Author: Roald Dahl
Artist: Quentin Blake
Type: Fiction, novel
I read it: June 2016
Oh England, great and wondrous place, and the source of much international contention at the moment. What happened to your quaint and happy times, when queens lived in castles and giants roamed the land?
I suppose the mother country was never the idyll that books would make it, but the image is reinforced by The BFG, which, although published just the year before I was born, seems like it could have taken place in several earlier decades. Even the queen folds nicely into the fantastical atmosphere, and I had to remind myself that this was a fictionalized version of a real person. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
This is a fun, sweet tale of orphan Sophie falling in with the Big Friendly Giant. He’s the only nice giant among ten, and the other nine are all bigger and meaner. They also like to gobble up human beans every night, deciding on which country to chomp citizens in based on the type of delicacy (an Esquimo to cool down with, avoiding Greece because the people taste greasy, etc.). Only the BFG avoids eating people, being the only human sympathizer and artistically refined giant. His day job is catching dreams, and he knows their “dark and dusky secrets.”
The BFT possesses other abilities, such as running and jumping, blowing dreams into children’s heads at night, and uncanny hearing due to his big ears: “Such wonderful and terrible sounds I is hearing! Some of them you would never wish to be hearing yourself! But some is like glorious music!” This is the BFG’s speaking pattern, having only been educated through studying one Charles Dickens book, and the language is the most fun part about The BFG. It has its puns and winks (reminding me a bit of The Phantom Tollbooth, and also because of the line drawings) but the best part is the inundation of nonsense words. The book is mostly conversation and reads like a long version of “Jabberwocky.” As the BFG explains, “I cannot be helping it if I sometimes is saying things a little squiggly.” (He was also ahead of his time in exclaiming “Redunculous!”)
So Sophie spends a lot of time in the land of giants and she and the BFG concoct a scheme to stop the beastlier giants from eating people, mostly children. These giants have fearsome names like the Fleshlumpeater, the Bloodbottler, and, inexplicably, the Butcher Boy, who goes entirely undescribed and seems the most nightmarish by name alone. Anyway, their grand plan is what brings them to the Queen of England, that fairy tale person in a fairy tale land, so cozy and so different from our world of 2016.