Roald Dahl

September 13, 1916, was the day Harald and Sofie Dahl, two Norwegian immigrants living in Wales, had their first son, a boy they named Roald. Even before birth Roald was supposed to be endowed with great sense of beauty, courtesy of his father. Harald Dahl, a thriving ship broker in Cardiff, possessed a great aesthetic sense; wishing to instill this in his children, Harald encouraged his wife to go for long walks along the most beautiful trails in the Welsh countryside, hoping the magnificence of nature would seep through to the brain of the unborn child (Dahl, Boy 18-19).
The death of Harald Dahl when Roald was four had a devastating effect on the boy. Although he was very young, Dahl said that the loss of his father was the end of his happy childhood days (Treglown 5), and that in his adulthood he often searched for a paternal figure to compensate for the deficit of a father in his youth (20). Sofie Dahl, although grief-stricken by the death of her husband, was determined to provide a steady foundation for her children, refusing to relocate from Wales back home to Norway with her parents (Howard 1). She did steep the children in Scandinavian customs, though, teaching them the language of Norway, and instilling them with a love for all things Norwegian instead of those English. Mark West contends that this contributed to the detached attitude Dahl had for England and the feelings of isolation he experienced throughout his life (2).
Regardless of the impact his Norwegian upbringing would have on his future, Dahl wrote in Boy that the most idyllic days of his youth were spent during the summers he, his mother, and his sisters would visit Sofie\'s parents, Betsepapa and Betsemama, in Norway (53-74). "The summer holidays! Those magic words! The mere mention of them used to send shivers of joy rippling over my skin" (Dahl, Boy 53). Although these annual forays to Norway were enjoyable for Dahl and his siblings, and they helped to alleviate Sofie\'s grief, she always regretted that her son would not have a father. She could do little to ameliorate the situation except carry out her husband\'s dying wish: he wanted his children to attend English public schools, which he thought were the best in the world (Howard 1). Consequently, at the age of six, while the annual journeys to Norway did not cease, Dahl embarked upon a new phase of his life: formal schooling.
The commencement of this "awful process" of the boy\'s civilization began at Elmtree House, a school located in Llandaff, the small village the Dahls moved to after Harald\'s death. The institution was Welsh, not English, though; Sofie Dahl felt that she wasn\'t quite ready yet to move to England with a brood of small children (Howard 1). After a year at Elmtree House, Dahl\'s mother decided the time had come for him to go to a "proper boy\'s school," (Dahl, Boy 27) and enrolled him in Llandaff Cathedral School, a preparatory school under the auspices of Llandaff cathedral, at the age of seven.
Dahl\'s days at Llandaff would have been rather unremarkable if not for the presence of a candy shop on his route to and from school (Dahl, Boy 28-29). Each day he and four of his friends would stop at the shop on their way home, and in Boy he describes how central it was to their lives: "To us, it was what a bar is to a drunk, or a church is to a Bishop" (33). Unfortunately, their happy candy days ended when Dahl was nine with the Great Mouse Plot, a practical joke which, he boasts in Boy, came from his mind and his mind alone (35). It involved the boys putting a dead mouse into a jar of Gobstoppers to frighten Mrs. Pratchett, the irascible candy shop owner. She reported the perpetrators to Mr. Coombes, the Llandaff headmaster, and he gave each four solid whacks on the rear with a cane, with the ghastly Mrs. Pratchett egging him on (46-51). This incident, Dahl\'s first negative experience with adults, prompted Sofie Dahl to withdraw him from Llandaff at the end of the summer semester and enroll him in St. Peter\'s, a boarding school for boys