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!”