On this episode of the Sofa King Podcast, we take a look at the very interesting life of a man named Roald Dahl. You may think you’ve never heard of him, but we promise that you have. For one, he was a world famous and beloved children’s author. He wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda, and many other stories. What you don’t know is that he was an adventure-starved, globetrotting, WWII fighter pilot ace. He survived a crash, shot down enemy aircraft, and was eventually stationed to Washington where he met Ian Fleming and did work for the spy agency MI6.
Roald Dahl was born in Wales in 1916 to Norwegian parents who were wealthy. His father died when he was young, but his mother opted to stay in the UK because that’s where the best schools were. So, he attended school there, getting kicked out of one or two and being beaten by a headmaster here and there. He was also behind the Great Mouse Plot of 1924 which involved a dead rodent and a jar of gobstoppers. He eventually got through school, and when his mom said she’d pay for him to attend Oxford and be anything he wanted, he declined. He’d rather see the world. And see the world he did. He hiked around for a while and then got a job for an oil company in the Middle east.
While there, he was drafted by England to help round Germans up in the city of Dar-es-Salaam where he was stationed. After that, he joined the Royal Air Force, and soon, his country was at war. After extensive training, he was given a really bad and outdated aircraft. Once, while piloting on his own, he was given the wrong directions and crashed in the middle of the desert. He sustained major injuries and was temporarily blind, but the kept on.
Eventually, he fought in several dog fights, including the Battle of Athens, but he had to quit flying because of the injuries from the crash. He was such as smooth talker, however, that he was sent to Washington DC to be a diplomat and try to get the US into the war. While there, he doubled as a spy, meeting people like Ian Fleming and doing tasks directly for MI6.
During the war, his friends got him to start writing, and people loved his work. He began with short stories and a tale about his own air crash, but he soon drifted to the fantastical children’s stories he is so beloved for now. He wrote James and the Giant Peach first, and the rest was history. His books were hits. He wrote 19 in all, saw several get adapted to film, and he even wrote the scripts for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and You Only Live Twice.
There isn’t much bad to say about this man. He was a war hero. A national patriot. He is beloved by children all over the world. Even Queen Elizabeth considered him one of the most influential people in British culture. Oh, but he was an anti-Semite, so there is that. Listen, laugh, learn.
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