by Roald Dahl
Now here’s a book that had a mighty big influence on me. I remembered it very well. Especially the idea of mixing dreams or collecting dreams – that’s still a very powerful concept in my mind.
So, compared to the two shorter works I’ve read, this one begins with a lovely mysterious atmosphere, and well, I’ll just quote it for you:
“Perhaps, she told herself, this was what they called the witching hour.
The witching hour, somebody had once whispered to her, was a special moment in the middle of the night when every child and every grown-up was in a deep deep sleep, and all the dark things came out from hiding and had the world to themselves” (Dahl, 10).
Isn’t that delicious? There’s something mysterious and dangerous about this witching hour. It’s a time when no one should be awake; it’s a time when the unexpected and unusual can happen.
It’s at this time of night that Sophie sees the BFG (although she doesn’t know his name or that he’s harmless for his twenty-four foot height).
And can I just say I adore Sophie? She’s so sensible and polite and, well, righteously determined to stop the other giants from guzzling up children every night. Although some of my feelings probably stem from the fact that she has thick lens and I relate to that.
Compared to Dahl’s other stories that I’ve read over my life, this one’s chock-full of nonsense words. I’m not sure if they’re supposed to actually mean anything (since Sophie makes a point of asking which of them the BFG means) or if…well, no they obviously mean something. Anyway there are quite a lot of them.
In the same pattern as James and the Giant Peach (I love that book), the author of the book is actually a character in the book.
With that said, I’d like to say that the BFG was a pretty fascinating character. He can hear dreams and catches them to blow into the windows of children. He gets his words mixed up. And while he dislikes how the other giants eat human beans* (to quote the BFG), he points out shortcoming in humans, too. But most of all, he has a completely different perspective that challenges what Sophie knows.
There’s some strange word play and racial assumptions about what different human beans taste like. And there was one chapter that was mostly Sophie reading the BFG’s labels for his dreams and it kind of dragged. Also, I was a bit annoyed that most of the dream labels she read were boy dreams, and in particular that there were only girl dreams and boy dreams. What about someone who’s neither or somewhere between?
It was decent overall. I felt the middle dragged (as I said already with the dream labels) and the connection between Sophie arriving and the decision to make a dream for the Queen of England seemed sudden.
I did feel that there were lots of bouts of talking about how terrible the other giants were and how they eat children, as if to revive the macabre tone but without any vivid description other than the idea of it happening. The Witches also does this. One older character will tell a younger one all the terrible stories and deeds they’ve heard about the deadly giants or witches.
And I wonder if that’s part of its strength. It’s not spelled out to the reader what it looks like to see the giants munching on children. But it tells that they do and it even describes their bugling bellies post-munching, so it’s very much a reality. But it’s one in the reader’s mind.
Dahl, Roald. The BFG. New York: Puffin Books, 1982. Print.