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Biography of Roald Dahl-Author, Short Story Writer and Poet

Read on to learn all about Roald Dahl!

Read on to learn all about Roald Dahl!

Who Was Roald Dahl?

Roald Dahl was born to Harald and Sofie Magdalene Hesselberg on 13 September 1916 in Llandaff, Cardiff, South Wales.

Roald Dahl was born in a big house named "Villa Marie." He had four sisters Astri, Alfhild, Else, and Asta. He also had a half-sister, Ellen Marguerite, and a half-brother Louis from his father's first marriage.

At age three, his father Harald died of Pneumonia and his eldest sister Olivia died of measles encephalitis. Roald Dahl's mother, Sofie, was a woman of great strength. She was a pillar of support and was always there for Roald Dahl. As a young boy,

Roald Dahl loved to read storybooks. His mother told Roald Dahl tales of mythical Norwegian creatures. He enjoyed reading adventure stories as a young lad. Captain Marryat was his favorite. He also read Dickens, Thackeray, and Ambrose Bierce.

When he was four, Roald Dahl started his kindergarten in Elmtree House Nursery School in Llandaff. When he was seven, he attended Llandaff Cathedral School, a Preparatory school for boys. In 1925 his mother transferred Roald Dahl to St. Peter's Preparatory school.

In January 1930, Roald Dahl started attending Repton Public school in Repton, Derbyshire. He graduated from Repton in July 1934 when he was 17.

After he graduated from Repton, he went on an expedition trip to Newfoundland. In 1934 he joined the Shell Oil Company in London as a clerk. In London, he lived with his mother and sisters in Bexley, Kent.

In 1938 Roald Dahl took up a three-year contract in the Shell branch office in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. The Second World War began on the 1st of September 1939. In the same year, Roald Dahl joined the Royal Air Force training squadron in Nairobi, Kenya, where he learned how to fly fighter planes.

In 1940 Roald Dahl's Gladiator aircraft crashed in the Libyan desert. His skull was fractured, and he suffered temporary blindness. He was transferred to a military hospital in Alexandria, Egypt. It took several months for Roald Dahl to recover fully.

In 1945 he moved back to England to be with his mother, Sofie. In 1951 he met Patricia Neal, who was destined to become his future wife.

Roald Dahl photographed with his sisters.

Roald Dahl photographed with his sisters.

Roald Dahl had a secret diary from the age of eight. To make sure none of his sisters read his secret diary, he put it in a waterproof tin box and tied it to the topmost branch of a huge conker tree in his garden. Every day he used to climb the tree, take the diary out of the tin box and write in it.

When Did Roald Dahl Start Writing?

In 1941 Roald Dahl rejoined his squadron that was stationed in Greece. In 1942 he joined the British Embassy in Washington as an assistant air attaché. He worked with British novelist C.S. Forester who encouraged Roald Dahl to write about his experiences as a fighter pilot and submit it for publishing.

Road Dahl's First Published Works

Roald Dahl's writings were first published in The Saturday Evening Post under the title "Shot Down Over Libya." This article was published anonymously due to security reasons.

Roald Dahl's first book, "The Gremlins," was published by the US Random House in 1943. He ordered 50 copies of his book to promote himself as an author. The First Lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Lord Halifax, the British Ambassador to the US, received the first copies of his book.

In 1944 Roald Dahl hired Ann Watkins as his agent to publish his stories in American magazines.

Roald Dahl did not start writing for children until he had his own children. He always used a pencil and yellow paper to write on. He wrote stories in a small hut at the bottom of his garden. This hut came to be known as the Writing Hut of Roald Dahl.

The Gremlins did not meet with much success, and Roald Dahl started writing macabre and mystery stories for adult readers. This led to two best-selling story collections, "Someone Like You" in 1953 and "Kiss Kiss" in 1959.

