Roald Dahl has been described as one of the most influential children’s authors of the 20th century. Dahl is the author of classic children’s novels such as James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, and Charlie and the Chocolate factory. Much of Dahl’s work has some sort of connection to events that took place during his life and relationships that he had with various people.
Roald Dahl was born in Wales to his father Harald’s second wife Sofie. Dahl’s father was a successful business man who died tragically just before Dahl’s 4th birthday. It was Harald’s wish that his son have a proper education and therefore the family sold all of the precious things that they had in order to send Dahl to private and boarding schools.
It was during his years at school that he was treated quite terribly by masters and senior boys. Dahl stated that boys in his school would often be wounded quite severely. As Dahl grew older he would never be able to forget the unkind treatment that he received, and this traumatic time in his life is reflected in several of his stories. Many of his child literary heroes must fight the adult villains who would seek to usurp unrighteous dominion over children.
There were some happy times during Dahl’s time in school. There was a Cadbury Chocolate Company nearby that would frequently bring chocolate samples to the school for the students to sample. In enjoying many chocolates and other treats, Dahl wrote that he often dreamt about creating his own type of chocolate bar that he would dedicate to Mr. Cadbury himself, a man who in the eyes of a child was certainly larger than life. Undoubtedly, these experiences provided a great deal of inspiration for Dahl’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well as its sequel. Not to mention the fact that Willy Wonka and Mr. Cadbury were probably quite similar in the eyes of young Roald Dahl.
When Roald Dahl finished his education he served in the Royal Air Force during WWII. It was during this war that he had a terrible accident in his plane that left him with a serious head injury and temporary blindness. Dahl would later write about this experience in an article that he sold for $900. It was this first story that started Dahl thinking about being a writer. Dahl explained that he would also have very strange dreams as a result from the head injury that he sustained and that it was during these dreams that he got many of the ideas that he used in his stories. In the early 1940s Dahl also wrote a story called “Gremlins” and then took a break of sorts to marry and settle down.
In 1953 Dahl married the actress Patricia Neal. Together they had one son and four daughters. Dahl’s family was afflicted with many illnesses. His eldest daughter died before reaching the age of eight and his wife suffered a stroke during her pregnancy with their fifth child. These illnesses and especially the illness of his wife, strained Dahl’s relationship with her. These family tragedies were published in a work called, “As I Am.” After thirty years of marriage, Dahl and Neal were divorced and Dahl later remarried a close friend of Neal’s. Her name is Felicity Ann Crossland.
Dahl went on to write more than sixty short stories; in addition to his adult writings, he wrote children’s books and screenplays. Many of his books have been made and re-made into films and plays. His widow has established a foundation in his name that works to encourage literacy and the study of the various illnesses of which Dahl was particularly touched by. Dahl died of a blood disease.