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Roald Dahl

♦  Man From The South ⇐                                                         1916 – 1990

The narrator of this famous story is never named, but I always presumed him to be an English writer (i.e. Dahl’s stand-in). This narrator is lounging by a pool at a Jamaican hotel when he meets a strange little South American man in a white suit and cream Panama hat. They are joined by an American boy and an English girl, and the boy offers them all a cigarette. When he boasts that his lighter always lights, even in such wind, the old man asks if he’s willing to bet on it. The boy is surprised but agrees to bet a dollar. The old man laughs and offers to up the stakes: If the boy can light his lighter ten times in a row, he will give him a brand new Cadillac. If the boy loses, the man will cut off the little finger on his left hand. After some deliberation, the boy agrees to the bet. They all go up to the old man’s room where he prepares for the bet. The boy’s hand is tied to the desk with his pinky sticking out and the man holds a chopping knife at the ready. The boy makes it up to eight successful lights when the door suddenly opens and a woman rushes in yelling in Spanish. She throws the old man down on the bed and apologizes to the others. She says that she should not have left him alone and that he has taken forty-seven fingers where they come from. She eventually managed to win everything from him, but it took her a long time. The last thing the narrator sees as he leaves the room is the woman’s hand… with only one finger and one thumb left on it.

◊  Norman Lloyd‘s film adaptation of Dahl’s story  ⇑  Presented by A. Hitchcock [1960]

 

◊  Quentin Tarantino‘s 1995 adaptation  in «FOUR ROOMS» ↓  Movie clip

¤  Lamb to the Slaughter ←

Mary Maloney is a devoted wife and expectant mother. She waits happily each night for the arrival of her husband Patrick, home from work at the police station. On this particular night, though, she can tell something is wrong. In disbelief, she listens as Patrick tells her that he is leaving her for another woman. [Actually Dahl never really says this; the details are left up to the reader’s imagination.] Dazed, she goes into the kitchen to prepare their supper and pulls a large frozen leg of lamb from the deep freeze. Still numb, she carries it into the living room and without warning bashes her husband over the head with it. As she looks at Patrick lying dead on the floor, she slowly begins to come back to her senses. Immediately she realizes the ramifications of what she has done.

Not wanting her unborn child to suffer as a result of her crime, she begins planning her alibi. She places the leg of lamb in a pan in the oven and goes down to the corner grocery to get some food for «Patrick’s dinner» (making sure the grocer sees her normal and cheerful state of mind). She returns home and screams when she finds Patrick lying on the floor. She calls the police and informs them that she found her husband lying dead on the floor. Within hours swarms of officers are searching the house and conducting an investigation. Mary’s story of coming home from the grocer and finding him is corroborated as she had planned. While the police are searching fruitlessly into the night for the murder weapon, Mary offers them some lamb that she had prepared for dinner. They are happy to oblige. While they lounge in the kitchen and discuss the case (their mouths «sloppy» with meat), Mary Maloney sits in the living room and giggles softly to herself.

Robin Chapman‘s 1979 dramatization of the story ↓ Presented by Roal Dahl himself

Φ→Matilda   [Chapter 1]  → The Reader of Books ⇐
«It’s a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful. Some parents go further. They become so blinded by adoration they manage to convince themselves their child has qualities of genius …»
MagicFinger

 

⇐ The Magic Finger

⇐Click for the book, illustrated by Quentin Blake

∇   The Big Friendly Giant  [‘The BFG’]BFG

When orphan Sophie is kidnapped from her bed by a Giant, she fears that he’s going to eat her. But although he carries her far away to Giant Country, the Giant has no intention of hurting her. As he explains, in his odd way of talking, «I is the only nice and jumbly Giant in Giant Country! I is THE BIG FRIENDLY GIANT! I is the BFG.» The BFG tells Sophie how he mixes up dreams to blow through a trumpet into the rooms of sleeping children…

•  Chapter 1  . . .   «The Witching Hour»

Sophie couldn’t sleep.