Roald Dahl and Patricia Neil

Roald Dahl and Patricia Neil

Married Life of Roald Dahl

On 2 July 1953, Roald Dahl married Patricia Neal, a film actress. They had five children. Roald Dahl told his children bedtime stories, which were the basis of some of the stories that he later wrote for children.

On 05 December 1960, Roald Dahl's son Theo was hit by a taxi cab in New York while in a pram. The accident left Theo with brain damage.

In 1965 Patricia Neal suffered three burst cerebral aneurysms. She was pregnant with Lucy, their youngest child when she suffered the aneurysms. The cerebral aneurysms led to a paralytic attack, and Patricia Neal was unable to speak. Roald Dahl looked after her, and she was able to talk and walk again. She was also able to get back to acting after her full recovery.

Roald Dahl's marriage to Patricia Neal did not last. Their marriage ended in 1983 when he divorced Patricia Neal. After many years he married Felicity Crossland.

Writing Hut of Roald Dahl

Writing Hut of Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl's Writing Hut

Roald Dahl’s Writing Hut was built by Wally Sanders, a local builder and his friend in the mid-1950s. He would go down to the hut in the morning with a thermos of coffee. He used a custom-made writing board covered in green baize.

Superstitions influenced his writing process. He felt that uneven numbers were always unlucky and worked with precisely six pencils.

The walls of the Writing Hut were covered with photos of his family, postcards, and letters, including a Christmas card from a postman in America named Willy Wonka.

Roald Dahl kept a collection of items on a low table in his hut. These items were his own hip bone, a metal ball made from silver chocolate wrappers, a model Hurricane plane, and a huge Opal sent to him from a child in Australia.

He did not like being disturbed while writing, so he told his children that there were wolves in the Writing Hut so they would not go in. The telephone in his hut was only used during emergencies.

The interior of the Writing Hut and its contents were moved in 2011 to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Center in Great Missenden and was put together exactly as Roald Dahl left it.

During his lifetime, Roald Dahl published nineteen books for children, nine short story collections, and many TV and movie scripts.

Roald Dahl published "James and the Giant Peach" in 1961. This book became a big success and resulted in Roald Dahl being recognized as an established children's author.

After three years, in 1964, he published another top-rated children's book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."

More of Roald Dahl's popular books for children

  • Fantastic Fox (1970)
  • BFG (1982)
  • The Witches (1983)
  • Matilda (1988)

The books Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, The Witches, Matilda, and Fantastic Mr. Fox became film productions. Roald Dahl also wrote many comic poems that appear in his children's books.

Roald Dahl Interview

Roald Dahl died on November 23, 1990, at seventy-four, due to an unspecified infection.

Roald Dahl was buried in St. Peter and St. Paul's Church in Great Missenden. He requested to be buried with his favorite things—snooker cues, a bottle of burgundy, chocolate, HB pencils, and a power saw.

Fans of Roald Dahl can visit the Roald Dahl Story and Museum Center in Great Missenden.

Sources and Further Reading

© 2018 Nithya Venkat


Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on March 22, 2019:

Shaloo Walia thank you.

Shaloo Walia from India on March 22, 2019:

Somehow I never read Roald Dahl when I was a child. This year I finally got to read him. I have read Matilda & Charlie and the chocolate factory. Absolutely loved them. Thanks for sharing his life story!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 28, 2019:

Thank you Mark Tulin.

Mark Tulin from Long Beach, California on February 27, 2019:

Great read, Nithya. I know his work but didn't know much about him. Thanks for this well-written article.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on February 14, 2019:

Dora Weithers thank you for reading and commenting.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on February 12, 2019:

Thanks for introducing this writer and presenting so many interesting facts. Beginning a diary at eight is special; so is writing for children after he got children of his own. Happy that he got the recognition he deserves.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on January 26, 2019:

rdsparrowriter thank you.

