The Villains Of Roald Dahl’s Worlds

In an interview with Donald Sturrock, Roald Dahl once said, “I go down to my little hut, where it’s tight and dark and warm, and within minutes I can go back to being six or seven or eight in.”

And that is exactly why we love Dahl — for his ability to get childhood exactly right. It’s a scary world out there, and tall people with bad facial hair and even worse attitudes tend to run the show, which makes life especially frightening to those of us who are less colossal or hirsute. In honor of the English novelist’s recent birthday, we present a group of memorable villains from his children’s stories.

10) The Enormous Crocodile in…”The Enormous Crocodile”

Okay, this one is simple. It’s an ENORMOUS CROCODILE. Do you really think this thing isn’t going to try and devour you? He even advertises that his aim is to eat children while tramping through the forest one day. (No, we don’t know why he’s in a forest. Just go with it?) His skin is scaly, his nails are long, and his appetite is insatiable. For payback, check out Roald Dahl’s Revolting Recipes in order to discover how to eat such a vile animal.

9) Veruca Salt from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”

Oh, Veruca. You’re the worst! Your shrill, incessant demands are always taken seriously by the adults around you, which has made you a very spoiled little girl. “I want it now” cannot be made into a song, darling, trust us. It’s just bad manners. Charlie is the last child standing in the end, which means he, the meek product of a ramshackle two-room home, will inherit Wonka’s wonderful chocolate factory and not Veruca. How do you like them apples, Ms. Salt?

8) Mr. Victor Hazell from “Danny, the Champion of the World”

Mr. Victor Hazell is a terrible landlord and a complete snob who owns a vast English estate and picks on Danny, a child, for no good reason. Mr. Hazell is also really into hosting pheasant-shooting parties, which is just weird. Our last complaint against the man is that he’s way too into guarding his forest against looters — maybe he should charge less rent and people wouldn’t be trying to poach pheasants off his land in order to survive. Just a thought.

7) Boggis, Bunce, and Bean from “Fantastic Mr. Fox”

This dastardly trio monopolize the market on ducks, chickens, and turkeys in this cautionary tale of greed and revenge. After the farmers try to “smoke ’em out” of his home, Mr. Fox digs a tunnel with his family and hides deep underground. At this point, Mr. Fox, a cunning thief, tunnels into each of their coops, storerooms, and cellars in order to raid the place and feed his hungry family and friends while the ignorant, vengeful trio keeps watch above ground in the pouring rain. It’s not for nothing that the song goes, “Boggis and Bunce and Bean, One fat, one short, one lean, These horrible crooks, So different in looks, Were nonetheless equally mean.”

6) Mr. Wormwood from “Matilda”

Matilda’s father is described in the book as a “small ratty looking man” who wears garish checkered suits that are likely made of polyester. He often boasts to Matilda about the fact that he is so good at swindling his customers at his used car lot, where the markup is astronomically high, and he absolutely hates all forms of reading. The man is a bully and a total rube.

5) Fleshlumpeater from “The BFG

The Fleshlumpeater is one of nine giants in the book, and he’s the baddest of the bad by far. He’s twice as large as the BFG and a thousand times meaner, but in the end he’ll get his comeuppance. Enjoy your snozzcumbers, sucker!

4) Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge from “James and the Giant Peach”

James’ aunts, Spiker and Sponge, are a comically-paired duo, though they would not find their differences something to laugh about at all. In fact, they both believe they are breathtakingly gorgeous, even though the larger of the two wears horrible baby doll dresses and the other is some sort of rail-thin gothic horror. At one point, a very plump Aunt Sponge even says, “Just feast your eyes upon my face, observe my shapely nose. Behold my heavenly silky locks, and if I take off both my socks, you’ll see my dainty toes.” James, we pity you.

3) Mr. and Mrs. Twit from “The Twits”

“What a lot of hairy-faced men one sees nowadays.” The Twits are a hirsute, smelly, filthy, and brutish couple who are perfect for each other. They enjoy devising calculated acts of cruelty toward animals, and absolutely hate small children. What is wrong with these people?

2) The Grand High Witch from “The Witches”

The Grand High Witch is the scariest, most powerful witch in all the world, and her mission is to get rid of human children — either by trapping them in paintings, turning them into rodents, or other equally frightening methods. She’s aided by a legion of bald-headed baddies who are often seen wearing gloves and pearls. Dahl’s 1983 children’s book sparked a controversy among some sensitive souls over the fact that all of the evildoers were female. In an interview Dahl said, “I do not wish to speak badly about women. Most women are lovely. But the fact remains that all witches are women.”

1) Miss Agatha Trunchbull from “Matilda

The headmistress at Crunchem Hall Primary School is a holy terror; the tall, sweatshirt-wearing, “big-boned” administrator doesn’t hesitate to swing girls by their braids or lock someone in a small, glass-filled cupboard affectionately named “the Chokey.” With one look, she can strike fear into the hearts of all the children at Matilda’s school. Only a heartless, megalomaniac villain would utter the command, “In this classroom, in this school, I am God!”

Books For Children With A New Sibling On The Way

Many parents want good books to read to their child or children before the new baby arrives. Now here is a list of some family favorites.

