Wonka’s film with Timothée Chalamet and the recent acquisition by Netflix have rekindled interest in one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century: here are some of his lesser-known but still noteworthy works
The recent photo of Timothée Chalamet, now one of the most popular young Hollywood stars, in the role of young Willy Wonka, has rekindled interest in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (of which he will play a prequel, in fact) and in general for all the work of Roald Dahl. Born in Wales in 1916, he was one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century with regards to childhood literature, even if the more experienced are reluctant to give a unique audience to his stories that are often tinged with a dark humor and of melancholic, deep, grotesque subtexts. Over the years there have been numerous books that have been transposed to the screen, from Witches (there was also a recent, much talked about remake with Anne Hathaway) a James and the giant peach, from The GGG to Matilda you are mythical. A new musical is being worked on by Matilda in recent months, while Netflix, after acquiring the Roald Dahl Story Company, is planning an animated series always about Willy Wonka and more generally an expanded and coherent narrative universe. I am however, there are many books by this author who deserves original and compelling adaptations:
1. The magic finger
Written in 1966, which is two years later The Chocolate Factory, The magic finger it is one of Dahl’s strangest stories, though perhaps not one of the best known. The story is told by one little girl with no name eight-year-old who grows up in the countryside, next to the Gregg family, formed by enthusiasts hunters. The particularity of the little girl is precisely that of developing energy rays from a finger when gets angry with particular intensity, which happens when the Greggs return from a hunt with the corpse of a poor deer. With her magic finger, then, the little girl turns all Greggs into birds, which the next morning are hunted by a group of ducks of human size and arms. Contrary to animal cruelty, Dahl wrote this great metaphor for subvert the point of view of the most avid hunters but also to teach the little ones respect for every living being. History is also a prime example of the perverse mind of this author who confronts all his readers with radical and equally cruel transformations.
2. Danny the world champion
The hunting theme also returns in a later work by the writer, Danny the world champion, written in 1975: Danny is a motherless boy and raised since mechanical father, which, however, also hides a second life from poacher; when he falls into a trap, it will be his son so bright and brilliant to save him and to engineer a revenge plan cagainst the evil local brewer, the arrogant Victor Hazell. Father and son are thus able to strengthen their relationship and boycott the inauguration of Hazell’s pheasant hunt, while Danny regain confidence in the adult world. This is a coming-of-age story in all respects, as the young protagonist faces various sufferings and challenges before making peace with the world around him. It is also noteworthy that, at the beginning of the book, while the father tells his son a bedtime story, make an appearance for the first time The Big Gentle Giant who will then be the protagonist of a book of his own in 1982. Up Danny there has already been a tv movie with Jeremy Irons in 1989, but maybe it’s time for a remake.
3. The Minipins
“Beware of the bewitched forest: many enter it and no one has returned“: This is the rhyme that opens The Minipins, the posthumous book published in 1991 (one year after his death, therefore) and arrived in Italy only this year thanks to Salani, which also publishes all the other works of the writer. At the heart of this phantasmagoria we find Billy, a boy whose mother prevents him from doing a lot of things, including entering the woods. Yet the little boy is strongly fascinated from everything that happens in that mysterious place, populated by creatures with unusual names like Polycorns, Sfarabocchi, Cnidi Vermicolosi and Sarcopedonti (all already mentioned, for example, ne The Chocolate Factory). Moved by extreme curiosity, Billy ventures into the woods but is immediately chased by Sputacchione Bloodsucker Toothbrush and is saved alone, as usual, thanks to unexpected help. This is Dahl’s latest foray into the world of fantasy, a bit of a compendium even of his usual themes, from children getting into trouble to curiosity like primary engine of everything. It would be interesting to see it transposed into a cartoon movie, a worthy tribute to a brilliant mind and even a bit disturbing like his.
4. Unexpected stories
Although it is thought that Dahl spent an entire career writing for the little ones, his general production, especially that of short stories, also spoke to a more mature audience. In this sense it goes Tales of the Unexpected, translated into Italian as Unexpected stories, a collection of short stories already published previously in various magazines. With these writings the author wants fascinate, entertain and often even terrify readers with events that, starting from ordinary, almost always result in something extraordinary: ranging from an expert sommelier with a sinister passion for betting to a decrepit old man with an entire literary masterpiece tattooed on his back, from a voracious adventurer dealing with a disturbing garden sculpture to social climbers who risk too much for their rise. Melting social satire and a taste for the macabre and the imaginative, Dahl serves a tragicomic and grotesque imagery, which was an inspiration for both episodes of Alfred Hitchcock presents is from a British series of its own in 1988, known in Italian as The thrill of the unexpected. Perhaps the time has come to think of a new one disturbing anthology series.
5. His biography
If it is true that incredible worlds were born from Dahl’s imagination, just as incredible and full of events was his own life. Born in Wales to a wealthy Danish immigrant family, he was hired by one after his studies oil company traveling often in Africa but at the outbreak of the Second World War it was enlisted as a pilot. Wounded and repatriated, he worked as an officer of theintelligence and then as a diplomat, beginning his career as a writer during the 1940s. His family life was marked by various deaths and illnesses, so much so that after one of his children he had suffered from hydrocephalus (i.e. the accumulation of fluids in the cerebral ventricles), man has also engaged in medical research, coming to patent with others the so-called Wade-Dahl-Till (Wdt) valve. In addition to his work as a novelist, for which he was also criticized for some anti-Semitic and misogynistic subtexts, Dahl also undertook like screenwriter, writing a sci-fi series titled Way Out and even the James Bond movie script You only live twice. A full and intense life, in short, full of ideas for many films and series.