Roald Dahl Biography

Roald Dahl was a British novelist, short story writer and poet. This biography profiles the childhood, life, career, achievements and timeline of this eminent novelist and fighter pilot.

Quick Facts

Birthday: September 13, 1916

Nationality: British, Welsh

Famous: Quotes By Roald Dahl Poets

Died At Age: 74

Sun Sign: Virgo

Born Country: Wales

Born in: Llandaff, Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom

Famous as: Novelist, Short Story Writer

Height: 6'6" (198 cm), 6'6" Males

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Spouse/Ex-: Patricia Neal (m.1953–1983)

father: Harald Dahl

mother: Sofie Magdalene Dahl (née Hesselberg)

siblings: Alfhild, Astri, Else

children: Lucy Dahl, Olivia Twenty Dahl, Ophelia Dahl, Tessa Dahl, Theo Matthew Dahl

Died on: November 23, 1990

place of death: Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom

City: Cardiff, Wales

More Facts

education: The Cathedral School, Llandaff, Repton School,

awards: 1954 - Edgar Award for Best Short Story
1959 - Edgar Award for Best Short Story
1980 - Edgar Award for Best Short Story

1983 - World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement
1993 - CableACE Award for International Children's Programming Special or Series

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Roald Dahl became a prominent author penning amazing and humorous stories for children, after his flourishing career in the Royal Air Force ended due to head injuries recurred in a plane crash. He is often considered as one of the greatest children’s storytellers of the 20th century, with his short stories being ranked among the world’s best-selling fiction books. Such is the recognition and glory of his much-acclaimed best-selling titles that they have been published in over 50 languages across the world. While his children’s stories were fast-moving, his adult fiction, on the other hand, gained recognition for its sudden twists and unexpected storylines. Where imaginative plots were the highlights of adult stories, children’s fiction usually consisted of word coinages, neologism and puns, like ‘Oompa Loompa’, ‘Mugglewump’, ‘Fleshlump eater’, and Vermicious Knids’. He dedicated two of his best-loved novels – ‘The BFG’ and ‘James and the Giant Peach’ to his eldest daughter, Olivia. Numerous of his publications have been made into successful films, while two of his stories ‘Matilda’ and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ were adapted into musical stage plays. Even after his death, his works continue to inspire several budding authors and entertain children and adults alike around the globe.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • After completing his schooling in 1934, he took a job in Shell Petroleum Company in Mombasa, Kenya, after two years of training in the UK. Subsequently, he was transferred to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania.
  • To accomplish his adventurous dreams, he entered Royal Air Force in 1939 as an aircraftsman. Upon completing his training in Nairobi, Kenya, he became an acting pilot officer.
  • During his term in the Mediterranean in 1940, his plane crashed in Fouka, Libya, injuring his spine and skull, crushing his nose and blinding him for days. He was operated for a hip replacement and underwent six spinal surgeries.
  • Following his treatment for months in the hospital, he was discharged fit in 1941 and resumed his flying duties in Athens, Greece. However, his recurring blinding headaches forced him to leave RAF and return to Britain.
  • In 1942, he went to Washington DC and became an assistant air attaché in the British Embassy, where he met novelist C.S. Forester and started his writing career with a short story for ‘The Saturday Evening Post’.
  • His first children’s picture book ‘The Gremlins’ was published in 1943, followed by a collection of his war stories ‘Over To You’ in 1946 and his novel ‘Sometime Never’ in 1948.
  • Apart from writing marvelous stories for kids, he also became an established short-story writer for adults with unexpected twists and dark sense of humor.
  • He released his autobiographies ‘Boy: Tales of Childhood’ and ‘Going Solo’, in 1984 and 1986 respectively.
  • He turned down the Order of the British Empire (OBE) during the 1986 New Years Honours List, with the intention of getting knighthood for his wife to be called Lady Dahl.
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Major Works