A brilliant moonbeam was slanting through a gap in the curtains. It was shining right on to her pillow. The other children in the dormitory had been asleep for hours. Sophie closed her eyes and lay quite still. She tried very hard to doze off.

It was no good. The moonbeam was like a silver blade slicing through the room on to her face.

The window behind the curtain was wide open, but nobody was walking on the pavement outside. No cars went by on the street. Not the tiniest sound could be heard anywhere. Sophie had never known such a silence.

Perhaps, she told herself, this was what they called the witching hour. The witching hour, somebody had once whispered to her, was a special moment in the middle of the night when every child and every grown-up was in a deep deep sleep, and all the dark things came out from hiding and had the world to themselves.

[ . . . ]

¤   Revolting Rhymes animated  ⇓   http://www.roalddahl.com/←•
◊  The Pig  ↓

In England once there lived a big
A wonderfully clever pig.
To everybody it was plain
That Piggy had a massive brain.
He worked out sums inside his head,
There was no book he hadn’t read.
He knew what made an airplane fly,
He knew how engines worked and why.
He knew all this, but in the end
One question drove him round the bend:
He simply couldn’t puzzle out
What LIFE was really all about.

What was the reason for his birth?
Why was he placed upon this earth?
His giant brain went round and round.
Alas, no answer could be found.
Till suddenly one wondrous night.
All in a flash he saw the light.
He jumped up like a ballet dancer
And yelled, «By gum, I’ve got the answer!»
«They want my bacon slice by slice
«To sell at a tremendous price!
«They want my tender juicy chops
«To put in all the butcher’s shops!
«They want my pork to make a roast
«And that’s the part’ll cost the most!
«They want my sausages in strings!
«They even want my chitterlings!
«The butcher’s shop! The carving knife!
«That is the reason for my life!»

Such thoughts as these are not designed
To give a pig great peace of mind.
Next morning, in comes Farmer Bland,
A pail of pigswill in his hand,
And piggy with a mighty roar,
Bashes the farmer to the floor…
Now comes the rather grizzly bit
So let’s not make too much of it,
Except that you must understand
That Piggy did eat Farmer Bland,
He ate him up from head to toe,
Chewing the pieces nice and slow.
It took an hour to reach the feet,
Because there was so much to eat,
And when he finished, Pig, of course,
Felt absolutely no remorse.

Slowly he scratched his brainy head
And with a little smile he said,
«I had a fairly powerful hunch
«That he might have me for his lunch.
«And so, because I feared the worst,
«I thought I’d better eat him first.»

◊ → The Crocodile  ↓

«No animal is half as vile
As Crocky–Wock, the crocodile.
On Saturdays he likes to crunch
Six juicy children for his lunch
And he especially enjoys
Just three of each, three girls, three boys.
He smears the boys (to make them hot)
With mustard from the mustard pot.
But mustard doesn’t go with girls,
It tastes all wrong with plaits and curls.
With them, what goes extremely well
Is butterscotch and caramel.
It’s such a super marvelous treat
When boys are hot and girls are sweet.
At least that’s Crocky’s point of view
He ought to know. He’s had a few.
That’s all for now. It’s time for bed.
Lie down and rest your sleepy head.
Ssh. Listen. What is that I hear,
Galumphing softly up the stair?

Go lock the door and fetch my gun!
Go on child, hurry! Quickly run!
No stop! Stand back! He’s coming in!
Oh, look, that greasy greenish skin!
The shining teeth, the greedy smile!
It’s Crocky–Wock, the Crocodile!»

◊  Cinderella  ↓

I guess you think you know this story.
You don’t. The real one’s much more gory.
The phoney one, the one you know,
Was cooked up years and years ago,
And made to sound all soft and sappy
just to keep the children happy.
Mind you, they got the first bit right,
The bit where, in the dead of night,
The Ugly Sisters, jewels and all,
Departed for the Palace Ball,
While darling little Cinderella
Was locked up in a slimy cellar,
Where rats who wanted things to eat,
Began to nibble at her feet.

