Skin and Other Stories Read online
Lamb to the Slaughter
The Sound Machine
An African Story
Dip in the Pool
The Champion of the World
Beware of the Dog
My Lady Love, My Dove
ABOUT ROALD DAHL
Roald Dahl was born in 1916 in Wales of Norwegian parents. He was educated in England before starting work for the Shell Oil Company in Africa. He began writing after a 'monumental bash on the head' sustained as an RAF fighter pilot during the Second World War. Roald Dahl is one of the most successful and well known of all children's writers. His books, which are read by children the world over, include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Magic Finger, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Fantastic Mr Fox, Matilda, The Twits, The BFG and The Witches, winner of the 1983 Whitbread Award. Roald Dahl died in 1990 at the age of seventy-four.
Roald Dahl, the writer and the man, needs no introduction - his autobiographies, Boy and Going Solo, record, with considerable charm and with the skills of a storyteller, a life lived to the full.
It is clear that being a reader was as important to Dahl as being a writer; his mother introduced him to The Wind in the Willows and the stories of Beatrix Potter and A. A. Milne. He was encouraged to read at school and had read the works of many classic writers, including Tolstoy and Balzac, by the time he was twelve. The writers who influenced his own work were great storytellers such as Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling and Damon Runyon and he became interested in writing stories that could be read in one sitting.
Roald Dahl wanted to write accessible stories that would enable young people to share his pleasure for reading. He once said, 'The success of a short story is simple, it must have a beginning, a middle and an end. The reader must never want to put it down.' Roald Dahl's children's books have that un-put-downable quality that has made him the most popular writer for children today. I remember reading an article about him somewhere that contained the memorable sentence, 'The popularity of Roald Dahl is swelling like the giant peach.' This continues to be true. Of course young readers love it when George describes his grandmother in George's Marvellous Medicine as having 'pale brown teeth and a small puckered-up mouth like a dog's bottom', but most of all, they love the characters, the anarchy, the power of the stories and the element of surprise that is never missing for long.
Returning again to my hardback volume of Roald Dahl's collected short stories for adults and then listening, with my fifteen-year-old niece, to some of them being read on the radio, I remember that they too have the magic of the children's stories. They may be nastier, more shocking, darkly fascinating and even more unpredictable, but they certainly can't be put down.
Some of the stories in this book are technically brilliant and have appealed to many young adult readers; they are a kind of bridge between the children's stories and the clearly adult stories. They tell of a woman who murders her husband with a leg of lamb, a sound machine that enables us to hear plants crying, a diamond's journey, a man who has a great work of art tattooed on his back, and much, much more.
The stories were written in New York, quite early in Roald Dahl's writing career. Most of the children's stories you will have enjoyed were written later in his famous refuge, the hut at the bottom of his garden. It was full of mementos - including one of his own arthritic hipbones - and it was his place. He wrote there in winter, wrapped in a blanket with his feet in a sleeping bag, and clearly his imagination never felt the cold. These more grown-up stories will evoke a range of feelings and responses; read them in your place and enjoy them.
Wendy Cooling, 2000
Books by Roald Dahl
BOY: TALES OF CHILDHOOD
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
CHARLIE AND THE GREAT GLASS ELEVATOR
DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD
GEORGE'S MARVELLOUS MEDICINE
JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH
For younger readers
THE ENORMOUS CROCODILE
FANTASTIC MR FOX
THE GIRAFFE AND THE PELLY AND ME
THE MAGIC FINGER
DIRTY BEASTS (with Quentin Blake)
THE ENORMOUS CROCODILE (with Quentin Blake)
THE GIRAFFE AND THE PELLY AND ME (with Quentin Blake)
THE MINPINS (with Patrick Benson)
REVOLTING RHYMES (with Quentin Blake)
THE BFG: PLAYS FOR CHILDREN (Adapted by David Wood)
CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY: A PLAY (Adapted by Richard George)
DANNY THE CHAMPION OF THE WORLD: PLAYS FOR CHILDREN (Adapted by David Wood)
FANTASTIC MR FOX: A PLAY (Adapted by Sally Reid)
JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH: A PLAY (Adapted by Richard George)
THE TWITS: PLAYS FOR CHILDREN (Adapted by David Wood)
THE WITCHES: PLAYS FOR CHILDREN (Adapted by David Wood)
THE GREAT AUTOMATIC GRAMMATIZATOR AND OTHER STORIES
SKIN AND OTHER STORIES
THE VICAR OF NIBBLESWICKE
THE WONDERFUL STORY OF HENRY SUGAR AND SIX MORE
THE ROALD DAHL TREASURY
SONGS AND VERSE
That year - 1946 - winter was a long time going. Although it was April, a freezing wind blew through the streets of the city, and overhead the snow clouds moved across the sky.
The old man who was called Drioli shuffled painfully along the sidewalk of the rue de Rivoli. He was cold and miserable, huddled up like a hedgehog in a filthy black coat, only his eyes and the top of his head visible above the turned-up collar.
The door of a cafe opened and the faint whiff of roasting chicken brought a pain of yearning to the top of his stomach. He moved on glancing without any interest at the things in the shop windows - perfume, silk ties and shirts, diamonds, porcelain, antique furniture, finely bound books. Then a picture gallery. He had always liked picture galleries. This one had a single canvas on display in the window. He stopped to look at it. He turned to go on. He checked, looked back; and now, suddenly, there came to him a slight uneasiness, a movement of the memory, a distant recollection of something, somewhere, he had seen before. He looked again. It was a landscape, a clump of trees leaning madly over to one side as if blown by a tremendous wind, the sky swirling and twisting all around. Attached to the frame there was a little plaque, and on this it said: CHAIM SOUTINE (1894-1943).
Drioli stared at the picture, wondering vaguely what there was about it that seemed familiar. Crazy painting, he thought. Very strange and crazy - but I like it ... Chaim Soutine ... Soutine ... 'By God!' he cried suddenly. 'My little Kalmuck, that's who it is! My little Kalmuck with a picture in the finest shop in Paris! Just imagine that!'
The old man pressed his face closer to the window. He could remember the boy - yes, quite clearly he could remember him. But when? The rest of it was not so easy to recollect. It was so long ago. How long? Twenty - no, more like thirty years, wasn't it? Wait a minute. Yes - it was the year before the war, the first war, 1913. That was it. And this Soutine, this ugly little Kalmuck, a sullen brooding boy whom he had liked - almost loved - for no reason at all that he could think of except that he could paint.
And how he could paint! It was coming back more clearly now - the street, the