Thursday, 8 January 2009

Muggle-Wumps, Snozzcumbers And Oompa-Loompas

As a young child who was always read to and needed no encouragement to go off and read on his own, my tastes always tended towards the fantastic. We had plenty of Famous Five and Secret Seven books but they never really appealed. No, give me one of L. Frank Baum's Oz books and I'd be happier. There was always one writer that I was obsessed with over all others at a young age. His name was Roald Dahl and I'm just as obsessed by his books now as I was then. His style was very much aimed at children but was never patronising; it was instead full of the kind of disgusting and dark imagery that children love. No fluffy and cute fairy tales from Mr Dahl - there was always a sense of the macabre and the revolting lurking around.

There are many great Dahl books like the obvious ones such as Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, James And The Giant Peach and The BFG - in fact, they all have something to recommend about them - but here are my favourites:-

The Twits - In terms of revolting characters, Mr and Mrs Twit have to be amongst the most repellent he ever created. Not only are they foul, unwashed and ugly characters, they're an utterly repellent couple who spend all their time being particularly nasty towards each other. Kids love practical jokes so I always loved this one with it's escalating series of tricks. Also, the Quentrin Crisp illustrations made this one more memorable - particularly the image of all the bits of food that Mr Twit saves in his beard for later (which I've discovered is true - all us bearded men save food in there for later; it's why we grow them).

George's Marvellous Medicine - Again, as is common in many of Dahl's books, there's a comeuppance to be had for a despicable person. It's the sort of book that just wouldn't get published today for fear that it was encouraging children to feed paint-based potions to their grandparents (which is highly unlikely - I never once wanted to poison either of my grandmothers but then they were great, not "selfish, grumpy old women" with "small puckered up mouths like a dog's bottom")

The Witches - I'm not entirely sure why but this was always my favourite. There was something about it that struck me more than the others but I'm not sure why. Possibly the fact that this one was slightly scarier than some of the others - from the fairly haunting descriptions what happens to all the missing children to the thought of witches hiding their hideous nature behind wigs and gloves through to the not-quite-happy ending (which was disappointingly altered for the film). I don't know for certain but there's something about this one that struck a chord with me slightly more so than the others (it's only my favourite by a small degree; they're all great to some extent).

Those are some of my preferred ones. How about you?

4 comments:

Star Kicker said...

These aren't Dahl books, but I adored this series when I was young. It still gives me the giggles once in awhile.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_stupids

That Baldy Fella said...

Intriguing! I like the fact that they're on the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000 for encouraging children to be disobedient - that's a recommendation in my book...

RachMay said...

I loved Matilda and the BFG. I haven't read the witches because the film traumatized me. I'm sure I'll get over it in five, ten years or so.

That Baldy Fella said...

Well, you can work your way up to it by reading the Twits and George first...