Archive | October, 2021

Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected

17 Oct

Nowadays everybody knows who Roald Dahl is – one of the most popular children’s writers the world has ever known – but there is also a generation who first became aware of him sitting in his cardigan introducing the TV series Tales of the Unexpected. For a while there were two Roald Dahls in people’s consciousness. One – the Tales of the Unexpected Dahl – who wrote slightly sinister, blackly humorous adult stories with a sting in the tail. The other – the Willy Wonka Dahl – who wrote slightly sinister, blackly humorous children’s stories illustrated by Quentin Blake. And back in 1979 the TV Dahl, the Tales of the Unexpected Dahl, took over for a while. After all, he had yet to write many of his most popular kids’ books, like The Twits, The BFG, Matilda and The Witches. But there is a third Roald Dahl, and that is the one to be found in the pages of his short stories – quite simply the master of the short-story form – because there is so much more to his tales than ‘the unexpected’, a label that has perhaps been too often applied to his adult work and which gives too narrow a view of its appeal. If every story consisted of nothing more than a twist we would read them once, perhaps skipping through to the big reveal, and then forget all about them. But you never forget a Dahl short story. He starts with ones based on his experiences as a fighter pilot in the Second World War and ends with ones of country life. In between there is horror, comedy, science fiction, satire and sex. Yes, many of them do end with a final drop of acid, but the pleasure goes far beyond the punchline.

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