Roald Dahl

The life and accomplishments of Roald Dahl

Ronald Dahl: The early years

On September 13, 1916, a little boy was born in Wales to Norwegian parents. Nobody would have guessed that someday he would be known for such incredible accomplishments such as being a famous British novelist, a short story writer and poet, a screenwriter and even a fighter pilot! Over the years over 200 million copies of his books have been sold.


Roald's parents, Harald Dahl and Sofie Magdalene Dahl, both left Norway and moved to Cardiff, Wales to start a new life. Dahl had a tough time when he was little. First, his 7-year-old sister died when he was three, and his father died a few weeks later during a fishing expedition. His Mom decided to stick it out and not go home to Norway so he and his sisters could get a good education in Britain. Roald's school years were also tough. He was sent to boarding school because he and some friends played a terrible trick on a teacher by putting a dead mouse into a jar of gobstoppers. People today now think of the gobstopper as something invented in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but it was an actual candy.


The school that Roald went to seemed to think he was not a very good writer at all. He was also really tall and everyone wanted him to play their sport. He played rugby and other sports, but he also found time to write and was really interested in photography. While he was in school in Repton, a candy factory called Cadbury used to send chocolates to the school and ask the kids to try different flavors. Roald dreamed of becoming famous by inventing a new flavor and having the owner of Cadbury Chocolates, Mr. Cadbury himself, tell everyone how amazing he was. This was what inspired him to write Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, his third children's book.


Dahl had a very exciting early career as well. In 934, he went to work for the Shell Petroleum Company. For the first two years, he was trained in the United Kingdom. then transferred to Kenya then Tanzania. He was one of the only employees in Tanzania and he lived like a king, including having a cook and servants. During this adventure he saw a lot of amazing wildlife, including the deadly black mamba snake and real wild lions.

Dahl the Fighter Ace

In 1939, as World War II was starting, Roald had to join the British Army and was put into a group called the Kings African Rifles. After a few months, he joined the Royal Air Force. With only a day of flight training, Dahl was allowed to fly a plane solo for the first time! He flew over Africa and was able to see all sorts of wild life from the air. On one mission, in an older plane, he was forced to crash land in the desert. The landing was so rough that he fractured his skull, smashed his nose and he even was temporarily blinded. After he was released from the hospital, Dahl flew more missions in Greece and shot down enemy planes and ships. Before long, however, he started getting terrible headaches and black outs because of his head injury. Since he could no longer fly a plane, he was transferred into Military Intelligence and was based in the United States, in Washington, D.C. This was a shock to him since London was very poor during the war and food was sparse. In the U.S., it seemed like they had lots of money and food and you could hardly tell there was a war going on. He quickly became very good at his job and was placed in MI6, the elite intelligence gathering unit of the British government. When he left the RAF, it was confirmed that he shot down at least 5 other planes, but probably more, earning him the title of "ace" in the RAF.

Roald Dahl the famous writer

Dahl's first published story was called "A Piece of Cake", written about his wartime adventures. This story, published by the Saturday Evening Post, launched his writing career. In 1943 he published his first children's book, The Gremlins, which was about little creatures who were always up to mischief. When he was in the war, the pilots used to blame all of the problems with their planes on gremlins, which was his inspiration. From that point on, he wrote some of the most famous Children's books of the 20th century. Some of the books he wrote were Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Gian Peach, Matilda, The Witches, The BFG, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Twits and Georges Marvellous Medicine.