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Family, Orphans & Tragedy in Roald Dahl Books

13/09/2013 | Bedtime, Education, Room to Grow | by Catherine Godiva

The magic of Roald Dahl stems from the pure delight and fantastical ideas he shares with us, the reader. Very often the children of his books escape the confines of their parents and traditional family roles providing pure escapism in the pages of his books. All children wish they
could break loose from their parents at some point and Roald Dahl offers us a magical realisation of what would happen if that wish came true.

These are my top three Roald Dahl orphans and why they bring us so much joy!



James Henry Trotter, James and the Giant Peach


James is an orphan from the start, forced to live with his evil aunts who abuse him and stop him playing with other children. It’s a Snow White come Jack and the Beanstalk tale where James escapes the clutches of his aunts in a magical giant peach with the help of some friendly insects. James goes on an adventure across the Atlantic and experiences some truly freeing and marvellous episodes which he overcomes with the help of his new, unconventional family.


Matilda Wormwood, Matilda


Matilda is far smarter and more well-read than her parents who delight in garbage television and more low-brow affairs. Matilda harnesses magical powers and begins to play pranks on her family and later on her nasty headmistress, Miss Trunchbull., Matilda is a realisation of all the ‘I wish I could do this…’ or ‘I wish that person could be taught a lesson…’ that we all think, not just throughout our childhood, but well into adulthood as well. ‘If only I had magical powers…’

In the end Matilda chooses her own family in the lovely school teacher, Miss Honey, thus escaping the brain-dulling existence of her real family.


Sophie, The BFG (Big Friendly Giant)


Just like James, Sophie is already an orphan and she finds a family in the BFG in the opening pages when she gets kidnapped by the BFG whilst he is out collecting and sharing dreams. It seems that only a true orphan can have such a fantastical adventure as she has no parents to miss and no parents to miss her. Instead, she is able to stand on her own two feet and help save the other children of the world from being eaten by the rather larger, rather more unfriendly giants.


The BFG has fantastic examples of silly made up words that are onomatopoeic in their nature. Snozzcumber is a gruesome cucumber-like vegetable that the BFG eats, whilst he drinks a drink called Frobscottle that causes flatulence, known as Whizzpoppers.


Don’t forget it’s Roald Dahl Celebration Day on the 13th September!

Check out http://www.roalddahlday.info/ for more details!



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