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It's a Fantastic Mr Dahl tribute

To mark what would have been Roald Dahl's 100th birthday, a BBC documentary explores one of literature's best-loved imaginations

By Staff Reporter

The final lines in Roald Dahl's last children's book The Minpins are "those who don't believe in magic, will never find it" - and the literary legend certainly lived by his word.

Injecting a sparkle into all who encountered his work, the late author would have celebrated his 100th birthday this September. A whole host of programmes and events have been scheduled to commemorate the anniversary ... not to mention the release of Steven Spielberg's big-screen adaptation of The BFG.

On the small screen, BBC Two's documentary The Marvellous World of Roald Dahl is set to delve into the writer's life.

Here are some facts about the much-adored children's writer.

1 Born on September 13, 1916, in Llandaff, Cardiff, to Norwegian parents Harald and Sofie, Dahl - named after the Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen - grew up speaking Norwegian as his first language.

2 At seven years old, he was sent to The Cathedral School, Llandaff, where he was caned for putting a dead mouse in a jar of gobstoppers at the now-infamous Mrs Pratchett's sweet shop.

3 He later attended Repton School in Derbyshire, where Dahl developed a fascination with chocolate (each term, the students would be sent a box of 12 Cadbury chocolate bars to test). It was this that inspired his delicious tale, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

4 Dahl famously criticised the 1971 movie adaptation of the book (Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory), in particular believing Gene Wilder's version of Willy Wonka to be too "pretentious" and "bouncy" and not nearly eccentric enough.

5 In 1939, he enlisted in the RAF. A year after being discharged in 1941, he was posted to the British Embassy in Washington DC as an assistant air attache. Here, he encountered his hero, writer C S Forester, which led to the publication of his first short story, Shot Down Over Libya (also known as A Piece of Cake).

6 Dahl also supplied intelligence, working as a spy (although he preferred not to call it that) for Winston Churchill. It was in this role that he met Ian Fleming, who went on to write the James Bond novels - hence Dahl penning the screenplay for You Only Live Twice in 1967.

7 His first children's book (although its audience is disputed) was The Gremlins in 1943. Despite collaborating with Walt Disney to make it into a film, the production was never finished.

8 At 6ft 6ins tall and with striking looks, Dahl enjoyed dalliances with American models and actresses, including Ginger Rogers. He married Oscar-winning actress Patricia Neal in 1953 and they went on to have five children. They eventually divorced in 1983 and Dahl remarried, to Felicity Crosland.

9 Dahl cited his wife's mixed up words as the reasoning behind the outlandish vocabulary, Gobblefunk, in The BFG.

10 Dahl loved the countryside, and credits it for inspiring one of his best-loved creations, Danny The Champion Of The World, which he wrote in a gypsy wagon in his back garden. Fantastic Mr Fox, also, was partly inspired by a tree that grew outside his home.

11 The birthplace of Dahl's most-loved work, however, was his humble writing hut - aka a shed at the bottom of his garden with his own hip bone for a door handle.

12 Many of Dahl's characters were born during bedtime stories. The BFG was originally the star of a bedtime story told to Danny (Champion of the World), and when he came to giving the character his own book, he named the little girl in the story after his first grandchild, Sophie (Dahl; the author and former model).

13 A typical day for Dahl included two hours of writing, from 10am until noon, a bet on the horses, a nap, and a two-hour writing session in the afternoon.

14 Dahl died in 1990, aged 74. He is buried in Great Missenden with some HB pencils, chocolate and red wine.

The Marvellous World of Roald Dahl, BBC Two, today, 8pm

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