Best-Ever Big Sister and Best-Ever Big Brother by Karen Katz are fun books for very small big siblings. Delightfully illustrated, lift-the-flap books. They are perfect for big sisters or brothers, ages 1 – 3. Grosset & Dunlap. $5.99

I’m a Big Sister and I’m a Big Brother by Joanna Cole are good small books for small big siblings that provides some information about babies and reassurance that busy new parents still will have time for the big sibling. Each book ends with a note to parents about how to help their older child adjust to his or her new role. Ages 2 – 5. HarperCollins. $6.99.

I Used to be the Baby by Robin Ballard is a good book for a young child who is or will soon become a big brother or sister (perhaps more appropriate for a big brother since the narrator of the book is a boy). The big brother talks about sharing with his baby, but he also notes that sometimes he still likes to be the baby too. And in a loving family, that’s not a problem! Ages 1 to 3. Greenwillow Books. $17.99

There’s Going to be a Baby by John Burningham and Helen Oxenbury. This is a wonderful book for big siblings to be who have questions about the new baby. John Burningham’s story, beautifully illustrated by his wife Helen Oxenbury, follows the questions likely to be in the mind of a young child anticipating a baby sibling with excitement and perhaps a bit of trepidation. A good book for ages 2 to 5. Candlewick Press. $16.99

What Sisters Do Best/What Brothers Do Best by Laura Numeroff. This is a wonderful flip book by a renowned author-illustrator team that celebrates all the wonderful things that brothers and sisters can do together. After reading what sisters do best, you can flip the book over and enjoy the story from the brother’s perspective! This is a fun follow-up to the best selling What Mommies Do Best/What Daddies Do Best and What Grandmas Do Best/What Grandpas Do Best. Ages 2 to 5. Chronicle Books. $15.99

I’m Going to be a Big Sister by Brenda Bercun. This book has stories designed to help prepare older siblings for the arrival of a new baby. By providing discussion prompts, the books help give parents the language needed to speak to their older children about the new arrival. These colorful tales are designed to help prepare older siblings for the arrival of a new baby brother or sister.The books (there is also a second book, I’m Going to be a Big Brother) provide descriptions of what it means to be a big sister or brother. The books also have tip sheets that summarize hints for supporting the older child, and an accompanying musical CD that has catch tunes that emphasize the special bond between brothers and sisters. Ages 3 to 5. Nurturing Your Child Press. $15.95

How to be a Baby by Me, the Big Sister and Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sue Heap. This book, written by the big sister, is one of my favorite big sibling books. Big sister knows a lot about babies, like (1) babies don’t read books, they eat them, (2) babies don’t carry backpacks, they go in them; and (3) babies don’t have any teeth at all! But when her baby grows up, she’ll be taller and smarter and big sister will be baby’s best friend! The book has wonderful illustrations and is fun (and funny) to read. Ages 2-5. Schwartz & Wade Books. $16.99

Big Sister Now: A Story About Me and Our New Baby (Also Big Brother Now…)by Annette Sheldon. I like these two books written by preschool specialist and librarian Sheldon. They are particularly good for older siblings who may have some jealousy issues with their younger brother or sister. A note at the end of the book by psychologist and author Jane Annunziata provides guidance on preparing the whole family for the arrival of a new baby, both before and after birth. Ages 2 – 6. Magination Press. $9.95

Once Upon a Baby Brother by Sarah Sullivan is a good book for slightly older siblings (ages 5 – 8). Lizzie loves to make up stories and tell them to everyone, but now that her baby brother, Marvin, has arrived, the only person in the family that has time to listen to her is George, the dog. She’s so full of ideas that it seems like nothing can stop her, but then something does. Lizzie finds inspiration where she least expects it in this delightfully funny book. Ages 5 – 8. Farrar Straus Giroux. $16.99

The Big Sibling Book is a journal by Amy Krouse Rosenthal to help your firstborn get psyched about becoming a big sibling! Organized chronologically, this journal is designed to help prepare your child for the new arrival with interviews, sticker activities, and pages for recording Baby’s first. The end result is a precious two-in-one keepsake that captures Baby’s first year and the unique perspective of the new big kid in the family. A great activity book for big siblings, ages 2 – 6 (with a little help from their parents). Random House. $16.99

A Baby Sister for Frances is a really sweet book about a new baby written by the author of Bread and Jam for Frances. When the new baby arrives, no one pays much attention to Frances anymore—at least that’s what Frances thinks. So Frances decides to run away—just far enough so she can hear how much she’ll be missed. This is another wonderful story about this well-loved family of badgers. Ages 4 – 8. HarperTrophy. $6.99

Michael and his New Baby Brother is part of the Helping Hand Books by Sarah, Duchess of York. In this book Michael is not excited when his parents tell him they are expecting a new baby. But, as his parents help him understand what it means to be a big brother, Michael begins to look forward to baby Daniel’s arrival. This is a good book for a boy, ages 4 to 8, who will soon have a baby brother. Sterling. $7.95

Big Sister and Little Sister by Charlotte Zolotow is a lovely story about a little sister who wanders off to be alone and gets lost. Luckily, her big sister comes searching for her, but she can’t find her anywhere. When she finally finds her, she wipes her tears away and they both realize they share a special bond. A good book for siblings, ages 4 – 8. HarperTrophy. $6.99.

Big Sister, Little Sister by Leuyen Pham is another wonderful picture book celebrating the special relationship between two sisters. This is a good book for siblings, ages 4 – 8. Hyperion Books. $15.99