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Frequently Asked Questions

Before you send me an e–mail, please check here first to see if your question has already been answered. Thank you!


Table of Contents

General Questions

Dahl's Life

His Books

Miscellaneous

All About Me and This Website


General Questions

Hey! Are you really Roald Dahl??

Sorry! My name's Kristine and I'm actually just a fan like you. Another Dahl fan named Michael helps me update this site. Lots of people get confused though. Unfortunately it's impossible for either of us to be Roald Dahl... because Mr. Dahl passed away in 1990. For more information on his death, jump to this question. Oh, and if you want to know more about me and Michael, just skip to the end!


How come you don't have his books online?

Quite simply, because that would be illegal. If I put his stories on my website, people could read them for free. It would be the same as stealing books from a bookstore and distributing them to my friends. Authors write for a living, and when you don't pay for their work you're hurting their pocketbooks (and breaking copyright law). Now I know that some sites on the Internet do have electronic books, but nearly all of these texts are only legal because they are so old that the author's copyright laws have expired (which is why you can find online Shakespeare and not Stephen King). I respect Mr. Dahl as a writer and therefore I respect his copyright laws. I do have some excerpts from his work available, but these are legally allowed for purposes of demonstration (under Fair Use laws). I know this sucks when you've got a paper due the next day and the library's closed, but I really can't help you.


Will you send me x? [general information, reviews, story text, etc.]

It depends on what you're asking for. This site has a lot of information, and if you take the time to actually look around you'll probably find what you need. For example, students sometimes email asking about Dahl's birth date. This information can easily be found on this page, my Dahl Biography page, and all the timelines pages. Any reviews and critical essays would have already been posted at the site. And as for story text, I think I conclusively covered that one in the question above. Basically, if you ask us to send you anything that you could've found on your own, don't expect a reply.


How do I get permission to adapt/perform/film Dahl's work?

As I wrote on my Legal page, I don't represent the Dahl estate in any way nor do I have any authority to grant anyone permission to use his work. Here are the people to contact:
 


Will you send me email/postal addresses for Dahl's family?

No. I don't have contact information for any members of Roald Dahl's family. (Even if I did, I wouldn't give them out publicly.) If you have letters or questions you'd like to address to them, you've got two options. 1) Send an enquiry through the official Dahl site; or 2) Send your messages care of one of Dahl's publishers. (You should be able to get the appropriate address from any Dahl book cover.)


Will you help me with my homework?

Sure! Michael and I would love to help you with it, but we will not do it for you. Since this seems to be such a popular request, this site actually has a Student Help page (and Homework F.A.Q.) that should answer most of your questions. This is where to go for possible topics and all research–related inquiries.


Can I print out something from your site to use in my report/presentation?

That's fine with me! As long as you give credit and don't claim anything as your own, you're welcome to use these resources for educational purposes. Most teachers like you to cite things like that, so e-mail us if you can't find a source listed for what you need.


Can I use one of your images on my website?

You're welcome to use any image except the ones that make up the "look & feel" of the site. That includes the logo, table corners, and any others that I've created myself. The ones you can use include book covers, pictures of Roald Dahl and pictures from the movies.

However, you may NOT hotlink (or source) images directly from my server. When your image tags point to my server, I have to pay for the bandwidth you're using. As far as I'm concerned, this is theft. So if you want to use one of my images, you need to save it on your own server and use it from there. I've configured my server to refuse any requests that don't come from an approved domain, and you may even get a big "THIEF!" image on your site. So please, please don't steal this site's bandwidth.


Where can I buy books/movies?

These days you can easily find Dahl's books and movies in most good bookstores. Amazon.com carries lots of new and old Dahl editions, and this site earns between a small commission on any sales generated when you follow an Amazon link. If you're looking for older or rarer material, then eBay is probably your best bet. I've also created a Where to Buy page to help serious collectors track down valuable Dahl volumes.


How much is a specific Dahl book worth?

The short answer is it's worth as much as you can get for it. There's no canonical source or index of Dahl prices that I know of. If you look at past auctions on eBay, that will give you a general idea of the worth of your book. If you suspect you have something rare, I'd suggest you consult a specialist rare children's bookseller.


What's the Facebook page all about?

The Facebook.com/RoaldDahlFans page was started in 2009 by a Dahl fan named Michael Mander. In early 2013 Michael agreed to help with the maintenance of this site. So while there's an association, the Facebook page still belongs to Michael and the website is ultimately the responsibility of Kris. The Facebook page is a community of 5,000 Dahl fans (called Dahlings!) discuss and share their knowledge of Roald Dahl. You should join it!


