James biting into that giant, juicy peach, Matilda summoning two chocolate truffles and a porcelain doll from Ms. Trunchbull's house, the BFG blowing good dreams into Sophie's window - we all grew up reading the magical words of Roald Dahl, and can recall his amazing stories at the drop of a hat. But do you know the deep, dark secrets surrounding some of his finest work?
Bet you didn't know James and the Giant Peach was banned in several places due to sex and drug references, or that Dahl went ballistic and took his name off the credits for Jim Henson's movie of The Witches (too scary, he said - and he was bloody right).
As Roald himself once said, "watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." On that note, we suggest you read on...
1 Dahl originally KILLED OFF Matilda
Dahl's longtime editor described his first draft of Matilda as 'hopeless' - and after learning that the (naughty, prank-playing) heroine DIED after gambling on horses, we'd be inclined to agree.
In poor health and into his early 70s, Dahl realised he needed to rethink the plot - the first time he'd ever had to start a novel over. The five-year-old genius went on to escape her evil parents and headteacher to survive a happy life with Ms. Honey.
2 Wonka's Oompa-Loompas were originally called Whipple-Scrumpets
Dahl changed their names at the very last minute.
3 Roald Dahl was the original BFG
The BFG was Roald's favourite novel - he was telling the story of the dream-catching giant to his own children and, later, his grandchildren, well before the book was published. He would climb a ladder outside their bedrooms and pretend to blow good dreams in through the window, just like the BFG. N'aww.
4 Dahl published a dystopian adult novel before any of his children's books: Some Time Never
Some Time Never: A Fable for Supermen is notable for being perhaps the first fictional account of nuclear war - influenced by his time as an RAF pilot in WWII.
5 Charlie & the Chocolate Factory was inspired by genuine chocolate espionage
You can probably guess which Dahl novel these facts inspired - in the 1920s, Rowntree's and Cadbury were continually sending spies posing as employees into eachother's factories, in an attempt to steal ideas.
6 James and the Giant Peach was banned in some US states
Dahl's first classic novel for children was banned in some American states, because it 'encouraged disobedience to parents'. Miss Spider was too damn flirty ('licking her lips could be taken in two ways, including sexual') and there were more than a few 'magical references' to drugs and alcohol (something to do with crocodile tongues making the grass grow, IDK).
7 Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas makes a cameo in the 1996 film James and the Giant Peach
He was the captain of the sunken ship that Centipede boarded in search of a compass!
8 Early drafts of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory feature up to 10 golden ticket winners
In early drafts of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl imagined as many as 10 golden ticket winners, as opposed to the final five.
Wilbur Rice and Tommy Troutbeck were sent to the Pounding and Cutting Room after climbing into one of the wagons in The Vanilla Fudge Room, while Miranda Mary Piker's disobedience landed her in the Peanut Brittle Mixer, ground to dust.
In the first draft, Clarence Crump, Bertie Upside and Terence Roper all overheat when they stuff themselves with hundreds of warming candies too (you're only supposed to eat one).
9 Walt Disney nicknamed Dahl 'Stalky'
Dahl measured nearly two metres tall - a whopping six feet five and three-quarter inches. Disney undoubtedly noticed his height when they came into contact regarding The Gremlins, which he bought the film rights to. Disney's idea was to turn it into a feature-length movie, but it sadly never happened.
Steven Spielberg's comedy horror Gremlins is loosely based on Dahl's book, though.
10 The Twits was actually a smear campaign against beards
Dahl had a desire to, "do something against beards," due to his acute dislike of facial hair. Mr. Twit had a "disgusting" beard that often had mouldy bits of food caught in it, described in horrific detail. The first sentence of the story is, "What a lot of hairy-faced men there are around nowadays!". Good thing he never went to Shoreditch...
11 Charlie was originally accompanied to Wonka's chocolate factory by his mother, not Grandpa Joe
Dahl later decided to leave Charlie's mum at home doing the washing, among many other revisions. James and the Giant Peach was originally about a cherry, and the BFG's main character Sophie (named after his model granddaughter Sophie Dahl) was first a boy named Jodie.
Dahl thought the 1971 film put too much emphasis on Wonka and blocked any more film versions being made in his lifetime. Good move - not sure what he'd have made of Burton's take on it...
12 Dahl only wrote in pencil on yellow paper - none of that keyboard rubbish
13 Dahl regularly wrote for Playboy
Yep, that Playboy. The Last Act followed the sadistic story of a rapist gynaecologist, and the four-part wife-swapping saga Switch Bitch was a right barrel of laughs.
In an even weirder twist, Hugh Hefner later borrowed a promotional idea from Dahl in 2010 - ten people finding a special ticket in their edition of his soft-porn magazine were invited to his X-rated wonderland, the Playboy mansion. We find this upsetting in many ways.
14 Dahl was LIVID about how director Jim Henson interpreted The Witches for his film version
When Dahl saw the test screening he was 'appalled' by 'the vulgarity, the bad taste' and 'actual terror' of the film, demanding his name and the title be removed from the film prior to release. He hated the happy ending too, in which a sorceress appears to transform mouse Luke back to a boy (in the ending of Dahl's novel, the boy remains a mouse).
An apologetic, complimentary letter from Jim Henson (it was the last film he oversaw before his death), saw Dahl grudgingly withdraw his threat. And we're so glad (but it still scared us shitless).
15 We knew Dahl was a bit weird. But he was, like, really weird
He kept his actual hip bone (removed after an accident) and shavings from his spine on his desk, which was in a shed at the bottom of his garden.
16 Dahl is credited with the invention of over 250 new words, including 'Frothbuggling' (silly) and 'Whizzpopping' (farting)
Dahl created his own language, actually. It was called 'Gobblefunk'.
17 Books weren't the only thing Dahl lent his hand to - he wrote the original screenplays for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the Bond movie You Only Live Twice
Dahl was also hired to adapt Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for the big screen, but was replaced by David Seltzer when he couldn’t make his deadlines. Dahl was not shy about his criticisms of the finished product!
18 Dahl was penning a third Charlie Bucket story, Charlie Bucket and the White House, but he died before it could be completed
He was buried with some of his favourite things, including: a power saw, HB pencils, chocolate, red wine and his snooker cues. The anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birthday on 13th September is celebrated in schools and libraries all over the world as Roald Dahl Day.