To most he was a brilliant author of seminal kids books and short stories; creator of chocolate factories and witches and fantastic foxes and unexpected tales. However, to me the guy is just a plain, up and down fatherhood wrecker of the highest order. Frankly, he’s made any enjoyment of fatherhood very difficult indeed by raising the model of fatherdom to near unattainable proportions.
Exhibit A: Fantastic Mr Fox
OK, so you’re right that a man who feels jealous of a fox isn’t perhaps much of a man but how the hell am I ever going to be able to cock-a-snook at authority figures in the way that Mr Fox does..? From a position of almost certain death he somehow conspires to get his own back on his enemies (showing them enough compassion to not resort to their murderous tactics), show his kids the exciting time of their lives, provide his family and friends with a feast the like of which they have never seen, and have a vision of a utopian underground community where all are equal and none will go hungry. And he does all this in about two hours. I mean, give me a frickin’ break here Roald, how the hell can I live with that..?
Exhibit B: Danny Champion of the World’s Dad
This guy really makes my skin crawl. He’s basically a layabout who vicariously lives through his doe-eyed boy. He’s a mechanic right but he doesn’t seem to do much work does he..? He’d rather hang out with his son making up stories about the countryside and nature and saying things like 'let's go fly a kite' and then be able to make the kite out of a few twigs and an old blue shirt and everything would be blissful and perfect. He really makes me sick and to top it off he uses his poor son as an accomplice for drugging and kidnap. But my son, and thousands of other little boys, think this guy is an absolute hero. Jeez.
Exhibit C: Roald Dahl himself
My son Joe was giving a compendium of Dahl’s work for his birthday. The introduction is by Roald Dahl’s daughter and in it she gives a little glimpse as to the kind of father he was. I was given this to read by my wife who passed it to me while wiping a tear from her eye and telling me it was the most wonderful thing she had read. Here's a small extract.
“He was always open to the possibility of an adventure. Even when he drove us to the school bus in the morning we would take a detour to follow a fire engine with sirens wailing.”
I could do that, I thought to myself after putting the book down. Next chance I get, I’ll take a detour from where we should be going and follow a fire engine. The boys will love it, we’ll laugh excitedly about the adventure we’ll be enjoying. I’ll be a hero, I’ll remodel myself as a father in the image of Roald Dahl.
A week or so later I got my chance. We were on our way to the shops, I saw an ambulance with sirens blazing. I sped off after it in hot pursuit shouting, ‘we’re off on an adventure’ over my shoulder to the boys in the back. Thinking about it now I could have shouted this in a bit more of an exciting way and a bit less of a weird way. As I accelerated, a car pulled out in front of me, I braked hard and cursed loudly at the driver in front. The ambulance sped off out of sight and both my sons burst into tears. It was a very demoralising three minutes.
I'll see you in hell Roald Dahl.