How does this site support itself?

While this site is not intended to raise money, we do have two sources of revenue that help offset the costs of hosting the site. The first are the Google links that you see near the bottom of every page on the site. Whenever you click one of those links, we get a small referral payment. The site also includes a few links to Amazon.com, and every purchase you make through this site earns us a commission. You don't even have to buy Roald Dahl books! If you'd like to support this site, just use one of these links the next time you're purchasing something online.


What is the Roald Dahl Children's Charity?

From the official website: "Roald Dahl's Marvellous Children's Charity was founded as the Roald Dahl Foundation in 1991. Since then we have given more than £7 million in funding to help children and young people with serious, rare blood or brain conditions and, until the end of 2008, literacy problems.

Mrs Felicity Dahl, Roald Dahl's widow, founded the charity shortly after Roald's death and during the past 19 years we have supported many thousands of children and young people in the UK living with serious haematological and neurological conditions." For lots more information on the Charity, see the Official Site.


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Dahl's Life

When/where was Roald Dahl born?

Roald Dahl was born in Llandaff, Wales, U.K. on September 13, 1916. (Llandaff is a very small village just outside the capital city of Cardiff.)


What was his family like?

Roald's parents were named Harald and Sofie. Harald Dahl was a Norwegian and came from a town called Sarpsborg (which is near Oslo). In 1877, when Harald was 14, a drunken doctor mistook Harald's fractured elbow for a dislocated shoulder, and instructed two men from the street to pull it as hard as they could. When they had realized it was not a dislocated shoulder, the damage done was so great that his left arm had to be amputated. Harald made a great fortune from a shipbroking firm, and was able to buy a fine house in Llandaff, outside Cardiff, where his wife Marie gave birth to two children. She died will giving birth to the second. Harald then met Sofie Magdalene Hesselberg. Harald proposed a week after he met her. In the first six years of their marriage, they had four children - the only boy of whom was Roald Dahl. When Roald was three, his elder sister (Astri) died from appendicitis. Astri was Harald's favourite child, and the death of her left him speechless. He died of pneumonia at 57 years old, a few weeks after Astri died. Sofie was left with five children alone. She fulfilled Harald's wish that all the children were to be educated in English schools.


Where did he go to school? What were his school years like?

Roald Dahl went to kindergarten called Elmtree House. He spent one year there. Ages 7-9 (1923-5) was spent at Llandaff Cathedral School. Here was where Dahl executed 'The Great Mouse Plot'. Ages 9-13 (1925-9) were spent at St Peter's, a boarding school. He had a strong dislike for his headteacher. He lied about the quality of the school in his letters home to please the man. Ages 13-20 (1929-36) was spent at Repton and Shell. Dahl chose to go to Repton over Marlborough because, he said, Repton 'was an easier word to say that Marlborough'. He disliked the uniform. Here he was asked to trial Cadbury Chocolate, the inspiration for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. While at Repton he discovered he enjoyed games and photography. His mother asked him if he wished to go to Oxford or Cambridge, but he declined as he decided instead to travel to 'wonderful, faraway places'


Was he a good writer? Did he get good grades?

It might surprise you, but Roald Dahl was not a very promising writer in school. In fact, he wasn't much of a student at all. His grades were mostly average, but he got terrible reports for his writing! One teacher actually wrote in his report card: "I have never met a boy who so persistently writes the exact opposite of what he means. He seems incapable of marshalling his thoughts on paper!"


What was his favorite book?

"Mr. Midshipman Easy"


What did he want to be when he grew up?

Dahl once said that if he had been able to stay on at school "I'd have studied and become a doctor." Luckily for us he didn't!


Where did Dahl go after school?

[More to come on this later...]


What happened to him in World War II?

Once England declared war on Germany, Roald and all the other young British men in the colonies had to help contain German sympathizers. After that he officially joined the Royal Air Force and was trained to fly combat missions. The other men in his squadron gave him the nickname "Lofty" because he was so tall (and had difficulty squashing himself into the airplane cockpit!). Tragically of the twenty men in 80 Squadron, Dahl was one of only three to survive. This was even more remarkable considering Dahl himself suffered quite a bad crash in the Libyan Desert in 1940. Though reports of the accident differ (see "Shot Down Over Libya" Controversy), the results were definitely painful – Dahl suffered bad burns, a concussion, and his nose was entirely pushed in. You can read about these and other War experiences in Dahl's books Boy and Going Solo.


What were his favorite things?

Music: Beethoven
TV Show: the News
Smell: bacon frying
Food: caviar
Color: yellow


What were his hobbies?

His interests were wide and passionate, from racing greyhounds, to breeding homing budgies, medical inventions, orchids, onions, gambling, golf, wine, music, art, mushrooming and the history of chocolate. He was a collector, starting as a child with conkers and birds' eggs leading on to works of art, antiques and wine.


When/where/how did he die?

In 1990, Roald was diagnosed with a rare blood disorder, Myelo-dysplastic anaemia. (For more information on this disorder, see Wikipedia.) "I've been a bit off colour these last few months," he wrote in a newsletter to his young fans, "feeling sleepy when I shouldn't have been and without that lovely old bubbly energy that drives one to write books and drink gin and chase after girls." Roald died on November 23, 1990 at the age of 74 near his home in Oxfordshire, England.


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His Books

How did Dahl become an author? What was his first published work?

As a result of the injuries he sustained in a plane crash, Dahl was invalided out of the Royal Air Force in the middle of World War II. He was eventually sent to America for the British embassy position of Assistant Air Attaché (which he later claimed was a cover for various "spy" type activities). The handsome young fighter pilot made quite a splash in the States and even became somewhat of a minor celebrity. In 1942 he met the famous writer C.S. Forester, author of the "Captain Hornblower" series. Forester wanted to write an article about Dahl's wartime experiences and asked the young pilot to jot down some notes for him. Instead, Dahl wrote out a complete story of his own that Forestor quickly submitted to the Saturday Evening Post, saying: "I'm bowled over. Your piece is marvellous. It is the work of a gifted writer. I didn't touch a word of it!" "Shot Down Over Libya" was published in the Saturday Evening Post on August 1, 1942 and thus became Dahl's first published work as an author.


Where did he get his ideas for stories?

Dahl didn't believe that stories just appeared, but that you had to work hard to think of them! "You start with the germ of an idea," he once said, "...a tiny germ... a chocolate factory? ... a peach, a peach that goes on growing..." He would write all of these ideas in his beloved red exercise book. But if his exercise book wasn't handy he would scribble a note on anything to remind himself – even if he had to write in crayon or lipstick!

Dahl also drew on his own life quite a bit for inspiration. For example, Dahl's Norwegian heritage can clearly be seen as an influence in The Witches. His first book of short stories, Over to You: 10 Stories of Flyers and Flying, was certainly prompted by his experiences in the R.A.F. The characters and situations in the "Claud's Dog" series from Someone Like You were supposedly based on actual people in Dahl's village of Aylesbury.

Dahl also had no qualms about re–using ideas and characters (and even whole chunks of text!) if he thought he could make something new out of them. For example, one of the stories in Someone Like You was entitled "The Champion of the World" and was about two men who invent a new method of poaching pheasants. They dope the birds with raisins stuffed with sleeping pills and manage to steal nearly all of Mr. Victor Hazell's flock. Of course, Dahl later turned this adult story into a children's book by changing the two men to a father and a son, calling it Danny the Champion of the World. This story included a chapter in which Danny's marvelous father told him an amazing bedtime story about a big friendly giant who collects dreams and distributes them to sleeping children. A few years later, nine more giants and an orphan named Sophie were added to create the classic story The BFG!


What tips did Dahl give to become a good author?

  1. You should have a lively imagination.
  2. You should be able to write well. By this I mean you should be able to make a scene come alive in the reader's mind. Not everybody has this ability. It is a gift, and you either have it or you don't.
  3. You must have stamina. In other words, you must be able to stick to what you are doing and never give up, for hour after hour, day after day, week after week, and month after month.


I need a list of all his books... Could you send me one?

You can find a list of all the books Dahl wrote on the Books page. (For a chronological list, use the Timelines page and sort for "Books".)


How many languages have his books been translated into?

34


Where can I find Roald Dahl books in French?

A nice Dahl fan named Becca Taylor pointed out that the website http://www.alapage.com has lots of French editions of Dahl stories at reasonable prices.


Where can I find Roald Dahl books in Spanish?

Actually Amazon.com has a great selection of Dahl's books in Spanish.


What's the name of the hero in "The Witches"?

Actually he doesn't have a name! No one in the book ever refers to him by name, nor does he himself as the narrator. I always sorta liked that; to me it meant that he could've been any kid. Of course, in the movie version they did give him a name: Luke. I wish they hadn't... What do you think?


