It’s here, it’s here, Roald Dahl Day is here!! For a few years now I’ve talked about Roald Dahl Day, but this year is just a little more magical: today marks his 100th birthday. There are celebrations all over the world (sadly none near me!) and this year I wanted to do something different. Today I wanted to highlight three of Dahl’s adult stories.
LAMB TO THE SLAUGHTER, first published in 1953 in Harpers Magazine
Dahl loved his horror and his admiration of the genre is on full display here. Mary Malone spends her days taking care of the home she’s made with her husband Patrick, a detective on the local police force. One night he comes home and acts very strange, sitting in his chair and not saying a word, not wanting to go out for dinner (their usual Thursday night plan) and not wanting to have dinner at home either. Eventually he gives Mary startling news, although it’s never stated just what that news is (it’s hinted Patrick wants a divorce). Mary, just about ready to give birth at any moment, never suspected her husband was anything less than perfectly content with their marriage and does the unthinkable: she bashes him over the head with a leg of lamb and then proceeds to cook it, ultimately feeding it to the police officers who come to investigate Patrick’s sudden death.
Lamb to the Slaughter is one of Dahl’s more widely-known short stories and has been adapted for television twice: one episode of Alfred Hitchcock’s Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the second for Dahl’s own Tales of the Unexpected.
THE WISH, first published in 1953 in the collection Someone Like You
At just a handful of pages, this is an extremely short story about a little boy who wants a puppy for his birthday. In order to make that wish come true, however, he must first make it to the other side of the room while only stepping on the yellow bits of carpeting. When my siblings and I were little we would gather all of the couch cushions and arrange them on the floor and then jump from cushion to cushion – anyone who fell would fell into a fiery pit of lava and that’s basically what this little boy in this story is doing. The black designs on the carpet are long, winding rivers that’ll sweep him away and, instead of lava, there are poisonous snakes, their fangs ready to attack.
I had actually never heard of this story before until just a few years ago when I bought a short story collection. I tore through it in a matter of minutes and the very ambiguous ending hints that maybe there were poisonous snakes after all…
GENESIS AND CATASTROPHE: A TRUE STORY, first published in 1959 in Playboy
While I totally spoiled Lamb to the Slaughter, I absolutely refuse to do so here. Originally titled A Fine Boy, this story took me by surprise when I first read it and continues to be among my favorites. A woman has just given birth and demands to know whether or not the baby is alright, how big is he, why did he stop crying, etc. As the doctor soon discovers, the woman’s heightened state of panic comes from losing three children within a matter of months. This new baby, a little boy, cannot be small and weak like the others; her husband wants strapping heirs. Eventually the husband comes into the room and the doctor and nurse both beg him to be compassionate toward his wife and new child. In the end he relents and the chill upon the realization of the gravity of the situation still gets to me.
This story was also adapted for Raold Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected and in 2000 it was made into a short film!