Fifth grade was a good time to be in. Since I wasn’t abnormally tall then, I turned towards my school librarian for help when I couldn’t read the titles of the books placed on the top shelf in the Fiction category. She handed me a battered, old copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. From then on, life has been a whole different adventure.
I understand that I have ‘grown up’ and I read more ‘serious’ fiction now but Roald Dahl is definitely one of my favourite writers till date. Sometimes I think of how it is possible for someone to be so effortlessly imaginative. Dahl’s characters are created in such a vibrant manner that while each might seem as quirky or funny as the other, they’re all different in their own ways.
His stories progress so smoothly even though he has his characters doing the weirdest of things. I mean, how the hell can you think of putting a giraffe and a pelican in one story AND make them “business partners” who wash windows for a living? His narrative is definitely not something you can get used to easily since his characters break into song or verse whenever they want to. Even then, I feel that his writing transcends children’s fiction and grows into something much deeper.
For instance, in James and the Giant Peach, James travels in the peach with a group of insects to find the “place of his dreams”. They overcome a lot of obstacles in their way and finally finish their journey successfully. Well, this vaguely reminds me of The Alchemist. It’s surprising how we never think of Dahl’s stories in this way. Matilda with her “special power” reminds me a little of Harry Potter. Even George’s ability to make a potion so unique and powerful makes me think of potions with Professor Snape. Needless to say, Dahl has clearly been an eminent predecessor to many writers such as J.K. Rowling.
Interestingly, even though Dahl’s books are meant for children, the protagonists in his stories are usually shown to be more sensible than the various adults (read nitwits) that surround them. From Charlie to Matilda to James and to the many others, all the main characters are carved in a rather mature manner. This could only mean that Dahl surely wrote for children but was subtly treating them as adults all the while.
Well, as Mr. Dahl crosses 95 years on this date, I say we take a trip back to the time when there was hardly anything else to care about than rivers made of chocolate. As of now, here’s to the man who had it in him to create magic with his pen – the world’s very own Willy Wonka!