10 Interesting Facts About Roald Dahl

Bestselling author, fighter pilot, inventor, chocolate expert... was there anything Roald Dahl couldn't do?! This much-loved writer wrote many unforgettable classics, including Matilda, The BFG and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Discover more about him below.


1. He was born in September 1916 to Norwegian parents, Harald and Sofie Magdalene Dahl.

Roald's first language was Norwegian, and he would speak this at home with his sisters - Astri, Alfhild and Else - and parents.

2. When he was just 3 years old, his 7-year-old sister Astri passed away, and his father died just weeks later from pneumonia.

He would share a close bond with his mother throughout his childhood.

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3. From 1929, he attended a boarding school at which he had to endure routine cruelty, including beatings and violence.

Older boys would make younger boys at the school their servants, and Roald became very homesick, writing a letter to his mother every week. She kept all of his letters, wrapped up with green tape, and they would be given back to Roald Dahl when she died in 1967.

4. He was never seen as a particularly good writer as a child. One English teacher wrote in his school report: 'I have never met anybody who so persistently writes words meaning the exact opposite of what is intended.'

Little did that teacher know...!

5. However, he had a passion for literature, and also enjoyed sports, photography... and chocolate.

Occasionally, the chocolate company Cadbury would send boxes of new chocolates for pupils to test. Roald's interest in chocolate would lead to the creation of his much-loved book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

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6. In 1939, as World War II loomed, Roald joined the RAF as a fighter pilot.

In one terrifying incident, he crash-landed in the African desert, fracturing several bones and temporarily going blind.

7. Roald married the American actress Patricia Neal in July 1953. The marriage lasted 30 years and they had five children together.

In December 1960, their 4-month-old son Theo suffered severe head injuries when he was hit by a cab in New York. This led to Roald's involvement in the development of a medical device, the 'Wade-Dahl-Till' valve, which would be used to successfully treat almost 3,000 children around the world.

8. Tragedy would strike again when, in November 1962, Roald Dahl's eldest daughter Olivia died of measles. Like Roald's sister, she was just 7 years old when she died.

Roald would go on to dedicate The BFG to Olivia.

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9. In 1965, whilst pregnant with their fifth child, Patricia Neal suffered 3 burst aneurysms. Roald helped her re-learn to walk and talk and she even managed to go back to acting.

However, the couple divorced in 1983, and Roald married Felicity 'Liccy' Crosland.

10. Roald Dahl died of a blood disease on 23 November 1990, aged 74.

Children continue to put flowers and toys by his grave to this day, and he has left an incredible legacy, having inspired millions of children to love reading with his sensational stories.