Articles for parents

What inspired Roald Dahl's stories and books?

Sep 2023

"Those who don't believe in magic will never find it."
Roald Dahl, The Minpins

As we continue to celebrate Roald Dahl this week, we thought we'd have a look at what inspired some of his most famous books and characters:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
When arriving at Willy Wonka's Inventing Room, Charlie describes what he sees:

"Black metal pots were boiling and bubbling on huge stoves, and kettles were hissing and pans were sizzling, and strange iron machines were clanking and spluttering, and there were pipes running all over the ceiling and walls, and the whole place was filled with smoke and steam and delicious rich smells."

Dahl took his inspiration for this room from his school days. He attended Repton School near Derby from 1929 until 1934, when he turned 18. While at the school, he and his classmates were sent new chocolate inventions by Cadbury to test out.

They would arrive in plain packaging but were always delicious, and the boys were invited to share their thoughts on the chocolate. The experience made Dahl imagine the incredible factories where they must have been invented and the strange people who must work on them!

Fantastic Mr Fox
The foxes' home in this much loved novel was shaped by a huge tree which grew outside Roald's home, Gipsy House, in Great Missenden.

Dahl moved to the house after he married American actress Patricia Neal, in 1954, and they remained there for the duration of their marriage.

The brave and resourceful Sophie in The BFG, who is snatched from her orphanage bedroom and ultimately helps the loveable BFG outwit the other horrible, terrifying, giants, was named after Roald's first grandchild, Sophie Dahl.

The BFG actually first appeared in Danny, the Champion of the World, in a bedtime story Danny's father told him.

The Gremlins
Dahl's first official story aimed at children was written in 1943. It was called The Gremlins and was inspired by his time as a pilot in the RAF and was based on a piece of RAF folklore.

Superstition had it that these little creatures ran around tampering with aircraft and causing mechanical problems. The book later became the inspiration behind Spielberg's 1984 film Gremlins.

Inspiration can come from all sorts of places so, the next time you want to write a story, have a think about something interesting and fun that you have seen or heard! And if you want to improve your English skills, you can sign up for the Kumon English Programme, contact your local Kumon centre to learn more!