2016 marks 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl. Throughout 2016, there will be celebrations for Roald Dahl 100.
Roald Dahl was born in 1916 in Wales of Norwegian parents. His father died when he was four and Dahl was sent to boarding school at the tender age of eight.
The experience was harsh for the boy and aspects such as punishment and neglect can be seen to have coloured much of his adult writing. Dahl writes about this early and later school life in Boy (1984). As a young adult, he began working for the Shell
Oil Company in Africa. During the Second World War, as an RAF fighter pilot, he was shot down and severely injured. This experience, however, seemed to kick-start his wish to write and, in 1942, he began a writing career that was to last until his death in 1990.
Based on the beloved children’s classic by Roald Dahl, “The BFG” movie will be released at the cinema this Friday so below we share a subtraction with teaching activities from our popular Roald Dahl Author Profile Poster and Teaching guide
In the middle of the night, at the ‘witching hour’, Sophie, aged eight, living in an orphanage, cannot sleep. She goes to the window and, to her amazement, sees an enormously tall, thin giant coming down the street. Every now and again he stops to blow through a trumpet-like tube into the windows of the sleepers in the houses. The BFG, for it is he, is aware that Sophie has seen him and he ‘kidsnatches’ her. He flies with her, wrapped tightly in her blanket, across acres of land back to his own country. Sophie fears she will become the giant’s breakfast but he is not like the other giants, nine in number, who are his neighbours. He is not a man-gobbling cannybull; he does not eat human beans. He does, however speak, in an extraordinary way that Sophie has to adjust to. She also has much to learn about him and, eventually, when the BFG feels he can trust her, he tells her that he is a dream-catcher, collector and blower of dreams. His life is not happy, however, with his giant neighbours who bully and terrify him and his limited diet of disgusting snozzcumbers, and now he has also to ensure that Sophie is not at risk from them. Sophie is appalled to hear of the giants’ nightly expeditions to eat humans and, before long, she hits on a plan to enlist the Queen of England in a daring scheme to end the nine giants’ reign of terror. Having watched the BFG administer a nightmare of a dream to one of the giants, Sophie gets him to mix up a very specific dream to be blown into the Queen’s ear whilst she is sleeping in her bedroom at Buckingham Palace. Back to England they fly and all goes to plan. The Queen awakes, having learnt in her dream of the ravages of the giants, and there on her windowsill is Sophie as she knew she would be from her dream. Sophie confirms the dream, the BFG is brought in from the Palace garden and introduced, and, after a full breakfast, not of snozzcumbers, the Army and the Air Force are brought in. Before long, nine helicopters are on their way, following the BFG, back to Giant country. The nine giants are trussed up, slung below the helicopters, transported back to England and dumped in the deepest pit from where they cannot escape. Their diet is to be snozzcumbers and nothing else. The BFG and Sophie have special homes built for them in Windsor Great Park and the BFG becomes a writer, writing in fact the book of his adventures with Sophie which the reader has just read but which has been published under another’s name.
Ideas for classroom work (After a general summary of the book)
1 What most people remember about the story of the BFG is the extraordinary language that Roald Dahl invented for the giants to talk in. The list below gives some of the ways in which he has made up the language, with examples. Put in as many more examples from the book as you can whilst you are reading. Are there any other ways in which Roald Dahl plays around with the language?
- He uses single verbs instead of plurals,
‘Giants is everywhere around.’
- He hardly ever uses ‘are’ and ‘am’,
‘You is making me sad’, ‘I is the one who
- He uses ‘is’ and the ‘-ing’ form of the
verb instead of the ordinary present or
past tense, ‘Every morning I is going
out and snitching new dreams to put in
- He takes common expressions, such as
‘nosy parker’, and uses them in totally
new ways, ‘Now you is getting nosier
than a parker’.
- He spells some words as they sound
rather than with conventional spelling,
‘langwitch’, ‘human bean’.
- He misuses common expressions. We
all know the expression ‘not to be
sneezed at’ but the BFG says ‘not to be
- He makes up words, rather like other
words but just a little bit wrong,
‘moocheling and footcheling’ instead of
‘mooching and footling’.
- He uses the wrong words but ones that
sound close to the right word, ‘the
frisby north’ (‘the freezing north’), ‘rotten
wool’ (‘cotton wool’).
- He makes up new plurals for nouns,
- He rhymes words with some common
expressions, ‘skin and groans’ instead
of ‘skin and bones’, ‘gun and flames’
instead of ‘fun and games’.
- He exchanges syllables between words,
‘catasterous disastrophe’ instead of
‘disastrous catastrophe’, ‘curdbloodling’
instead of ‘bloodcurdling’.
- He uses the wrong prefixes, ‘unpossible’.
- And of course, he makes up totally new
2 Using the list above and looking at any other examples you have found, write a
conversation between Sophie and the BFG, with the giant talking in his own special
way. They could be talking about anything.
3 Reread the chapter entitled ‘The Bloodbottler’. This is one of those chapters that Roald Dahl writes so well, making our pulse rates increase when we know how much danger one of the characters is in and when we know that another character is doing just the opposite of what he should do. It’s a bit like being at a antomime when we want to call out, ‘No! Don’t do it!’ Of all the things that happen to Sophie, nothing is quite so horrible as what happens to her in this chapter. Write the thoughts of Sophie as she goes through the various stages of her ordeal, from the moment when she scuttles behind the snozzcumber when the Bloodbottler comes into the BFG’s cave to the moment when she crawls, half-stunned, under the hem of the BFG’s cloak.
4 Look back at the chapter called ‘Dreams’. Sophie goes along the giant’s shelves reading the labels on his dream bottles. Make up a few more labels for dreams that you would – or wouldn’t – like to have. Remember good dreams are ‘phizzwizards’ and bad dreams are ‘trogglehumpers’.
5 The scenes at Buckingham Palace are usually enjoyed immensely by readers. Of course, the maid, Mary, and the butler, Mr Tibbs, will have a great many things to tell each other when things finally get a bit quieter. Imagine them sitting in the royal kitchens sharing their views on the events of the day. Write a conversation between them.
6 Although most of this book is good knockabout fun, there are some serious parts. The BFG really fears being caught and put on exhibition in a sort of zoo; he hates the idea of Sophie being locked in a cellar in the orphanage; he is bullied by the nine giants in a very upsetting way and then Roald Dahl also wants us to think about why it is only human beings, of all creatures, who kill their own kind. What serious things did the book make you think about? Do you think it adds to a book if it is not all lighthearted. Write down your views.
Teaching activities are also available for Fantastic Mr Fox, Esio Trot, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Danny the Champion of the World and Matilda with our poster and teachers guide.