Roald Dahl is one of my favourite authors of all time. As a child I grew up reading his children’s fiction, then began to explore his adult works in the last few years. His short stories are possibly some of his best work, and at times are just pure genius.
So to celebrate Roald Dahl I have written a list of my five favourite short stories. Enjoy!
Lamb to the Slaughter
This is a fun little tale about devoted housewife Mary Maloney reacting to her husband giving her some bad news. The news is never said explicitly, but it’s safe to assume he plans on leaving her to raise their baby alone. Mrs Maloney proceeds to murder her husband, and manages to hide the murder weapon right under the noses of the investigating officers. This story is genius, pure and simple, and is one of my favourite works of fiction ever.
This is a story about a destitute ex-tattoo artist named Drioli reminiscing about a young painter supported before the outbreak of World War 1. During the flashback, both artists get very drunk and the painter is convinced to tattoo his work on Drioli’s back. Flash forward to the present, and Drioli finds himself at one of the painter’s exhibitions trying to convince patrons the work on his back is by the same artist. Several patrons then attempt to buy the work straight off his back, with Drioli finally accepting the offer of a seemingly kind man. The ending of this story is rather macabre, but possibly left open to some interpretation.
The Great Automatic Grammatizator
This story focuses on inventor Adolph Knipe looking for purpose after inventing a new mathematical computer. Knipe reasons that the rules of English grammar are governed by almost mathematical principles, and uses this theory to build a massive machine that is capable of writing award-winning novels in a very short amount of time. Knipe and his old boss go into business and attempt to buy out all of England’s successful writers. It turns out the story is written by a writer whom Knipe is attempting to buy out, and serves as a warning for any future recipients of the offer.
Set during the British rule of India, this story is set almost exclusively in the bedroom of protagonist Harry Pope. Harry believes a poisonous snake has crawled under his bedsheets and is lying on his stomach. Harry then sends his friend Timber Woods to fetch the local doctor, Ganderbai. As tension builds, Ganderbai works to try and remove the snake from Harry’s bed, only to find there was no snake there. The story then ends with Ganderbai attempting to lighten the mood by suggesting there was no snake, only to be met with Harry shouting many racial slurs. Timber attempts to diffuse the situation, but Ganderbai’s only reply is that Harry is in need of a long vacation.
Dip in the Pool
This story is set on a cruise ship that has its own betting pool, based on how many miles the ship will travel in a day. The protagonist, William Botibol, bets his entire savings on a “low pool” bid, hoping bad weather will slow the ship down. When he wakes up the next morning to find the weather is fair, William decides to cheat to slow the ship down. He decides to jump over the side of the ship so it is forced to turn around and save him. Before doing so, he makes conversation with an elderly woman whom he believes will raise the alarm. Little does he realise she is evidently suffering from dementia, and after he jumps overboard, she is not believed that a man is in the water. This is another very macabre tale from Dahl, but told with his usual dark humour.
These are my five favourite short stories by Roald Dahl, but there are so many more that are worth a read. I would recommend getting hold of several of his collected works, as there’s bound to be something in there for everyone. Thanks for reading!