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Miscellaneous

Did Roald Dahl hate little kids?

This is one of the weirdest questions I get. I don't know who started this rumor, but it bothers me. I think it probably had its origins in Willy Wonka – not that Wonka hated kids either, mind you. But the fact that the movie (and book) basically glorified the act of bumping off little brats has led a lot of people to accuse Dahl of being a child–hater. The fact is, Roald Dahl identified with young people and most of his stories are actually about conspiring with children to triumph over adults. (James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, and The BFG are all examples of this.) He loved good children, and his gentle treatment of James, Charlie, Danny, Sophie, and Matilda shows this. Additionally, Roald Dahl was a loving father (despite some unorthodox ways of parenting) and he was incredibly devastated when two of his children were tragically hurt (Olivia died of measles encephalitis and Theo's baby carriage was hit by a taxi). The thought of taking delight in the demise of young people must have been revolting to him. In fact, he helped invent a life–saving medical device for children like Theo and also started a foundation for children with rare blood diseases. Perhaps the biggest indicator of his true feelings towards his audience, though, was the fact that he personally answered almost every letter that was ever sent to him. Many adults today still treasure the postcard or letter that they received from Dahl as a child.


Someone told me that Roald Dahl was a racist/Anti-Semite. Is this true?

Sometimes this question comes up, and here is an answer I sent to a teacher in Wisconsin.

"No, you're not the first person to notice this trait in Dahl's writing. Since the 70's critics have accused him of being racist, sexist, Anti-Semitic, subversive, and just about everything else you can think of. The first serious attack was raised against him for
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which (in the original edition) had the Oompa-Loompas as black pygmies from Africa. Starting with the 1973 edition, these were replaced with the fantastical (white) Oompa-Loompas present in the story today. (The 1971 film bypassed the issue by making them orange.) I've got more information about this here.

In Roald Dahl: A Biography Jeremy Treglown notes that later in Dahl's life editors had to continually ask him to modify his stories for an increasingly politically-correct readership. The Fleshlumpeater in The BFG, for example, was originally even more of a black caricature than he is in the current version. The plot of Fantastic Mr. Fox was changed almost completely from Dahl's original draft, which glorified thievery (even more than the one we have now). And women have never fared well in Dahl's stories, from the horrid Aunts Sponge and Spiker from James and the Giant Peach to the freakish and evil Witches to the mannish and violent Trunchbull from Matilda.

So you're probably wondering the same thing I am: why do people continue to celebrate this man and his stories? There are a few responses. The primary one (and the ones that his editors used when "Charlie" was written) is simply that he was a product of a different time and environment and he can't be held entirely responsible for the beliefs he was raised with. An English boarding school at the beginning of the 20th century was not an easy place to survive in, let alone cultivate an appreciation for diversity. After school Dahl went to work in Africa for the Shell Oil Company, back when the British Empire was still strong and colonial attitudes were not as enlightened as they are today. He also suffered incredible tragedies in his life (the death of a daughter, a traumatizing injury to his son, and his wife's debilitating strokes) that destroyed his belief in God and led to many years of bitterness.

Of course, knowing why he thought the things he did doesn't really help when the kids are clamoring to hear stories you're uncomfortable reading. Personally, I've been doing this website for over three years and the more I learn about the man, the more ambivalent I feel towards him. But he was a very complicated individual, and there are some things that (for me) help to balance the scale. He was always very kind to children, and despite the fact that adults in his stories never fare well, the good kids are always treated with sensitivity and love (like Danny, Matilda, James, and Charlie). And after his infant son's accident, he worked with an engineer and a neurosurgeon to develop a better and cheaper shunt for children with hydroencephalitis. Once it was patented and approved, they released it to the world and many people still have it in their heads today. He also personally answered every fan letter he received, and in his writing hut still hang some of his favorite correspondence.

Basically, my rationale for this website is: when I read the books as a kid, I didn't pick up on any of the bad stuff. I laughed at the jokes and at seeing adults look ridiculous. (To be honest, though, as a white girl in Indiana I might not have been as attuned to racial issues as others.) It wasn't until I re-read the books as an adult that some of the text became distasteful to me. And the "myth of Dahl" that's been pushed since his death tends to gloss over a lot of this stuff. Publishers paint the guy as a kindly old grandpa and the champion of all underdogs. I just feel that kids need to know about his life and be able to form their own opinions of his work. I guess if you feel the books might introduce negative attitudes to your class, you should talk about it with them. Or, if they're not mature enough for that yet, do what you're doing and skip the "bad" parts until they can see why they're bad."

