In England, author Roald Dahl is a household name. A fighter pilot and intelligence officer turned author, turned children’s author, Dahl seemed to be talented in whichever field he chose to work. I, among many others, grew up with his bedtime stories, such as ‘Fantastic Mister Fox’, ‘The Twits’, and ‘The BFG’. My favourite, however, was the novel ‘Matilda’. Published just two years before Dahl’s death, ‘Matilda’ is undoubtedly one of his most successful tales. Its later establishment as a film, and now a musical are proof of how popular the story is. This is combined with the fact that both retellings are recognised as exceedingly successful in their own right; the film adaptation received a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, one of the most harsh film-rating websites, and the musical received five awards at the 2013 Tony’s, a only a few years after its release. This gives evidence for the universality of Matilda’s story. Dahl perfectly captures what it feels like to be a powerless child (a feeling we have all experienced at least once), and Matilda’s triumphant rebellion is symbolic of the power we wished we had.
The story of ‘Matilda’ is as follows: It begins at the beginning. The very beginning in fact - the moment of Matilda’s birth. It is interesting to note that this is starting point of not only the original novel, but also of both adaptations. Perhaps it is to provide some sense of a personal relationship between the readers/audience and Matilda; we were there from the start. Sadly for this little girl, her parents are not very caring. They do not regard her as a miracle, instead, her mother wishes for her to be loud, whilst her father wants her to watch the telly, instead of reading. Matilda, taking inspiration from her books, decides that she has to change her own life, and realises to get what she wants, sometimes she has to be a little bit naughty. However, her mischief is abruptly stopped by her attendance of school. Despite having a wonderful class teacher, Miss Honey, Matilda must suffer a horrific headmistress. Miss Trunchbull, who has a nose for the smell of rebellion, and, strangely also in all adaptations, threw the hammer for England in the Olympics. One example of Trunchbull’s cruelty; when a young boy named Bruce stole cake from the kitchens, she forced him to eat an entire chocolate cake, which was approximately the same size as him! Luckily for Matilda, however, with the help of some inner calmness and quiet, and ‘revolting children’ (her classmates), she is able to find the power inside to protect not only herself, but also her friends.
‘Matilda’ is a wonderful story. It not only encourages books and learning, but also gives children and adults alike a hero to relate to. Every single person has felt powerless at some point in their life, wishing they could fight back. Matilda, our protagonist, acts as a reminder that you need to be strong, and that nobody else is going to change your story.
NB; In the main paragraph, ten song titles from ‘Matilda: The Musical’ are hidden. Can you find them?