“A little nonsense, now and then, is relished by the wisest men.”—Roald Dahl (Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator, 1973)
The Oompa Loompa and golden ticket creator, Roald Dahl, celebrated his 100th birthday in 2016, just a couple weeks before the man who portrayed his character of Willy Wonka so well, Gene Wilder died.
Dahl, born in Wales to Norwegian parents on September 13, 1916, was a successful British novelist, having sold more a quarter million copies of his books and garnering the claim to fame of being one of “the 50 greatest British writers since 1945” in 2008. He also wrote short stories, poems and screenplays. He worked for a stint as a salesman for Shell Petroleum in Africa and even knew how to fly a plane.
Dahl excelled at flying at an early age, having served in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. He was so good that the Royal Air Force named him acting wing commander.
Very much like A.A. Milne and his Winnie the Pooh (see blog), Dahl and his stories have longevity. If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, Dahl’s descendants should feel very flattered. The 2005 adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory following the 1971 movie (that many of us associate with our own childhoods), where Johnny Depp depicted the character of Willy Wonka, could be viewed by some as an exaggeration of the macabre and dark comedic tone Dahl was hoping to achieve when he wrote his masterpiece published in 1964. He projected those villainous qualities on some of his adult characters, asking them to carry that burden so that the children could dream. This darker side of Dahl likely surfaced after he served in WWII and saw the horrors that war brought to the stage front and center.
But instead of letting the dark plot just sit there and fester, Dahl managed to save it by interspersing kind-hearted characters and carrying an underlining sense of hope and frivolity that we also see in Winnie the Pooh. But please don’t confuse this comparison with a direct correlation between the two. That’s not my intention. Rather, I think this underlying hope for the future is what makes their stories so sustainable.
To Dahl, the golden ticket was always a possibility in spite of the struggles and disappointment he endured. He wrote, “If you have good thoughts, they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” I think at heart, Dahl never stopped being a kid. He was a determined idealist living through war and the Great Depression.
Although best known for the Willy Wonka character, Dahl also wrote the scripts for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the James Bond flick, You Only Live Twice. And his very first published work in 1942 was called The Gremlins—you may have heard of it?
Dahl’s genius ability to draw in his readers with emotion without an ounce of sentimentality is also what gives him longevity as does his humor and poking fun at oneself and being grateful for what you have as healthy daily acts. How else could a scene where a whole family of extended relatives sleep in one bed work?
So, as you embark on the rest of your week, make it a splendiferous one and remember to embrace the light-hearted and splendor that life has in store for you. Not sure about you, but I plan on partaking in a little nonsense this week while eating some scrumdiddlyumptious food.