The names change but Roald Dahl's undead stories endure

A few decades ago many teachers thought him not a 'classic' but a pest

Share
Related Topics

It is hardly a surprise to learn that the books children want to read and the books adults ask them to read do not always coincide.

Neither can we assume that the non-appearance of Roald Dahl on a hot-favourites chart – while he remains at the top of a most-read list – hints at classes of groaning schoolkids being dragged in torment through compulsory sessions with Matlida, James, Charlie and the good old BFG. Joint leader of the latter table is Jeff Kinney, as much (if not more) a children’s rather than a teacher’s pet with his Wimpy Kid school romps.

Still, this mismatch between the crazes of the moment and the stalwarts that become a fixture on reading lists and library shelves tells a story of its own. It wasn’t that long ago and far away, remember, that the Grumpy Mr Dahl – a big if not terribly friendly giant of juvenile literature – looked like the last word in early-years subversion. With his bizarrely outsized minors, genuinely scary adult villains and taste for fantastic and grotesque action, he shocked arbiters of youthful taste.

Indeed, you can find in his work ample evidence of both sadistic ultra-violence and the class politics of envy. Rewind a few decades and many teachers thought Dahl not a “classic” but a pest.

Now it seems noteworthy to find the Welsh-Norwegian spellbinder at the head of an official honour-board but not in the front rank of current hits. But last year’s upset becomes next year’s set text. It was ever thus.

Meanwhile, look at the boom in teenage vampires: first Stephenie Meyer; now Rachel Caine. Dahl drew on one pack of Gothic and folkloric archetypes. The new-wave bloodsuckers employ another. The  authors’ names may change, but the undead stories endure.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron visiting a primary school last year  

The only choice in schools is between the one you want and the ones you don’t

Jane Merrick
Zoë Ball says having her two children was the best thing ever to happen to her  

Start a family – you’ll never have to go out again

John Mullin
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn