Let’s remember one of Cardiff’s significant figures who helped shape our city’s creative history.  Roald Dahl, was born in Llandaff, Cardiff on the 13th of September 1916. A beloved children’s author who changed the way we tell stories. Dahl’s books have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide and is regarded as one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century. 

Credit: Ronald Dumont / Hulton Archive / GETTY

His first novel success story was James and the Giant Peach, published in 1961. Followed by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964), Fantastic Mr Fox (1970), The BFG (1982) and Matilda in 1988; all of which have been immortalised on screen, some more than once. Most recent was the third adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Wonka (2023); starring Timothee Chalamet, Hugh Grant and Olivia Coleman. Roald Dahl’s work continues to inspire creatives every day to add their personal style to his distinctive stories.

It’s hard to imagine Roald Dahl before his success but his first publication, The Gremlins (1943), written for the Walt Disney Company, was largely unsuccessful. In writing his first book, Dahl drew on his own experience as a Royal Air Force pilot during the Second World War. The Gremlins story was inspired by tales of mischievous creatures who were part of RAF folklore. Roald Dahl’s stories are impactful, passionate and truly unique. His imaginative words and unforgettable humour leave an impression on readers, no matter their age. He reflected on his own life experiences and angled them through a lens children could enjoy; the farce and slapstick. Although Dahl wrote stories and poems as a hobby for most of his life, his career successfully took off when he was nearing fifty years old. His passion and talent for storytelling is a reminder that age is no boundary and you should continue to pursue your dreams because you never know who you might inspire. 

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Dahl’s imaginative stories have continued to inspire creatives of all ages, most notably Hollywood director Wes Anderson. Anderson has long been a fan of Roald Dahl’s imaginative, whimsical storytelling and longs to continue reimagining his words onto the screen. You may have seen Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) or most recently, his series of four short films (The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, The Swan, The Rat Catcher & Poison) adapted from Dahl’s 1977 short story collection, all of which you can watch on Netflix. In these short stories we see the marvellous mind of Wes Anderson combined with the whimsical words of Roald Dahl. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (2023) is one I particularly recommend! Ralph Fiennes plays the role of Roald Dahl, narrating the story and giving us a glimpse into his famous writing hut, where Dahl wrote most of his stories. If you are a fan of Roald Dahl’s or simply want to broaden your horizons, I cannot recommend this short film enough. 

Roald Dahl’s legacy can be celebrated by Cardiff locals and tourists alike by visiting Roald Dahl Plass – a public space in Cardiff Bay, in the heart of our city’s performing arts centre and home to several open-air concerts and events throughout the year. A stroll away from Roald Dahl Plass, you’ll find Cardiff’s Norwegian Church where Roald spent his childhood when it was at its original location in the Docks. He and his siblings were all baptised there and Roald later donated to help restore the church to its original state. 

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Don’t forget to celebrate Roald Dahl Day on September 13th! On Dahl’s 100th birthday in 2016, Cardiff hosted several themed events to celebrate his stories, from a giant peach rolling through the city centre to a tightrope walking Fantastic Mr Fox over Cardiff Castle. 

Written by Film Probe


Author WCS

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