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Matilda | © Anastasia Alén / Flickr
Matilda | © Anastasia Alén / Flickr

12 Things You May Not Know About Matilda

Picture of Ellie Griffiths
Updated: 16 July 2016
The iconic children’s novel Matilda, by Roald Dahl, has not only captured our imagination since published in 1988, but has captured our hearts in the form of a movie and a musical. With illustrations by Quentin Blake, the story of a young bookworm name Matilda creates a strong bond with her teacher Miss Honey, but it’s what happens in the process that created such an imaginative world. However, we are sure there are things you didn’t know about Matilda

1. In an early copy of the novel, Matilda was originally written as a ‘wicked’ child, who was a menace to her poor, kind parents, and the only person who would help to redeem her and stop her causing havoc was Miss Honey. In a rare interview, in 1988, Dahl stated, ‘I got it wrong. I’d spent six or eight or nine months writing it and right when I’d finished, it wasn’t right … it just wasn’t right … I started the whole book again and rewrote every word.’


2. Not only was Matilda rebellious, but in an earlier version Dahl also killed her in the ending. Thank you for rewriting this!

Matilda | © Penguin UK

Matilda | © Penguin UK


3. It is said that Mr. Wormwood was based on a man named Ginger Henderson, who owned a filling station in Dahl’s hometown in Great Missenden.


4. Matilda was one of the few stories that won an award – Federation of Children’s Book Groups Award in 1988 – in the UK throughout Dahl’s life.

Matilda | © Quentin Blake

Matilda | © Quentin Blake


5. The great reader that Matilda is, was encouraged by her frequent visits to the library. A library was inspired by one that can now be found a short distance away from the Roald Dahl Museum on High Street in Great Missenden.


6. Featuring plenty of British slang, Dahl filled this story with name-calling: ‘empty-headed hamster’, ‘poisonous little pockmark’, and ‘witless weed’.


7. This novel is actually rather scary: a kid – Bruce – stuffing his face with chocolate, hair pulling, not to mention a device called the ‘chokey’…we’re going to have nightmares!


8. Although he wrote shorter stories and poems – like Esio Trot and The Minpins – in the last few years of his life, Matilda was the last long children’s story Dahl wrote.


Trunchbull | © Quentin Blake

Trunchbull | © Quentin Blake


9. The musical adaptation of Matilda by the RSC, cast actor Bertie Carvel to play Miss Trunchbull, rather than a female.


10. Just like the Queen, Matilda made her way into our mailboxes. In 2012, the Royal Mail commissioned a set of six stamps – 76p stamp – featuring the iconic illustrations by Quentin Blake.


11. Invited to perform for Queen Elizabeth II in November 2012 at the 100th Royal Variety Performance, the cast of Matilda the Musical performed the iconic hits ‘When I Grow Up’ and ‘Naughty’.


12. Dahl’s daughter Lucy explained in an interview in 2013, that this novel was partially about his genuine love for books, stating: ‘Matilda was one of the most difficult books for him to write. I think that there was a deep genuine fear within his heart that books were going to go away and he wanted to write about it.’