She bellowed ‘Help!’ and ‘Let me out!
The Magic Fairy heard her shout.
Appearing in a blaze of light,
She said: ‘My dear, are you all right?’
‘All right?’ cried Cindy .’Can’t you see
‘I feel as rotten as can be!’
She beat her fist against the wall,
And shouted, ‘Get me to the Ball!
‘There is a Disco at the Palace!
‘The rest have gone and I am jealous!
‘I want a dress! I want a coach!
‘And earrings and a diamond brooch!
‘And silver slippers, two of those!
‘And lovely nylon panty hose!
‘Done up like that I’ll guarantee
‘The handsome Prince will fall for me!’
The Fairy said, ‘Hang on a tick.’
She gave her wand a mighty flick
And quickly, in no time at all,
Cindy was at the Palace Ball!

It made the Ugly Sisters wince
To see her dancing with the Prince.
She held him very tight and pressed
herself against his manly chest.
The Prince himself was turned to pulp,
All he could do was gasp and gulp.
Then midnight struck. She shouted,’Heck!
I’ve got to run to save my neck!’
The Prince cried, ‘No! Alas! Alack!’
He grabbed her dress to hold her back.
As Cindy shouted, ‘Let me go!’
The dress was ripped from head to toe.

She ran out in her underwear,
And lost one slipper on the stair.
The Prince was on it like a dart,
He pressed it to his pounding heart,
‘The girl this slipper fits,’ he cried,
‘Tomorrow morn shall be my bride!
I’ll visit every house in town
‘Until I’ve tracked the maiden down!’
Then rather carelessly, I fear,
He placed it on a crate of beer.

At once, one of the Ugly Sisters,
(The one whose face was blotched with blisters)
Sneaked up and grabbed the dainty shoe,
And quickly flushed it down the loo.
Then in its place she calmly put
The slipper from her own left foot.
Ah ha, you see, the plot grows thicker,
And Cindy’s luck starts looking sicker.

Next day, the Prince went charging down
To knock on all the doors in town.
In every house, the tension grew.
Who was the owner of the shoe?
The shoe was long and very wide.
(A normal foot got lost inside.)
Also it smelled a wee bit icky.
(The owner’s feet were hot and sticky.)
Thousands of eager people came
To try it on, but all in vain.
Now came the Ugly Sisters’ go.
One tried it on. The Prince screamed, ‘No!’
But she screamed, ‘Yes! It fits! Whoopee!
‘So now you’ve got to marry me!’
The Prince went white from ear to ear.
He muttered, ‘Let me out of here.’
‘Oh no you don’t! You made a vow!
‘There’s no way you can back out now!’
‘Off with her head!’The Prince roared back.
They chopped it off with one big whack.
This pleased the Prince. He smiled and said,
‘She’s prettier without her head.’
Then up came Sister Number Two,
Who yelled, ‘Now I will try the shoe!’
‘Try this instead!’ the Prince yelled back.
He swung his trusty sword and smack
Her head went crashing to the ground.
It bounced a bit and rolled around.
In the kitchen, peeling spuds,
Cinderella heard the thuds
Of bouncing heads upon the floor,
And poked her own head round the door.
‘What’s all the racket? ‘Cindy cried.
‘Mind your own bizz,’ the Prince replied.
Poor Cindy’s heart was torn to shreds.
My Prince! she thought. He chops off heads!
How could I marry anyone
Who does that sort of thing for fun?

The Prince cried, ‘Who’s this dirty slut?
‘Off with her nut! Off with her nut!’
Just then, all in a blaze of light,
The Magic Fairy hove in sight,
Her Magic Wand went swoosh and swish!
‘Cindy! ‘she cried, ‘come make a wish!
‘Wish anything and have no doubt
‘That I will make it come about!’
Cindy answered, ‘Oh kind Fairy,
‘This time I shall be more wary.
‘No more Princes, no more money.
‘I have had my taste of honey.
I’m wishing for a decent man.
‘They’re hard to find. D’you think you can?’
Within a minute, Cinderella
Was married to a lovely feller,
A simple jam maker by trade,
Who sold good home-made marmalade.
Their house was filled with smiles and laughter
And they were happy ever after.

