspond with Dahl’s text, which described the BFG as wearing black leather boots. However, this choice in footwear appeared to render the BFG as the Big Unfriendly Giant! Dahl sent Blake his own classic Norwegian leather sandal in the mail, which Blake used as a model for the BFG’s new footwear. Dahl changed the description of the BFG’s outfit to correspond with the revised illustrations.
5. He’s Buried Near the Site of BFG Footprints
In the village of Great Missenden, where Dahl called home, BFG footprints lead you to Dahl’s headstone. Dahl passed away in 1990—many who visit him, especially children, shower his tombstone with pennies, pencils, books, toys, and candy.
6. He’s a Fan of Wordplay and Malapropisms
Mala-what? According to Merriam-Webster, a malapropism is “the usually unintentionally humorous misuse or distortion of a word or phrase; especially the use of a word sounding somewhat like the one intended but ludicrously wrong in the context.” Dahl was a huge fan—he used so many in his writing, you could create a whole dictionary of Dahl-isms!
In fact, some of Dahl’s made-up words and phrases were added to the Oxford English Dictionary, including the BFG malapropism “human bean.”
7. There Are Often Exhibits Featuring Art from His Books
Currently in Canterbury, UK, you can visit the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge to see original BFG art from Quentin Blake! The exhibit runs through May 20.
Another exhibit at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library celebrates a series of portraits Blake created in honor of Roald Dahl’s 100th birthday in 2016. These portraits feature Sophie and the BFG among other characters from Dahl’s books. The exhibit closes June 3.
This Book Is Available from Scholastic Book Clubs