Welcome back, you beautiful blog fiends. Nikkie here, bringing you some words on a great wordsmith: Roald Dahl. Today is Dahl’s 100th birthday. He may not be alive to celebrate it (having died the year I was born), but that doesn’t mean we should ignore it!
I will keep this post short and sweet because you can find a lot of great articles remembering Dahl and his work—like this one or this one or this one—I won’t pretend as if what I have to say is more important. I just needed to say something to honor this man for what he gave me.
Roald Dahl was my first favorite author. I devoured a lot of his children’s books (as the image with this post may attest), and I even read my first collection of short stories because of him (The Wonderful Life of Henry Sugar and Other Stories). I can’t tell you how magical I found his stories. They gave me life.
I can say that his books were a big part of what made me want to be a writer myself (his books and The Phantom Tollbooth). I got such joy out of reading; books were a sanctioned escape, and Dahl’s were a great option. I wanted to replicate for others the way books made me feel. Even though I am not so starry eyed that I still believe I can be some current child’s Roald Dahl (though my new goals are a brown Rainbow Rowell meets Megan McCafferty), I still hold his books near and dear to my heart.
The thing about Dahl was the way he seamlessly mixed the absurd and the realistic. Take Matilda: A young girl grows up feeling out of place, mainly because her parents and brother treated her extremely poorly, when her underutilized intelligence becomes telekinetic. But once she is placed in a life that suits her, the powers disappear. There is just enough magic without it being the whole point. The story is one about finding your strength and standing up to the people who try to overpower you just because you’re different, and it offers that up to young readers without talking down to them.
Maybe that’s why I loved Dahl so much. I truly felt like I was getting something out of his stories in a way that made me grow as a person.
So it doesn’t matter to me that he wasn’t the world’s greatest person (though it IS cool that he was a spy or something). It was a different time back then, one in which everyone sucked (oh, so maybe it wasn’t quite that different). What matters to me is the power of his words, and those are still golden.
Happy 100th, Mr. Dahl. You should be proud.