◊  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs  ↓

When little Snow-White’s mother died
The King, her father, up and cried
“Oh, what a nuisance! What a life!
Now I must find another wife.”
(It’s never easy for a King
To find himself that sort of thing.)
He wrote to every magazine
And said, “I’m looking for a Queen.”
At least ten thousand girls replied
And begged to be the royal bride
The king said with a shifty smile
“I’d like to give each one a trial.”
However, in the end he chose
A lady called Miss Maclahose
Who brought along a curious toy
That seemed to give her endless joy.
This was a mirror framed in brass
A MAGIC TALKING LOOKING GLASS
Ask it something day or night
It always got the answer right
For instance, if you were to say
“Oh Mirror, what’s for lunch today?”
The thing would answer in a trice
“Today it’s scrambled eggs and rice.”
Now every day, week in week out
The spoiled and stupid Queen would shout
“Oh Mirror Mirror on the wall
Who is the fairest of them all?”
The Mirror answered every time
“Oh Madam, you’re the Queen sublime
You are the only one to charm us
Queen, you are the cat’s pyjamas.”

For ten whole years the silly Queen
Repeated this absurd routine
Then suddenly, one awful day
She heard the Magic Mirror say
“From now on Queen, you’re number two
Snow-White is prettier than you.”
The Queen went absolutely wild
She yelled, “I’m going to scrag that child.”
“I’ll cook her flaming goose, I’ll skin her
I’ll have her rotten guts for dinner.”
She called the Huntsman to her study
She shouted at him, “Listen, buddy,
You drag that filthy girl outside
And see you take her for a ride
Thereafter slit her ribs apart
And bring me back her bleeding heart.”
The Huntsman dragged the lovely child
Deep deep into the forest wild
Fearing the worst, poor Snow-White spake
She cried, “Oh please give me a break.”
The knife was poised, the arm was strong
She cried again, “I’ve done no wrong.”
The Huntsman’s heart began to flutter
It melted like a pound of butter.
He murmured, “Okay, beat it, kid.”
And you can bet your life she did
Later, the Huntsman made a stop
Within the local butcher’s shop
And there he bought, for safety’s sake
A bullocks heart and one nice steak
“Oh Majesty! Oh Queen,” he cried
“That rotten little girl has died.
And just to prove I didn’t cheat
I’ve brought along these bits of meat.”
The Queen cried out, “Bravissimo
I trust you killed her nice and slow.”
Then (this is the disgusting part)
The Queen sat down and ate the heart
(I only hope she cooked it well
Boiled heart can be as tough as hell)

While all this was going on
Oh where, oh where had Snow-White gone?
She’d found it easy, being pretty
To hitch a ride into the city
And there she’d got a job, unpaid
As general cook and parlour-maid
With seven funny little men
Each one not more than three foot ten
Ex horse-race jockeys, all of them
These seven dwarfs, though awfully nice
Were guilty of one shocking vice
They squandered all of their resources
At the race-track backing horses
(When they hadn’t backed a winner
None of them got any dinner)
One evening, Snow-White said, “Look here,
I think I’ve got a great idea
Just leave it all to me, okay,
And no more gambling till I say.”
That very night, at eventide
Young Snow-White hitched another ride
And then, when it was very late
She slipped in through the Palace gate
The King was in his counting house
Counting out his money
The Queen was in the parlour
Eating bread and honey
The footmen and the servants slept
So no one saw her as she crept
On tip-toe through the mighty hall
And grabbed THE MIRROR off the wall

