Monday, May 1, 2017

The BFG, by Roald Dahl

What a delightful, fun book!  Perhaps I can be excused for not reading Roald Dahl's The BFG when it was published in 1982, since I was 13, and probably thought I was too old for children's stories.  My loss.  I saw Disney's recent Stephen Spielberg adaptation, was smitten, and decided to read the book, too.  The movie was quite faithful to the book, and both are worth reading or watching again.

Young Sophie, who lives in an orphanage, sees the BFG (big, friendly giant) sneaking around one night.  He picks her up and takes her to his home, where he says she will have to stay forever.  He can't risk her telling other people about him.  He is one of many giants, the rest of which eat "human beans" that they capture in distant lands on their nightly forays.  The BFG doesn't eat humans, and does approve of his fellow giants doing so.  He and Sophie concoct an elaborate plan to prevent them from eating any more people.

The story is great, with enough silliness mixed with insight to make it immensely entertaining while being multilayered enough to make it enduring.  The BFG's distinctive bungling of words kept me smiling throughout.  "Giants is all cannybully and murderful!  And they does gobble up human beans!"  When giants drink "frobscottle" the bubbles go down instead of up (like our soft drinks), resulting in "a whizzpopper."  "Us giants is making whizzpoppers all the time!  Whizzpopping is a sign of happiness.  It is music in our ears!"

Dahl, who flew in the Royal Air Force in World War 2, finds a place for a bit of anti-war commentary.  Sophie asks the BFG about the other giants' habit of eating people.  She is appalled, but the BFG counters, "Do not forget that human beans is disappearing everywhere all the time even without the giants is guzzling them up.  Human beans is killing each other much quicker than the giants is doing it."   He points out that other animals don't kill their own kind, "but human beans is squishing each other all the time. . . . They is shooting guns and going up in aerioplanes to drop their bombs on each other's heads every week.  Human beans is always killing other human beans." 

The BFG is perfect bedtime reading for boys and girls.  Due to the subject matter, that is, giants eating people, the very youngest among them might not enjoy it, but it's a classic that should be enjoyed for generations to come.

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