Rochelle Ann De Zoysa from Moratuwa, Sri Lanka on January 22, 2019:

Wow! You've done it ! You've written about one of my favorite writers :) I love Most of his story books :) Thank you :)

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on January 09, 2019:

Thank you, FlourishAnyway

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 30, 2018:

Nithya, I liked this a lot and liked that he told the kids there were wolves in the shed to keep them away. What a sense of humor!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 16, 2018:

I totally agree manatita44, thank you.

manatita44 from london on December 15, 2018:

Interestingly enough, his composed and orderly routine reminded me of Bill. I have heard of him and his books and he has certainly lead an interestingly life. Much of who he was or what he did, seems to have prepared him for what he finally became, Like me … like most of us, I guess. Much Love, Nithya.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 15, 2018:

Nell you live ten miles away from where he lived, that is awesome! I hope you find the time to go and visit and write an article with photos so that we all can get to see the place.

Nell Rose from England on December 11, 2018:

We all loved Roald Dahl, specially my son who had all the books when he was small. Roald lived 10 miles away from me, still not gone to see his museum etc.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 09, 2018:

Thank you Ann.

Ann Carr from SW England on December 05, 2018:

Thanks for this educative article, Nithya. I'm a huge fan of Roald Dahl and so are my children and grandchildren. He was a wonderful man and so imaginative!


Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 03, 2018:

I wish I had a writing hut too, maybe someday we will al have one. Thank you John.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 03, 2018:

Patricia Scott he was a master storyteller, thank you for the angels and sending them to you too.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 03, 2018:

Am so happy you came to know more about Roald Dahl, thank you for for your visit.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 03, 2018:

Oh yes he had a great run, thank you for your visit

John Hansen from Australia (Gondwana Land) on December 02, 2018:

Roald Dahl was an inspirational writer and man. I still have a couple of his books on my shelves to read to grandchildren.

I wish I had a writers hut like him, maybe I can convert the garage, but then my wife wants that turned into a craft room :)

Good work Nithya, thank you for sharing about his life.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on December 02, 2018:

Simply adore his book after book of his to my classes when I was still teaching. He knew how to tell an amazing story. Angels on the way to you ps

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 02, 2018:

Thank you very much for sharing this information about Roald Dahl's life. I knew a little about him because I went to school in Llandaff, where I heard about him, but you've taught me much more. I've enjoyed reading his books and want to read more of them.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 02, 2018:

Quite the career that man had. Thank you for sharing his story with us.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 02, 2018:

Chitrangada thank you for your wonderful comments. The Writing Hut was Roald Dahl’s favorite place to write.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on December 02, 2018:

A very interesting article about Roald Dahl’s personal life and his wonderful work. I have read some of his books. But thanks for sharing more about him.

How interesting that he had a Writing Hut!

Thanks for sharing this wonderful and informative article!

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 01, 2018:

I agree some of his sketches and even portrayal of characters can be a bit scary.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 01, 2018:

Patricia Neal must have found something special in Roald Dahl.

Nithya Venkat (author) from Dubai on December 01, 2018:

Oh yes the Writing Hiuse a place where Roald Dahl weaved magic with his words.

Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on December 01, 2018:

Successful writers have such interesting lives. I loved Roald Dalh books when I was a child, though I always thought the artist's drawing style was a bit creepy. The BFG, George's Marvellous Medicine, and Danny Champion of the World were my favourites. My dad read Danny to me when I was a kid so I'll always have a soft spot for it.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on December 01, 2018:

So interesting and I will think of him now as Patricia Neal's husband who I am very fond of. Such a wonderful unique, actress. Perhaps now I have a better idea of how she became who she was. I can see they would be very compatible.

Amazing to me that someone that old wrote these wonderful stories! So young and full of life, I would have never in a millions years guessed Patricia Neal's husband!

Makes me want to see both their movies all in one thought!

Thank you for this informative article!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 01, 2018:

What an interesting life. I love Charlie and the Chocolate Factory so knowing more about the man who wrote it made the novel more interesting. I like the idea of a writing hut.