  • His second collection of short stories, ‘Someone Like You’, released in 1953, became a huge success.
  • In 1960, he developed a device called Wade-Dahl-Till (WDT) valve, which helped in treating thousands of children suffering from hydrocephalus, in reducing the cranial pressure.
  • His fourth book ‘Kiss Kiss’, a collection of short stories, was released in 1960 and became a bestseller on The New York Times list, with ‘Pig’ being its masterpiece.
  • Some of his best-selling children’s stories included ‘James and the Giant Peach’, ‘The Twits’, ‘Matilda’, ‘The Witches’, ‘George’s Marvelous Medicine’, ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, ‘The BFG’, ‘The Magic Finger’, and ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’.
  • His highly acclaimed short story and novel collection for adults included ‘Tales of the Unexpected’, ‘The Smoker’, ‘My Uncle Oswald’, ‘Roald Dahl’s Book of Ghost Stories’, and ‘The Landlady’.
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Awards & Achievements
  • His short stories – ‘Someone Like You’ (1954), ‘The Landlady’ (1959) and ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ (1980) won him three Edgar Allan Poe Awards from the Mystery Writers of America.
  • In 1983, he received the Whitbread Children’s Book Award for ‘The Witches’ and World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement.
  • The British Book Awards honored him with the Children’s Author of the Year, in 1990.
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  • In 2008, he was listed on 16th position on ‘The 50 greatest British writers since 1945’ by The Times.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • He married Patricia Neal, an Oscar-winning Hollywood actress, in 1953, at Trinity Church, New York City.
  • The couple had five children – daughter Olivia Twenty (1955), daughter Chantal Tessa (1957), son Theo Matthew (1960), daughter Ophelia Magdalena (1964) and daughter Lucy Neal (1965).
  • In 1960, his four-month old son, Theo, was severely injured when a taxi hit his baby carriage, leaving him with a brain injury called hydrocephalus. He recovered after undergoing a number of surgeries.
  • In 1962, his eldest daughter, Olivia, died due to measles encephalitis. He, later, wrote an open letter ‘Measles: A Dangerous Illness’, requesting parents to get their kids vaccinated.
  • Patricia suffered three near-fatal strokes in 1965 and he stood by her during her rehabilitation and helped her recover completely.
  • The couple divorced in 1983. Soon after, Dahl married Felicity ‘Liccy’ Crosland at Brixton Town Hall, South London.
  • He died on November 23, 1990, after suffering from myelodysplastic syndrome, a kind of blood disease, at Oxford, England.
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  • He was given a Viking funeral, where he was buried at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, along with his snooker cues, chocolates, power saw, some good burgundy, and HB pencils.
  • Some of his culinary delights – ‘Bird Pie’, ‘Hot Frogs’, and ‘Lickable Wallpaper’ were included in ‘Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes’ (1994), by his widow, Felicity.
  • The Oval Basin plaza, a modern landmark of Cardiff Bay, was renamed as ‘Roald Dahl Plass’ in 2002, where ‘Plass’ signifies ‘place’ or ‘square’ in Norwegian.
  • In 2005, Cherie Blair, wife of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, inaugurated Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in his hometown, Great Missenden.
  • Author Michael Rosen launched the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, in association with BookTrust, as an initiative to honor writers promoting humor and laughter through children’s fiction, in 2008.
  • Africa, UK and Latin America celebrate September 13, his birth anniversary, as ‘Roald Dahl Day’.
  • In 2010, Gibraltar Post released a set of four stamps featuring four of Dahl’s books, while a set of six stamps was issued by Royal Mail in 2012.
  • This children’s book author used to write with a pencil on yellow paper.
  • He was fluent in three languages – English, Swahili and Norwegian.
  • He maintained a diary since the age of eight.

See the events in life of Roald Dahl in Chronological Order

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- Roald Dahl Biography
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Last Updated
- July 24, 2017
Roald Dahl

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