Author, fighter pilot, spy: The life of Roald Dahl

By: Maria Trimarchi

Which of Dahl's children's books was the first to be published?

The first of the children's books he wrote was "The Gremlins" in 1943.

What was the topic of Dahl's very first published piece, in 1942?

In 1942, when he was 26, Dahl published an account of his wartime experiences with the Royal Air Force.

How tall was Roald Dahl?

Dahl was tall -- 6 feet, 6 inches.

Upon graduating from Repton School in Repton, Derbyshire, England, where did Dahl begin working?

After graduation, Dahl went to work for Shell Oil.

Dahl could speak Swahili. Where did he learn it?

While employed by Shell Oil, Dahl was sent abroad to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Into which branch of the British Armed Forces did Dahl enlist?

In 1939 Dahl enlisted in the Royal Air Force and served as a pilot in World War II.

It took Dahl about 6 months to recover from the injuries he received when his Gloster Gladiator, a biplane fighter, crashed where during World War II?

Dahl's Gladiator crashed in the Western Desert (western Egypt and eastern Libya), in North Africa, during World War II.

After being severely injured in the plane crash, where was Dahl assigned as an attaché?

After recovering from his fighter plane crash in North Africa, Dahl was assigned as an air attaché in Washington, D.C.

When assigned to the Washington embassy, Dahl fell in with what covert organization set up by the British Intelligence Service?

British Intelligence collected intelligence and ran propaganda campaigns to gain American support under the British Security Coordination. In fact, they ran them right out of the 35th floor of the International Building at Rockefeller Center, where about 1,000 agents worked.

BSC officers -- which also included Ian Fleming and David Ogilvy -- were also known as what?

Dahl, along with others involved in BSC espionage, were known as The Irregulars.

Dahl acted as the minder for which writer, before he left to report on the D-Day invasion of Normandy?

Briefly in London, Dahl acted as minder for Ernest Hemingway, before Hemingway left for Normandy.

Which newspaper magnate was Dahl's mentor?

Newspaper magnate Charles Marsh was Dahl's mentor and friend.

Which magazine published many of his earlier stories?

It was Ladies’ Home Journal that published many of Dahl's early pieces.

To have a quiet place to write, in his backyard Dahl copied the writing shed of which poet?

Dahl copied Dylan Thomas’ writing shed, right down to the dimensions and decorations.

Which of his children's books wasn't written in his "little nest"?

"James and the Giant Peach" was written before Dahl set up his hut.

Which is not something Dahl kept on his desk?

Dahl had hard candy, foil wrappers, photos and other mementos, and his hip bone, which he kept after his hip replacement surgery.

Which is not a word invented by Dahl?

Fizzwiggler? Lickswishy? Uckyslush? You can thank Roald Dahl for those.

Dahl was known to begin his workday at what time?

Dahl would begin his writing day in his hut at 10 a.m.

How old was Dahl when he did most of his writing?

Dahl's writing really took off after he turned 40.

What sci-fi TV series did Dahl host in the early 1960s?

In 1961, Dahl hosted 14 episodes of a sci-fi/fantasy TV series called "Way Out."

In 1979 Dahl created which TV horror series?

Dahl hosted "Tales of the Unexpected," which aired on British television, beginning in 1979.

Which of his children's stories has been turned into a movie?

"James and the Giant Peach" (in 1996), "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (in 2006) and "The BFG" (in 2016) -- and more -- have hit the big screen.

Which was the first of Dahl's children's stories to be adapted for film?

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" hit the big screen in 1971 as "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," starring Gene Wilder. Dahl, whose adaptation was rewritten, didn't like the movie.

Dahl wrote the screenplay for which Bond film?

Roald Dahl wrote the screenplay for "You Only Live Twice," based, very loosely, on Ian Fleming's novel.

What other of Ian Fleming's books did Dahl adapt for the big screen?

Dahl, along with Ken Hughes (director), adapted Ian Fleming's 1964 novel "Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang: The Magical Car," into a movie.

Which actress who appeared in the 1961 film "Breakfast at Tiffany's" was married to Dahl for 30 years?

Actress Patricia Neal, who played Mrs. Emily Eustace "2E" Failenson in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," and Roald Dahl were married from 1953 to 1983.

Which movie, based on Joy Cowley's novel "Nest in a Fallen Tree," was adapted for the screen by Dahl and starred his then-wife Patricia Neal?

Released as "The Night Digger" to American audiences and "The Road Builder" in the U.K., the film was adapted by Dahl and starred Patricia Neal.

Who is the real-life BFG (Big Friendly Giant)?

Dahl's friend, snooker opponent and hut-builder Walter "Wally" Saunders was the real-life BFG.

What was the name of Roald Dahl's home in the village of Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire, England?

While these are all the homes of famous authors, Dahl's house was called "Gipsy House."

Which was Dahl's first adult novel to be published?

"Some Time Never: A Fable for Supermen," published in 1948, was the first of only two novels Dahl would write for adults (although he would write many short stories).

Which of Dahl's five children was diagnosed with hydrocephalus after his stroller was hit by a taxi in New York?

When just 4 months old, Dahl's son Theo's stroller was hit by a taxi.

Dahl was involved in inventing what neurosurgical device?

Motivated by the limited options available in his son's care, Dahl became involved in the invention and development of what became the Wade-Dahl-Till valve, a cerebral shunt used to treat hydrocephalus.

In 1962, at the age of 7, Dahl's daughter Olivia died from complications of what highly contagious infection?

Dahl's eldest daughter died from complications of measles: measles encephalitis. Dahl became a vocal advocate of the measles vaccine when it was introduced in 1963.

At age 74, Roald Dahl died of what kind of cancer?

Roald Dahl died from a form of leukemia called myelodysplastic syndrome.

When was the first Roald Dahl Day celebrated?

The first Roald Dahl Day took place on September 13, 2006.

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About This Quiz

What do witches, twits, and oompa loompas have in common with a handsome fighter pilot turned spy? Roald Dahl's imagination gave us marvelous -- and sometimes marvelously naughty -- characters, all from the seat of his wingback chair, with an old suitcase as a foot rest.

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