Roald Dahl — Redefining Childhood!

Re-reading one of the funniest authors on #RoaldDahlDay.

Radhika Ghosh
2 min readSep 13, 2023

Moving beyond Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was hard. Quite hard. It is not easy to stop obsessing over all those books that have shaped your childhood experiences. Apart from my allegiance towards Enid Blyton, Ruskin Bond and Mark Twain, the only other author who made my dreary school days fun and exciting was Roald Dahl, the master storyteller.

But as days rolled on and childhood bade a sad goodbye, my preferences changed as I picked up books for the ‘grown-ups’. However, with life coming to a full circle, today, I am an avid admirer of children’s literature with a special interest in illustrated books. So, on #RoaldDahlDay, I chose to read The Magic Finger — a funny, little book by the celebrated author.

While much has been going on over rewriting his books to eliminate the ‘offensive language’ as per the recommendations of sensitivity readers, going back to this book filled me with charm and an inexplicable pleasure.

Told from the perspective of an unnamed narrator, the book revolves around the funny incidents that the Gregg family encounters when one day, they suddenly turn into ducks!

What follows is the hilarious journey of Mr. and Mrs. Gregg along with their sons Philip and William, as they replicate the typical activities of a bird — from building nests to spending nights on treetops in stormy weather.

The perfect cocktail of humour and fantasy, the book conveys a significant message which stands relatable even today and that is to stand for nature. The author deftly but subtly handles the themes of environmental degradation and the need for conservation and also portrays the futuristic picture of nature taking over humans and disrupting everything man-made or artificial.

The book ends on a funny note but like most of Dahl’s stories, it leaves us with the feeling of wanting to know more and experience the exuberance and idiosyncratic happenings that are so typical of Dahl’s worldbuilding. The controversy and the fierce debate regarding reworking his stories may die down one day, but his wit, innocence and authorial excellence will always continue to amaze me.