Welcome to our rundown of Roald Dahl’s most compelling characters. Today (13th September) is Roald Dahl Day, a day to celebrate the birth of the legendary British author who was born on this day in 1916. You can download various resources from the writer’s official website to help you celebrate in style, whether you’re a teacher or simply a fan. Our way of celebrating is to highlight 10 of his most compelling characters, who some of our fans in theatre may have played.
Who was Roald Dahl?
Born to Norwegian parents in Llandaff, Wales, Roald Dahl was a spy and fighter pilot during WWII, the inventor of a medical device, a chocolate historian and -most famously – a beloved children’s author. Let’s get on with celebrating some of his best loved characters…
1. Violet Beauregarde
Violet is the third person to find a golden ticket for Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Although her nationality isn’t touched upon in the book, she is fairly universally portrayed as American in film and theatre adaptations. She is a record-breaking gum chewer and takes great pride in this achievement. Violet’s key characteristics are strong determination and ignorance, as demonstrated by her constantly ignoring Willy Wonka’s instructions.
Danny is the narrator and title character in Danny, Champion of the World which is said to be Roald Dahl’s most autobiographical work. Danny and Roald share the experience of being bought up by one parent and a similar school life. The area in which Danny lives is also similar to where the author grew up. Danny is resourceful and brave helping his Dad by working in the filling station with him and often assisting with his poaching endeavours.
Matilda is one of Roald Dahl’s best known books helped considerably by the fantastic 1995 film adaptation starring & Directed by Danny DeVito. Lavender is a very little girl described as ‘gutsy and adventurous’. She’s Matilda’s best friend and as captivated by the horror stories about Miss Trunchbull as Matilda is. Lavender devises an ingenious way of frightening Miss Trunchbull with a glass of water and a slippery creature…
Sophie is the little girl the Big Friendly Giant befriends in The BFG. The giant scoops her up out of the orphanage she lives in when he’s spotted by her through the window. Though at first frightened, Sophie soon realises her new companion is a gentle giant. Sophie helps the BFG on his valiant quest to defeat the bad giants who mean harm to humans.
5. The Grand High Witch
If you’ve read The Witches or seen the 1990 film adaptation starring Anjelica Huston you’ll definitely remember The Grand High Witch. To give her her full name, The Grand High Witch of the World is also known by the alias Evangeline Ernst. Her villainous aim is to transform all children into Mice for their parents and those around them to dispose of. To achieve her aim she leads a powerful secret society of like-minded witches. She has a tendency to murder anyone who questions her. The Grand High Witch is introduced in the novel when a little boy named Luke and his grandmother encounter her in an English Hotel.
6. Mr Twit
Sadistic and nasty, Mr Twit is one half of the couple referred to as The Twits. The pair are retired circus entertainers who mistreat their animals and spend most of their time playing tricks on each other. Roald Dahl was inspired to write the character of Mr Twit due to his distaste for beards as exemplified by the story’s first line ‘What a lot of hairy-faced men there are around nowadays!’
7. Aunt Spiker
James & The Giant Peach is the story of a young orphan boy who befriends a group of magical insects inside a giant peach. Together the bugs and James fight to escape the evil clutches of his wicked Aunts; Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge. James began living with his Aunts after the death of his parents. Described as tall and almost emaciated looking, Aunt Spiker is the more dominant of the sisters and derives great pleasure from making James’ life a misery.
8. Mr Fox
Following years of relaxed country living Mr Fox breaks a promise to his wife and raids their human neighbours’ farms. Devious and suave, Fantastic Mr Fox sees Mr Fox using his natural crafty instincts to overcome the repercussions of his actions.
George of George’s Marvellous Medicine is a curious and naughty boy but he has creativity and bravery in common with many of Roald Dahl’s child protagonists. George suspects his grandma is a witch when she mentions eating crushed insects. To punish her for being mean to him whilst his parents are away he switches out her usual medicine for his own interesting concoction of deodorant, shampoo and other household items. As a result of the medicine she grows to be the size of a house.
10. Mr Hoppy
A character from Esio Trot – which is Tortoise spelt backwards – Mr Hoppy strives to win the heart of his neighbour via her beloved pet Tortoise, Alfie. Alfie belongs to Mrs Silver who dotes on him but longs for him to grow quicker. Mr Hoppy assures her that if she repeats his spell every day he will increase in size. Whilst she’s out he continually switches the tortoise replacing them with larger animals on each occasion and keeping the surplus ‘Alfies’ in his flat. As you can tell, Mr Hoppy is hopelessly in love and very resourceful.