How did Dahl’s nasty novels escape PC police?
Idon’t really like Roald Dahl. There, I’ve said it.
I know it goes against the opinion of 250 million readers and the fact he is the most respected children’s author of all time.
I don’t dispute he was a master of his craft. And yet … I have never been able to love him as much as I am meant to. Never could as a child, still can’t as I read his books again to my kids.
Give me the whimsical adventures of Enid Blyton over the macabre revenge plots of Roald Dahl.
Granted, Matilda, who turns 30 tomorrow, is a great role model and fun story; barring the parts where Miss Trunchbull tries to kill her pupils, which might scar your impressionable four-year-old if you foolishly show her the movie just before she starts school.
Hearing, “Mummy, why has she thrown the little girl out of the window by her hair?” was my biggest Mum fail moment to date.
And Fantastic Mr Fox is a riotous romp too — even though my daughters can’t stop worrying about his tail being shot off.
It’s just that almost all of Dahl’s adult characters are evil and the protagonist, whether child or animal, wreaks revenge most horrible. What’s wrong with just having a nice adventure?
I doubt some of his books would get published if he wrote them today. In fact, I’m surprised the PC Police haven’t tried to edit them.
Take George’s Marvellous Medicine, for example, where young George mixes together a magic potion from highly toxic ingredients he finds about his house, to teach his grizzly old grandmother a lesson. In goes engine oil, antifreeze, laundry detergent, flea powder, shampoo and paraffin.
Er, what? Even in the 1980s a children’s book about making a medicine out of deadly ingredients must have raised at least one red flag. Did nobody at his publishers ever venture, “I say old chap, it might not be the best thing to tell kids to drink poison”?
What’s more, this book is beloved — it’s on the national curriculum — and a play is touring the country right now.
All they do is write the considerably understated, “Do not try to make George’s Marvellous Medicine yourselves at home. It could be dangerous,” in the foreword. That’s that covered then.
Meanwhile meddling bods couldn’t keep their fingers out of Enid Blyton’s books — in the 1990s editors fiddled around with her sacred texts, ie The Faraway Tree series, changing the names Dick and Fanny to Rick and Frannie and scary headteacher Dame Slap to Dame Snap, who instead of hitting her wayward pupils tells them off instead.
Just why they felt the need to censor her when Agatha Trunchbull is left to hammer throw her students into infinity is a mystery.
Thankfully, Blyton’s publishers recently restored the texts to their original.
Admittedly Blyton was no Dahl when it came to the craft of writing — her magic was all in the plot — but the same criticism is applied to J.K. Rowling.
“A bad girl is a far more dangerous creature than a bad boy. What’s more, they’re much harder to squash. Nasty dirty things, little girls are,” said Miss Trunchbull.
If only Matilda had enrolled at Malory Towers instead.
Book covers celebrating Matilda’s30th birthday.