Writer-Traveler Spotlight: Roald Dahl

Welcome to the first part of our Literary Travel Series, where we’ll feature some amazing places that have been written about by famous authors, or at least that influenced their work.

Today I’d like to highlight my very favorite writer: Roald Dahl. I don’t know how many times I’ve read The Witches or Matilda or even his short stories, but judging from my stack of yellowed books with the covers falling off, it’s quite a lot.

Let’s take a look at places Dahl featured in his works, and how they followed his own travels!

“Small English Villages” and “Great Towns”

Mildenhall Treasure - Writer-Traveler Spotlight: Roald Dahl - Frayed Passport

The Mildenhall Treasure, as featured in Dahl’s short story by the same name. Via.

Ok, so this one isn’t quite specific—Roald Dahl wrote a lot about small English villages and great towns without using exact names. You’ll find a lot of his work for younger audiences tend to be less specific in their locations, which allow the children reading his books to imagine themselves right there with their hero.

Seen in:

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Matilda

  • Danny the Champion of the World

  • The Mildenhall Treasure

  • Fantastic Mr. Fox

Norway

Sognefjord, Norway - Writer-Traveler Spotlight: Roald Dahl - Frayed Passport

Sognefjord, Norway, via Wikimedia Commons.

Dahl was born in Wales of Norwegian parents, and his books often feature fantastical elements often seen in Scandinavian folklore and legends—particularly the BFG, a giant that lives in a fantastical land of mountains, caves, and dreams and, unlike his counterparts, eats veggies rather than children. He even wears Norwegian sandals!

Featured in:

  • The Witches

  • My Uncle Oswald

  • Boy: Tales of Childhood

  • The BFG

  • The Minpins

London

Palace of Westminster, London - Writer-Traveler Spotlight: Roald Dahl - Frayed Passport

Palace of Westminster, London. Via.

A great number of Dahl’s stories take place in London, or at least mention it. And if you’re a fan, you can always visit the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre just outside of the city.

Seen in:

  • The BFG

  • The Hitchhiker

  • Galloping Foxley

  • My Uncle Oswald

  • James and the Giant Peach

United States

Central Park, New York City - Writer-Traveler Spotlight: Roald Dahl - Frayed Passport

Central Park, New York City. Via.

Roald Dahl was a world traveler; he was educated in England, employed later by the Shell Oil Company in East Africa, served in the RAF during the Second World War, and wrote short stories during his employment at the British Embassy in Washington, D.C.

He features the U.S. in his writing occasionally—particularly New York City, where he married actress Patricia Neal in 1953.

Seen in:

  • James and the Giant Peach

  • Way Out (TV series)

  • My Uncle Oswald

East Africa

Mombasa, Kenya - Writer-Traveler Spotlight: Roald Dahl - Frayed Passport

Mombasa, Kenya. Via.

In the mid-1930s, Dahl was employed by the Shell Oil Company in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania and in Mombasa, Kenya. As WWII loomed, he traveled to Nairobi to enlist in the RAF, and had an incredible career as a fighter ace. His stories that feature East Africa often describe the exotic animals he saw while living there, or serve as autobiographies of his career.

Featured in:

  • An African Story

  • The Gremlins

  • The Enormous Crocodile

  • Over to You: Ten Stories of Flyers and Flying

What’s your favorite Roald Dahl book? Has he inspired your travels?