14 fascinating facts we bet you didn’t know about Roald Dahl - on his 104th birthday

September 13 would have been the famous children’s author 104th birthday, and to mark the occasion, Dahl fan – and former primary school teacher – Laura Steele, of PlanBee, has shared some fascinating facts about the man himself...

Monday, 14th September 2020, 1:19 pm
RoaldDahl.com website

Roald joined the Royal Air Force in Kenya at the outbreak of the Second World War, and became a fighter pilot. Unfortunately, he crash-landed in the Western Desert of North Africa and was badly injured.

After being discharged from the RAF, Roald became a British Intelligence Officer, passing on important information to the government. He worked alongside another spy, Ian Fleming, who later became famous for his James Bond 007 series.

In 1961, Roald Dahl's first novel for children, 'James and the Giant Peach,' was published. In total, he wrote 20 children’s books - 17 fiction books and three poetry books.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Roald had a small hut at the bottom of his garden where he would go to write. It contained a battered old armchair and a table of strange mementos, including a silver ball made from old chocolate wrappers, and a piece of his own hip bone that was removed during an operation.

Roald’s parents named him after the Norwegian explorer, Roald Amundsen, who was the first man to reach the South Pole, in 1911.

In Norwegian, Roald’s name is pronounced ‘Rooo-al’, with a silent ‘d.’

When he was a child, he had two pet mice called Marmaduke and Montague.

As an adult, Roald was 2 metres tall – that’s around six feet six inches.

He could speak three languages, English, Norwegian and Swahili, the official language of Kenya and Tanzania.

Roald’s first ever piece of published writing was an account of his plane crash during the Second World War.

Roald invented over 250 new words – there is even a special Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary – but according to his teachers at school, Roald was never very good at writing.

Roald wrote for four hours every day. He did not want his children disturbing him while he was in his writing hut, so he told them wolves lived there!

Dahl’s books have been translated into almost 60 different languages, and sold over 250 million copies worldwide.

Roald was a mischievous child. On one occasion, he and his friends devised the 'great mouse plot' when they hid a dead mouse in a jar of gobstoppers in order to give an unpleasant old sweet shop owner a fright. The boys were later found out and caned by their headmaster while the sweet shop owner watched. This story, as well as many other tales from his childhood, is recounted in his autobiography, ‘Boy.’

Did you also know, that – as a result of this caning - Roald's mother withdrew him from the Cathedral School and sent him to St Peter's Boarding School in Weston-super-Mare. He was just nine years old. Roald was very homesick to begin with, and even pretended to have appendicitis so that he would be sent home!