11 Things You Didn't Know About Roald Dahl

By Spencer Hart on at

With the announcement that Steven Spielberg is going to direct a film adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic novel, The BFG, it seems he will have a lot on his plate this year. Roald Dahl led a very interesting and varied life; from being a fighter pilot, spy and author to helping advance neuroscience and inspiring horror films -- perfect for a factmodo then.


1.) Roald Dahl is a classic children's author, fighter pilot and spy

When you mention Roald Dahl fighter pilot and spy aren't usually the professions you'd attribute to him, but these were his first careers. During World War II he flew a Hawker Hurricane and first experienced aerial combat in 1941, where he shot down a German plane. Towards the end of 1941 he started having severe headaches which caused a loss of consciousness, ending his active duty. Once he returned to Britain he was recruited by MI6 to provide intelligence from Washington. During his time there he worked alongside Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. [Image Credit: Wikipedia]


2.) Roald Dahl created more than 250 words

Chiddler, frobscottle, swishwiffingly scrumdiddlyumptious -- okay so they're not exactly in the OED, nor are they commonly used, but to create a register of 283 words is still quite impressive. The collection of words is called Gobblefunk and it's mainly used in The BFG, although it does also make an appearance in Dahl's other works, such as 'Oompa Loompa' in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. [Image Credit: DominicanaBlog]


3.) This isn't Spielberg's first encounter with Dahl

Many people think James and the Giant Peach was Roald Dahl's first novel for children, but it's actually The Gremlins, sound familiar? Yep, Steven Spielberg's comedy horror Gremlins is loosely based on Dahl's book. The term originated in World War II and was used by the RAF to describe mechanical failures in the aircraft. Roald Dahl picked up this term and introduced it to popular culture. [Image Credit: New York Cine Radio]


4.) The Twits was actually a campaign against beards

Roald Dahl had a desire to, "do something against beards," due to his acute dislike of facial decoration -- this lead to The Twits. The first sentence of the story is, "What a lot of hairy-faced men there are around nowadays!" [Image Credit: Roald Dahl]


5.) He helped advances in neuroscience

In 1920 Roald Dahl's son was hit by a taxi in New York City, he suffered severe injuries and developed hydrocephalus (water on the brain). A standard Holter Shunt was used to drain excess fluid but this proved inadequate. Dahl contacted Stanley Wade, a hydraulic engineer and model aircraft enthusiast, who, with the help of Kenneth Till developed a mechanism which was much more reliable. The mechanism is called the Wade-Dahl-Till Valve. [Image Credit: Wikipedia]


6.) Roald Dahl wrote all of his stories in a shed at the end of his garden

Everyday from 10.00-12.00 and 16.00-18.00, Roald Dahl would write stories whilst sitting in a shed at the end of his garden. All of his stories were written using an HB pencil on yellow legal notepads. [Image Credit: The History Blog]


7.) James and the Giant... Cherry?

James and the Giant Peach was originally going to be called James and the Giant Cherry. The cherry would have been pushed slowly along a stream by water boatmen, this was later changed to a giant peach which falls from the white cliffs of Dover. [Image Credit: Entertainment Monthly]


8.) Dahl is one of the most widely read children's authors, he's also one of the most censored

Despite being one of the best selling children's authors, Roald Dahl is also a popular target for censors. The Witches was banned by some libraries due to claims of sexism, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory had to be amended because Oompa-Loompas were originally black pygmies and James and the Giant Peach is regularly challenged due to its frightening and macabre content. [Image Credit: Bloody Disgusting]


9.) Roald Dahl has written two screenplays

Roald Dahl is most famous for his edgy children's novels but he has also written two screenplays -- Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and You Only Live Twice. These films are both adaptations of Ian Fleming novels and were considered very successful hits. [Image Credit: Imp Awards]


10.) Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory was inspired by Cadbury and Rowntree's

During his childhood, Cadbury and Rowntree's were two of the largest chocolate manufacturers in England and they often engaged in corporate espionage. This lead to extreme secrecy in the development and manufacturing processes employed by each company -- it was this secrecy that inspired Dahl to write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. [Image Credit: Consumer Check Point and Bloom London]


11.) Roald Dahl was buried with a power saw, HB pencils, chocolate, red wine and his snooker cues

Roald Dahl died on 23 November 1990, partway through writing a third Charlie Bucket story, titled Charlie Bucket and the White House. He was buried with some of his favourite items, including: a power saw, HB pencils, chocolate, red wine and his snooker cues. [Image Credit: The Times]