Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Roald Dahl's Boy



by Seattle Jon (bio)

I recently finished the wonderfully short and sweet book Boy by Roald Dahl in which he describes his childhood up to age eighteen. For those of you not familiar with Dahl, he is the author of such classics as James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Matilda (as well as the screenplay for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, one of my family's favorites) and has been called one of the greatest storytellers for children of the 20th century. Here are two excerpts from the book I found especially heart-warming.

Speaking of his father, Harald, Dahl writes,

"He harboured a curious theory about how to develop a sense of beauty in the minds of his children. Every time my mother became pregnant, he would wait until the last three months of her pregnancy and then he would announce to her that 'the glorious walks' must begin. These glorious walks consisted of him taking her to places of great beauty in the countryside and walking with her for about an hour each day so she could absorb the splendour of the surroundings. His theory was that if the eye of a pregnant woman was constantly observing the beauty of nature, this beauty would somehow become transmitted to the mind of the unborn baby within her womb and that baby would grow up to be a lover of beautiful things. This was the treatment that all of his children received before they were born."

Are we developing a sense of beauty in the minds of our children? If so, how?

Speaking of his first boarding school experience, Dahl writes,

"The first miserable homesick night at St. Peter's, when I curled up in bed and the lights were put out, I could think of nothing but our house at home and my mother and my sisters. Where were they? I asked myself. In which direction from where i was lying was Llandaff? I began to work it out and it wasn't difficult to do this because I had the Bristol Channel to help me. If I looked out of the dormitory window I could see the Channel itself, and the big city of Cardiff with Llandaff alongside it lay almost directly across the water but slightly to the north. Therefore, if I turned towards the window I would be facing home. I wriggled round in my bed and faced my home and my family. From then on, during all the time I was at St. Peter's, I never went to sleep with my back to my family. Different beds in different dormitories required the working out of new directions, but the Bristol Channel was always my guide and I was always able to draw an imaginary line from my bed to our house over in Wales. Never once did I go to sleep looking away from my family. It was a great comfort to do this."

Do our children feel loved and comforted when they face their family? If not, why?

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