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Who Is Roald Dahl?

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Roald Dahl is an author best known for writing the novels "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", "The BFG", "Matilda", "The Witches", "James and the Giant Peach" and "The Twits". In addition to these popular children’s books, he also wrote a number of stories for adults, his most popular being the "Tales of the Unexpected" stories.

Early Life
Roald Dahl was born in 1916 Llandaff, Cardiff, in Wales. He was first educated at The Cathedral School in Llandaff. His experiences of school led to him later writing the novel "Boy", which was an autobiographical book that detailed his life at school up until he left. "Boy" also included details of life in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s. The book includes an incident that Dahl called "The Great Mouse Plot of 1923", where he and some friends placed a dead mouse in a jar in a sweet shop owned by a woman named Mrs Pratchett and as a result were caned by their headmaster.

Later, at the age of nine, Dahl attended St Peter’s School in Weston-super-Mare. Many incidents happened during his time at the school, and are described in his autobiographical novel. At the age of thirteen, he attended Repton School in Derbyshire. After school, he engaged in activities such as hiking, before working with the Shell Petroleum company.

Dahl is also known for his involvement in World War II. He became an office in the King’s African Rifles in 1939 and joined the Royal Air Force a few months later. Dahl served in the war up until 1945. During his service, he was temporarily blinded after having to make an emergency landing. The experience inspired him to write his first published piece, "Shot Down Over Libya". This piece appeared in the Saturday Evening Post.

In 1953, Dahl married the American actress Patricia Neal. Together they had five children.

Life as an author
Dahl wrote a selection of children’s books, many of which are now some of the most popular children’s books around. His very first children’s book was "The Gremlins", which was published in 1943.

In addition to novels such as "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", "The Witches", "Danny, the Champion of the World", "Matilda", "The Twits" and "The BFG", Dahl also wrote a selection of screenplays, which included a script for "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang".

Many of his children’s novels had the same themes. Books such as "Matilda" and "George’s Marvellous Medicine" featured young children who are mistreated by adults. These themes were based on Dahl’s experiences as a child at boarding school. Dahl also used appearances as a way of showing how unpleasant his characters were. Characters such as "Miss Trunchbull" (the unpleasant headmistress in "Matilda") and Aunt Sponge (an aunt who mistreats James in "James and the Giant Peach") are both large, intimidating characters who mistreat children. In Dahl’s books, characters like these are usually the antagonists of the story and his stories usually ended with them getting their comeuppance.

His novels also usually included an adult that was pleasant as opposed to the nasty characters. These type of characters include the teacher "Miss Honey" in Matilda and "BFG" in "The BFG".

Many of Dahl’s children’s novels contained dark humour and this dark theme was also included in a collection of adult stories. Each of his stories from "Tales of the Unexpected" contained dark themes, but were often written in a humorous way. "Tales of the Unexpected" consisted of a collection of short stories, many of which have become popular, particularly "Lamb to the Slaughter".

Film and television adaptations
Nearly all of Dahl’s children’s novels have been adapted to film. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" has been adapted into two films. The first was released as "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" in 1971 and the second was "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", which was released in 2005.

Both "The BFG" and "Danny, the Champion of the World", were adapted to film in 1989. "The BFG" was an animated adaptation and "Danny, Champion of the World" was made into a television film.

"The Witches" was adapted to film in 1990. There were rumours that Dahl was not happy with the ending of the film. However, he was happy with the decision to cast Angelica Houston for the role of The Grand High Witch.

"Matilda" was adapted to film in 1996. There were quite a few changes from the book for this adaptation, including the appearance of Matilda’s parents and the fact that the film was set in America when the book was set in the United Kingdom. A film adaptation of "Fantastic Mr Fox" is due to be released in 2009. This adaptation will be a stop motion animated feature.

Dahl’s "Tales of the Unexpected" was made into a television series, which aired between 1979 and 1988. Previously, Dahl had hosted a very similar sci-fi horror series called "Way Out".

Later life and Death
Dahl and his wife divorced in 1983, after thirty years of marriage. He later married a woman who was much younger than him. Seven years later, in 1990, Dahl died from Myelodysplastic Syndrome, a condition linked to Leukaemia.

Museums and galleries
There are many museums and galleries to celebrate the work of Roald Dahl. One of them is the Roald Dahl’s Children’s Gallery, which is located in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, in England. The gallery explores the works of Roald Dahl’s children’s books. The gallery also includes the work of Quentin Blake, who provided the illustrations for many of Dahl’s children’s novels.

There is also the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre, which is located in Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire, England. This location was Dahl’s home for over thirty years up until he died. The museum, which opened in 2005, details Roald Dahl’s life and includes lots of activities for both children and adults. It also has many of Roald Dahl’s manuscripts on display.

Other events that celebrate Dahl’s life include "Roald Dahl Day", which is celebrated on the 13th September, which is the day that Roald Dahl was born.

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