There is so much to say about such an amazing author. What hides behind the mind of one of the world’s best known children’s/young adult authors? Let’s find out!
Roald Dahl was born on September 13 1916 in Llandaff, Wales.
He grew up with Norwegian parents, Harald Dahl and Sofie Magdalene Hesselberg, having a relatively happy childhood, but sadly suffered tragedies early on with the death of his older sister, Astri, and his father.
Education for him began at the Llandaff Cathedral School, later (per his late father’s wishes), his mother transferred him to St. Peter’s Boarding school, and then in 1929 to Repton Private School. During his time in school, Dahl was not one to follow the rules. Rather, from the time he was young, was full of wanderlust and adventure.
Despite his academic troubles he was offered by his mother a chance to attend one of England’s top universities (Oxford or Cambridge), but turning it down saying:
“No thank you. I want to go straight from school to work for a company that will send me to wonderful faraway places like Africa or China.”-(Quote from Roald Dahl’s autobiography “Boy: Tales of Childhood”)
After graduating from the Repton school in 1929, his life long adventures truly began to take off.
Here is just a short list of some of what he did: (Before the writing career)
- Went on an expedition to Newfoundland.
- Worked with the Shell Oil Company in Tanzania, Africa till 1939.
- 1939 joined the Royal Air Force (training in Nairobi, Kenya)
- Became a World War II fighter pilot.
- After a bad crash and recovery he transferred to Washington, D.C. (became an assistant air attaché.)
It was actually during his time in Washington where he met the man who would encourage him to write; author C.S Forrester; after this Dahl began his early publications including his first short story in the Saturday Evening Post, and other stories in other magazines like The New Yorker.
His first actual children’s story “The Gremlins” was written for Walt Disney in 1942, however the project was far from a smashing success. Around this time Dahl concentrated more adult themed, strange, and “macabre” stories around the early 1950’s, two of which, “Someone Like You” (1953), & “Kiss, Kiss” ( 1959), did very well.
In 1961, Dahl married actress Patricia Neal, resulting in the relationship lasting over 30 years and five wonderful children. The marriage lasted until 1983 when they divorced, but Dahl was always by her side, even before the divorce when Neal suffered illness as result brain hemorrhages during the 60’s. More tragedy struck however when one of his children, Olivia, passed away in 1962 due to measles encephalitis. Dahl would dedicate two of his books, “James and Giant Peach”, and “The BFG” in her memory.
It was actually his bedtime stories to his children that would inspire his writing.
His first official children’s book, “James and Giant Peach” was published in 1961 and went on to great acclaim and became a best-selling, award winning children’s book, still touching generations of readers today!
Dahl went on to have a successful writing career, publishing over 19 books and 9 short-story collection books.
He only re-married once to Felicity Ann Crosland not long after his divorce. They remained together until his death.
Roald Dahl passed away on November 23rd, 1990, at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, England at just 74 years old.
Dahl leaves behind a legacy well beyond the written word. There is so much to say and learn about this man that this post could go on forever.
Roald Dahl will always be an inspiration to me and I hope that this introduction has left you with the curiosity to dive into just the surface of his literary genius.
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