Visit Dahl's whizzpopping world

Matilda faces down United States President Donald Trump (left) in the courtyard of the museum that also features photos of Roald Dahl (above) and a re-creation of his writing hut (right), down to the pencil shavings. At the entrance, visitors walk th
Matilda faces down United States President Donald Trump (above) in the courtyard of the museum that also features photos of Roald Dahl and a re-creation of his writing hut, down to the pencil shavings.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Matilda faces down United States President Donald Trump (left) in the courtyard of the museum that also features photos of Roald Dahl (above) and a re-creation of his writing hut (right), down to the pencil shavings. At the entrance, visitors walk th
Matilda faces down United States President Donald Trump in the courtyard of the museum that also features photos of Roald Dahl (above) and a re-creation of his writing hut, down to the pencil shavings.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Matilda faces down United States President Donald Trump (left) in the courtyard of the museum that also features photos of Roald Dahl (above) and a re-creation of his writing hut (right), down to the pencil shavings. At the entrance, visitors walk th
Matilda faces down United States President Donald Trump in the courtyard of the museum that also features photos of Roald Dahl and a re-creation of his writing hut (above), down to the pencil shavings.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Matilda faces down United States President Donald Trump (left) in the courtyard of the museum that also features photos of Roald Dahl (above) and a re-creation of his writing hut (right), down to the pencil shavings. At the entrance, visitors walk th
At the entrance, visitors walk through giant Wonka chocolate bar doors and are assailed by the smell of cocoa.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Museum offering a glimpse into the author of fantastical children's stories reopens with chocolate bar doors and a re-creation of his writing hut

GREAT MISSENDEN (Britain) • He did not sit back and relax. From a battered armchair in a hut tucked away in the English countryside, author Roald Dahl dreamt up worlds that have enchanted youngsters across the globe.

Stuffed with hundreds of weird and wonderful mementoes, the garden hut was where the children's novelist wrote his fantastical tales.

A museum, including a re-creation of the hut in the same village of Great Missenden, where Dahl lived, has reopened to the public following an extensive renovation triggered by a flash flood.

"You can get the books and movies around the world, but we are in the place where the stories were generated," said museum director Steve Gardam.

"That's the magic of coming here."

The museum offers visitors a glimpse into the man and method behind some of the best-loved stories of the 20th century, including Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Matilda, The BFG and James And The Giant Peach.

The novels written by Dahl, who died in 1990 aged 74, have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide and been turned into blockbuster films.

He invented hundreds of words and terms, such as whizzpopping, Oompa-Loompas, gobblefunk, snozzcumbers and scrumdiddlyumptious.

Born in Cardiff, Wales, in 1916 to a Norwegian family, Dahl's writing career began with weekly letters home from boarding school, creatively circumnavigating his unhappiness.

He went on to work for oil giant Shell in Dar es Salaam, in what is now Tanzania, then served in the Royal Air Force (RAF) during World War II.

An air ace, he was badly injured in a crash landing in Libya in 1940.

Later in the war, he worked for British intelligence in Washington.

The museum, located in a former coaching inn on the village high street and the home of Dahl's complete archive, is a combination of his real and fantasy worlds.

At the entrance, visitors walk through giant Wonka chocolate bar doors and are assailed by the smell of cocoa.

Inside, they can find objects such as his RAF flying helmet, logbook, binoculars and an annotated map of Egypt.

Dahl needed back operations due to his war injuries and kept a vial of his spinal shavings in his writing hut - plus the ball of his replaced thighbone.

The interior of the hut was transferred to the museum from the family home in the village.

The replica also contains family pictures, his glasses and cane, plus a heavy ball of foil made from chocolate bar wrappers that he added to daily.

Even dust from the spartan hut - years of pencil shavings and eraser fragments - was transferred across.

The revamped museum aims to show how Dahl was inspired by the village where he lived from 1954 until his death.

Many of the landmarks of Great Missenden appear in his novels.

The village contains the high street of crooked houses that the BFG marched along; the petrol pumps from Danny, The Champion Of The World; plus Matilda's orphanage and library.

Dahl is buried in the churchyard, along with a snooker cue, a favourite power tool and a bottle of claret.

Well-wishers often leave pencils.

To celebrate this year's 30th anniversary of Matilda, The Roald Dahl Story Company - the family firm which owns his copyright - surveyed fans on who the forthright schoolgirl would be taking on nowadays.

Mr Donald Trump topped the list, and a cartoon fibreglass statue of Matilda facing down the blustering United States President now stands in the museum courtyard.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2018, with the headline 'Visit Dahl's whizzpopping world'. Print Edition | Subscribe