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Roald Dahl’s Most Memorable Villains

The Witches 1st edition cover art.

Last Tuesday, September 13, would have been author Roald Dahl’s 95th birthday. To honor the icon of children’s literature, Flavorwire posted an article listing ten of the writer’s best villains. Some nasty all-stars made the cut, such as the repulsive aunt Spiker and aunt Sponge, who torment the orphan James in James and the Giant Peach. Miss Agatha Trunchbull, the sadistic headmistress in Matilda, also topped the list. Some lesser known, but equally cruel, baddies rounded out the top ten, including the disgustingly hairy couple from The Twits and the Grand High Witch from The Witches, all of whom absolutely detest small children. Who is your favorite villain in the Roald Dahl catalog?

In a strange turn of events last week, members of Dahl’s own family are being accused of villainy, or at least stinginess, after granddaughter Sophie Dahl made a public plea to help raise £500,000 ($790,000) to save the novelist’s writing hut on British radio. The U.K., like most of the world, is suffering from a weak economy and members of the public responded with outrage that a family that still reaps the royalties from the healthy sales of Dahl’s books are asking for financial help.

No one is arguing that the decrepit writing hut, where the author churned out beloved stories for 30 years, should not be restored and relocated to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. The sticking point is about who should foot the bill. Why should the public dig into its threadbare pockets when, as stated in The Guardian, Dahl’s books “continue to sell at the rate of 12 a minute every day of the year”? Many are asking why the book profits can’t cover the costs.

Director of Dahl’s literary estate and chairman of the Roald Dahl Museum, Amanda Conquy, is focusing on the benefit of the “Save the Hut campaign“, rather than the funding controversy. “Some people are asking me questions which are not centred on the real good news, that the contents of the hut are going to be preserved and people will be able to see them,” she states. Conquy also emphasizes that the Dahl family has already donated funds to the project, and that fundraising efforts will be primarily directed at educational trusts, not the general public.

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