By Walter Ang
October 25, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Do you know what the movies "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," "The Witches," "Matilda" and "James and the Giant Peach" have in common? They are all adaptations of books written by Roald Dahl (pronounced Roo-al). While these movies are fun to watch, I'm sure fellow Dahl fans will attest that his books are definitely better. If you enjoyed these movies but haven't read the books yet, boy, oh boy, you're missing two-thirds of your life!
The first time I encountered Dahl was in high school. One of my friends brought a copy of "Revolting Rhymes," a deliciously wicked collection of well-known fairy tales in poetry style, complete with inventive rhymes and extremely hilarious twists. With Cinderella's opening line: "You think you know this story/You don't. The real one's much more gory," my friends and I knew right away it was going to be a fun read.
We sat in a circle in the cafeteria and took turns reading the stories aloud. With a pistol-toting red Riding Hood and Snow White's seven dwarves gambling on horse races, we were laughing our heads off. At the end of it all, I took a look at the list of books the author had written, two titles caught my attention: "the Witches" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
I'd already seen both movies. (In the movies' title, Charlie was changed to Willy Wonka because "Charlie" was a racial slur during the early `70s when the movie was released.) And, I thought, if this were the same guy who wrote the books for these movies, then I've got to get the books myself!
Buy me this, buy me that!
The bookstores didn't carry Dahl books at that time when e-mail was not yet the in thing. I wrote a nice letter to my aunt in the United States, asking, "Buy me this! Buy me that!" After waiting for eons, I finally received several Dahl books (thanks Auntie Melissa!) which I have since read and reread with much amusement and enjoyment.
Dahl uses dark and cruel humor at times, but it's what makes him a winner with younger readers. If you think Harry Potter has it bad when he received a used clothes hanger for his birthday, you should see what happens to some of Dahl's protagonists. Readers usually cheer on for children who have to deal with some not-so-nice adults and whenever they do villainous acts to such adults.
Another part of Dahl's appeal is his playfulness in using words: he even creates new ones to suit his needs. Food isn't just delicious to him, it's scrumdiddlyumptious! The stories are even more fun to experience with Quentin Blakes' quirky illustrations. His style aptly captures the irreverent, inventive atmosphere of Dahl. If you plan to purchase the books, make sure to get the versions with Blake's illustrations.
Sem break is the perfect time to pore over a Dahl book or two. Forget t6he movie version; the books are more fun. Here are some of his books that you can try. If you're one of the unlucky ones who get a measly weekend that masquerades as a sem break, at least you'll have a few items to put in your Christmas wish list! he's written a veritable library but I'll allow you to discover his other works.
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
Charlie goes to the world's greatest candy factory where Everlasting Gobstoppers are made) and meets the man who owns it. The movie gave the world the song "Pure Imagination" sung by Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka), "If you want to view paradise?"
"Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator"
This is the sequel to "The Chocolate Factory," if you're interested.
One of my all-time favorites. About a girl who's already read Charles Dickens by the age of 4 and discovers her hidden powers to help her teacher, Miss Honey, challenge the school's vile headmistress, Miss Trunchbull.
Made into a movie in 1990 with Angelica Houston as the Grand High Witch who hates all little children and plots to turn them all into mice. Contains one of my favorite lines in literature: "It is dangerous of children to take baths."
Catch little orphan Sophie and her adventures with the Big Friendly Giant (who collects happy dreams and blow them into the ears of children as they sleep) as they stop some evil giants from flush-bunking off to England to swollomp little chiddlers.
"Dirty Beasts" and "Revolting Rhymes"
Abso-bloody-lutley, fantabulously hilarious! With these two books, poetry, rhymes and fairy tales have never been this much fun.