1st UK edition
|Published||1 October 1988|
|Preceded by||The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me|
|Followed by||Esio Trot|
Matilda is a children's novel by British author Roald Dahl. It was published in 1988 by Jonathan Cape in London, with illustrations by the notable illustrator Quentin Blake. The story is about Matilda Wormwood, an extraordinary child with ordinary and rather unpleasant parents, who are contemptuous of their daughter's prodigious talents, and her discovery of her telekinetic abilities. It was adapted into an audio reading by Joely Richardson, a film in 1996, a two-part adaptation for BBC Radio 4 (later re-broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Extra) starring Nicola McAuliffe as Matilda and narrated by Lenny Henry. In 2010 it was adapted into a musical.
Matilda is a young girl who is gifted with magical powers and precocity but her wealthy, dimwitted parents are oblivious to their daughter's prodigious skills and view her as a foolish and idiotic girl. Aggravated by the rude behaviour of her mother and father, Matilda constantly pulls pranks on her family as discipline for their misdeeds, such as gluing her father's hat to his head with superglue after finding out that he cheated a customer or hiding a parrot in the chimney, tricking the family into thinking there is a ghost in the house. Matilda's father loved to wear checkered jackets and he loved ties.
Eventually, Matilda begins schooling and encounters a loving, sweet schoolteacher named Miss Honey, who is astonished by her unbelievable intellectual abilities and wants to move her into a higher class, but the school's hostile headmistress, Miss Trunchbull, who disciplines the pupils with abusive physical punishment, refuses. Miss Honey also tries to talk to Mr. and Mrs. Wormwood about Matilda's supreme intelligence, but they don't believe her. During one of the first scenes of the book at school, Miss Trunchbull punishes Matilda because her father cheated her with one of his cars.
Matilda quickly develops a particularly strong bond with Miss Honey. After a classmate's practical joke on the headmistress leads Matilda to discover her secret telekinetic powers (by using her mind to tip over a glass of water containing a newt on Miss Trunchbull) Miss Honey invites Matilda to tea at the teacher's tiny cottage in the forest. Miss Honey recounts her traumatic childhood experiences with her maliciously abusive aunt, with whom she was forced to live after the mysterious death of her father Magnus. Stunned to learn that Miss Trunchbull actually was the aunt in question, Matilda devises a scheme in order to help Miss Honey earn her proper inheritance, of which her aunt had seemingly stripped her, and develops her telekinetic gift through practice at home.
During a lesson that Miss Trunchbull is teaching, Matilda telekinetically raises a stick of chalk against the black-board and scares Miss Trunchbull, and poses as Magnus's spirit, demanding that Miss Trunchbull is to provide her daughter with the wages that she needs by name. Petrified by this, Miss Trunchbull flees from her house, which is later discovered rightfully belongs to Miss Honey by her father's will, and her niece moves into it from her cottage.
Matilda is re-positioned by the new headmaster to the year six level of schooling, where she discovers that she is no longer capable of accessing her powers of telekinesis, and Miss Honey theorises that it is probably because Matilda must use more of her knowledge at school after skipping several years.
Matilda continues to meet with Miss Honey at her home regularly, but one day arrives home to discover her parents hastily packing to go on the run from the police who have discovered her father's deceptive practices in the automotive industry. Matilda asks permission to live with Miss Honey, to which her parents agree, thus providing her with a more loving home.
The novel was adapted to film in 1996, directed by Danny Devito and starred Mara Wilson as Matilda. Although the film was not a box office success, Matilda received critical acclaim at the time of its release, and holds a "fresh" rating of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. DeVito portrayed Mr. Wormwood as well as the narrator.
In 1990, the Redgrave Theatre, Farnham produced a musical version, adapted by Rony Robinson with music by Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley, which toured the UK. It starred Annabelle Lanyon as Matilda and Jonathan Linsley as Miss. Trunchball, and had mixed reviews. A second musical version of the novel, Matilda: A Musical, written by Dennis Kelly and Tim Minchin and commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, premiered in November 2010. It opened at the Cambridge Theatre in the West End on 24 November 2011. It later opened on Broadway on 11 April 2013 at the Shubert Theatre. The stage version has become hugely popular with audiences and praised by critics, with one critic calling it "the best British musical since Billy Elliot".
Connections to preceding Roald Dahl books
One of Miss Trunchbull's means of punishments is forcibly to make an overweight boy named Bruce Bogtrotter eat an enormous cake to try to make him sick after finding him guilty of stealing food from the kitchen (in many of Dahl's novels there is a rude character that is overweight, Augustus Gloop for example, though Bruce Bogtrotter is portrayed as more sympathetic and even becomes somewhat of a hero to the kids by actually managing to finish the cake). In Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes one of the recipes is based on that cake.
- Serena Alllot (26 November 2010) Waltzing Matilda: Dahl's classic dances on to the stage The Daily Telegraph
- Once upon a time, there was a man who liked to make up stories ... The Independent (Sunday, 12 December 2010)
- "The ‘Other’ Matilda Musical | Safety Curtain". Safetycurtain.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2013-09-20.
- "RSC Sets Dates for Dahl’s Matilda Musical, 9 Nov". What'sOnStage.com. 30 September 2009. Retrieved 2010-04-07.
- Long, Dorothy. Revolting recipes.