Basically, that's my opinion on this issue and I'd be happy to discuss it with you if you like.


I need to dress as Dahl for a presentation... What the heck should I wear?

Probably the easiest look to pull off is the one from the cover of Roald Dahl: A Biography. He seems to be wearing some sort of dark cotton trousers (khakis would work), along with a dark colored T–shirt. Easy peasy. Then all you need is a dark woolen scarf to wind around your neck, a straw hat, and a walking stick. The finishing touch is the shoes: sandals with holes in them. (Quentin Blake actually based the BFG's shoes on Dahl's Norwegian sandals.) A pair of Birkenstocks or regular sandals would be good enough. And there you go!


How do you pronounce "Roald"?

The correct Norwegian pronunciation is "Roo-all." Note that you do NOT say the final "d". In other words, when you say "Roald Dahl" correctly, it rhymes! (Liccy Dahl admitted, however, that she herself sometimes uses the Anglicized "Roe-ald" pronunciation.)


What were Roald Dahl's last words?

Roald Dahl's last sentence was said to his daughter, Ophelia, in John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. He woke up from a sleep and said to Opehlia: "You know, I'm not frightened. It's just that I will miss you all so much." But he had one more surprise in store for them. He fell, seemingly, completely unconscious. The nurse administered a lethal dosage of methane - and the shock of the prick awoke Dahl. He opened his eyes and muttered: "Oh, ***!". They were to be his final words.


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All About Me and This Website

So if you're not Roald Dahl, who the heck are you?

This site was started in 1996 by me, Kristine Howard. I'm a girl who grew up in Indiana in the United States. Nowadays I live in Sydney, Australia and work in I.T. helping build websites. You can learn more about me here or here at my personal page.

In 2013, Michael Mander came aboard to help maintain this site. Michael lives in the UK. He'll be providing some information about himself for the site soon!


How did this site come about?

When I started university in the fall of 1995, I had virtually no experience with the Internet at all. Suddenly I had an e-mail account and access to computers with very fast connections. I got hooked. I got a job in the I.T. department and learned to write simple web pages. By my second year, I decided that I wanted to actually make a page with CONTENT. What could I do, I wondered, that hadn't been done before? Somehow I hit on the idea of making a tribute to Roald Dahl, my all–time favorite author. There was virtually no information available about him on the Web at that time, and I figured I knew as much as anybody (and would be willing to learn more). So in 1996 I gathered up my list of links, some crude biographical information, and a handful of book covers culled from Amazon.com. The site was born.

Since then the site has grown quite a bit and had several name and design changes. I've also obviously added LOTS more information! I've won awards, been mentioned in magazines/newspapers, and made friends all over the world. I have devoted a lot of time to this site over the years and the positive feedback has made it all worthwhile. I hope you enjoy it!


Didn't this site used to be called something else?

In the beginning, this site was simply called "The Roald Dahl Home Page" and it was located at "roalddahl.org". In the spring of 2000 I was contacted by representatives of Roald Dahl's estate, who informed me that they were finally going to launch an official site! They were incredibly enthusiastic and grateful for all the work I'd put into my humble page. As a gesture of my good faith, I decided to turn over "roalddahl.org" to them. I also wanted to differentiate my site from theirs and make my aims clear. That's why I got a new name and domain: RoaldDahlFans.com.

Just to reiterate, roalddahl.com is operated by the Roald Dahl Foundation and has the stamp of approval from his family. They've graciously allowed me to continue this site, roalddahlfans.com, as a community site for Dahl fans. But I don't represent them, and I have no legal affiliation with Dahl or his estate.


What do you use to design/edit the site?

As you can probably tell, I try to keep things plain and simple around here. My HTML and PHP code were written by hand. The graphics were created in Photoshop. The structure, look, color scheme, and overall design of the site were all conceived by me and refined over many years. You're welcome to look at my code and learn from it, but PLEASE don't rip me off. There's not even much to steal really, but I still wouldn't appreciate it.


Where is the site hosted?

I pay to have the site hosted with Quadra Hosting, and I've been very happy with their service.


What Dahl books do you actually own?

You can see my entire collection here. I'm always interested in buying new Dahl books, so let me know if you've got something to sell!


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Created and maintained by Kristine Howard with assistance from Michael Mander
© 1996-2014