“A person is a fool to become a writer. His only compensation is absolute freedom. He has no master except his own soul, and that, I am sure, is why he does it”- Roald Dahl
Many people don’t know that some of their favorite children’s stories were conceived in the wondrous imagination of Roald Dahl. Dahl was an extremely prolific and versatile writer, having written 19 novels, including The Gremlins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Roald Dahl shaped and invigorated children’s imaginations for decades. In addition, during his lifetime of writing, this wonderful English storyteller invented a whole new language called “Gobblefunk.”
Dahl created more than 500 new words and character names that were playfully nonsensical yet recognizable, from the well-known “Oompa-Loompas” and “whizzpopping” to the less known “crodoscollop” and “splatch-winkle.” The words are found across his literary works, used when Dahl’s dreamworld transcends normal adjectives. This brilliant invention begs the question of how one can possibly create and integrate such originality.
He also wrote short stories, screenplays, and poems, and many love him for his particularly macabre motifs and unexpected plot twists.
Dahl’s versatility didn’t end with literature: during World War II, he served as a fighter pilot in the British Royal Air Force, and he was successful enough to become a wing commander.
His service in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War would profoundly influence the rest of his life and serve as an inspiration for his first book, Gremlins, about the troublesome creatures.
The much-loved children’s writer came face to face with death during the war but was lucky enough to survive a forced landing in Libya’s Western Desert.
In 1960, Dahl’s infant son was injured by a reckless taxi driver, and as a result, suffered from hydrocephalus. Dahl collaborated with the hydraulic engineer Stanley Wade and the neurosurgeon Kenneth Till to create the “Wade-Dahl-Till” valve, a device which saved as many as 3,000 children suffering from the dangerous condition.
Dahl died in 1990 at the age of 70, and a man as exceptional as he was deserved an equally exceptional funeral. Dahl’s granddaughter arranged a special Viking funeral for him, to honor his Norwegian roots and his life, which was full of conquests.
To stay true to the Viking burial ritual, Dahl’s coffin and grave were filled with some of his favorite possessions. These included his prized snooker cues, expensive burgundy, assorted chocolates, his favorite HB pencils, and a circular power saw. It is unclear whether he was really fond of the circular saw, or if it was included to help him build ships for the Norse gods in the afterlife.
During the funeral, the famous poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night” was read aloud. The poem was written by Dylan Thomas, a writer who was Dahl’s friend and supporter, and the reading of the poem served as the closing act of their long friendship.
After Dahl’s death, his wife continued to run many charity foundations he started, and she raised money for the benefit of terminally ill children and young people across the world.
Nowadays, Dahl’s grave is a place where both children and adults leave toys and small tokens to honor the legacy of this prolific writer and exceptional man.