Review: “The Witches” & “The BFG” by Roald Dahl

For the love of books

The Witches and The BFG profess Roald Dahl’s fascination with magic and the unknown.

In The Witches, the author describes the striking characteristics of witches, noting that they are truly “demons in human form” and that they hate children.  Dahl innocently remarks that all witches look like women, not men.  Dahl’s protagonist is the narrator of the story, a young boy who is nameless throughout the novel.  Dahl’s Norwegian roots are fondly acknowledged in the narrator’s heritage and his fluency in Norwegian and English.  Witches’ tricks and malignancies are exposed through his grandmother’s personal experiences.  Her grandson, i.e. the narrator, comes across witches himself, and his life is permanently changed when he accidently finds himself in the midst of one of their infamous meetings.  This novel by Dahl has a darker, more serious tone than some of his other works.  Although it is satirical, its content is very credible.

The BFG deals with another subject in the realm of fantasy: giants.  When Sophie, an orphan, is kidnapped by a giant, she enters a world she never imagined to be in existence.  Living in a unique landscape, Sophie’s kidnapper, the BFG (which stands for “Big Friendly Giant”), must hide in his cave to escape the attention of his foul “brethren,” the man-eating giants.  The BFG is a self-proclaimed “vegetarian,” and he quietly attends to his work, which is catching dreams with the power of his enormous ears.  Dahl’s admiration for Charles Dickens is demonstrated in the literacy of the BFG by the use of Dicken’s novel, Nicholas Nickleby, as the BFG’s “textbook.”  The discussions and arguments between Sophie and the BFG are actually philosophical in their simple way.  Sophie’s adamant defense of Queen Elizabeth II expresses Dahl’s patriotic sympathies toward England.  In both novels, the author makes it clear to the reader that even non-magical goodness can triumph over evil in all its forms.

Original review: Part 3: The best of Roald Dahl in children’s literature, Examiner.com

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