If Roald Dahl was not a key figure in your childhood thanks to stories like the The Big Friendly Giant, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and so many others, in Malta he was most probably a part of your pre-adolescence; the Great Automatic Grammatizator and Other Stories was a text that many of us had to study for the English literature O-level.
The stories that this great author manufactured from real life events and his imagination have inspired children from all corners of the world. On the day of his commemoration, we cannot help but take a look at some of the women in his narratives, be it in fond reminiscence or in horrible terror.
Sophie from the Big Friendly Giant
In light of Steven Spielberg’s movie adaptation of the BFG that came out in theatres this July, we couldn’t help but kick off our list with the tiny female protagonist who everyone grew to love. After being kid-snatched and taken to Giant Country, Sophie, the hero of the tale, showed little girls everywhere that bravery and resilience comes in all sizes, genders and ages.
The Land Lady from The Great Automatic Grammatizator and Other Stories
Reading through this story, you definitely get a chill of Hotel California vibes. You can check out any time you like but you may never leave – the lyrics could not be truer for this particular story. The Land lady, a skilled woman in the art of taxidermy, has preserved her favourite animals, and to our horror, her most handsome guests. Probably one of the very few secondary school texts you are unlikely to ever forget.
The Grand High Witch from The Witches
Ok, you may not know her from the book itself, but you definitely know her from Nicolas Roeg’s 1990 adaptation of the tale, starring Anjelica Hudson as the Grand High Witch. Who could forget such a gruesome transformation? For a witch that wants to get rid of all the children of England, we noticed a German accent in her written speech: “sqvashed, sqvittered [….] before I come here again in vun year’s time.” World War II undertones anyone?
Matilda from Matilda
The special, brave and clever, book loving four-year old girl with parents everyone loathed. By the age of 5 she was reading Dickens and Kipling; that’s more than some University level students can even vouch for nowadays. We all remember her as the girl who makes her parents pay for their indifference with her mischievous ways. You have definitely heard of her before; the book was not only turned into a movie adaptation but also made it to the West End as a popular musical.
Malta from Someone like you
We may have gone a little astray here, but how great is it that Malta, a speck of dust on the map of the world, is mentioned in one of Roald Dahl’s stories? Someone like You is part of a series of World War II stories that he wrote, so in retrospect, it does make sense. Our little island made it to this great writer’s tale as the place in custody of a soldier’s dog; the soldier actually went crazy after having to leave his canine behind and spent the rest of the war talking to an imaginary one.
© 2016 – VIDA Magazine – Thea Formosa