As soon as she had got it home
She told the Senior Dwarf (or Gnome)
To ask it what he wished to know
“Go on,” she shouted, “Have a go.”
He said, “Oh Mirror, please don’t joke
Each of us is stony broke
Which horse will win tomorrow’s race,
The Ascot Gold Cup Steeple-chase?”
The Mirror whispered sweet and low
“The horse’s name is Mistletoe.”
The Dwarfs went absolutely daft
They kissed young Snow-White fore and aft
Then rushed away to raise some dough
With which to back old Mistletoe
They pawned their watches, sold the car
They borrowed money near and far
(For much of it they had to thank
The Manager of Barclays Bank)

They went to Ascot and of course
For once they backed the winning horse
Thereafter, every single day
The Mirror made the bookies pay
Each Dwarf and Snow-White got a share
And each was soon a millionaire
Which shows that gambling’s not a sin
Provided that you always win.

◊  Goldilocks and the Three Bears  ↓

«This famous wicked little tale
Should never have been put on sale
It is a mystery to me
Why loving parents cannot see
That this is actually a book
About a brazen little crook…»

«…Now just imagine how you’d feel
If you had cooked a lovely meal,
Delicious porridge, steaming hot,
Fresh coffee in the coffee pot,
With maybe toast and marmalade,
The table beautifully laid,
One place for you and one for dad,
Another for your little lad.
Then dad cries, ‘Golly–gosh! Gee whizz!
‘Oh cripes! How hot this porridge is!
‘Let’s take a walk along the street
‘Until it’s cool enough to eat.’
He adds, ‘An early morning stroll
‘Is good for people on the whole.
‘It makes your appetite improve
‘It also helps your bowels move.’
No proper wife would dare to question
Such a sensible suggestion,
Above all not at breakfast–time
When men are seldom at their prime.
No sooner are you down the road
Than Goldilocks, that little toad
That nosey thieving little louse,
Comes sneaking in your empty house….»

«…(Here comes the next catastrophe.)
Most educated people choose
To rid themselves of socks and shoes
Before they clamber into bed.
But Goldie didn’t give a shred.
Her filthy shoes were thick with grime,
And mud and mush and slush and slime.
Worse still, upon the heel of one
Was something that a dog had done.
I say once more, what would you think
If all this horrid dirt and stink
Was smeared upon your eiderdown
By this revolting little clown?
(The famous story has no clues
To show the girl removed her shoes.)

Oh, what a tale of crime on crime!
Let’s check it for a second time.

Crime One, the prosecution’s case:
She breaks and enters someone’s place.

Crime Two, the prosecutor notes:
She steals a bowl of porridge oats.

Crime Three: She breaks a precious chair
Belonging to the Baby Bear.

Crime Four: She smears each spotless sheet
With filthy messes from her feet.

A judge would say without a blink,
‘Ten years hard labour in the clink!’
But in the book, as you will see,
The little beast gets off scot–free,
While tiny children near and far
Shout ‘Goody–good! Hooray! Hurrah!’
‘Poor darling Goldilocks!’ they say,
‘Thank goodness that she got away!’
Myself, I think I’d rather send
Young Goldie to a sticky end.
‘Oh daddy!’ cried the Baby Bear,
‘My porridge gone! It isn’t fair!’
‘Then go upstairs,’ the Big Bear said,
‘Your porridge is upon the bed.
‘But as it’s inside mademoiselle,
‘You’ll have to eat her up as well.»

◊ → TELEVISION  ↓

The most important thing we’ve learned, so far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let them near your television set —
Or better still, just don’t install the idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been, we’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about, and stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw a dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk with all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still, they don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch, they leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink — But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what this does to your beloved tot?

IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK — HE ONLY SEES!

‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’
We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ‘round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)

The younger ones had Beatrix Potter with Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland, and Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump, and How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul, there’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know, those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install a lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books, ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks, and children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you that, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do, they’ll now begin to feel the need of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!  You watch the slowly growing joy

That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen in that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean, repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid will love you more for what you did.

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