First edition cover
|Publisher||Jonathan Cape (original)
Penguin Books (current)
The BFG (short for "Big Friendly Giant") is a children's book written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake, first published in 1982. The book was an expansion of a story told in Danny, the Champion of the World, an earlier Dahl book. An animated film based on the book was released in 1989 with David Jason providing the voice of the BFG and Amanda Root as the voice of Sophie. It has also been adapted as a theatre performance.
- Sophie: The protagonist of the story, who becomes an international heroine by causing the man-eating giants to be captured.
- The BFG: A 24-foot-tall individual possessed of superhuman hearing and immense speed, whose primary occupation is the collection and distribution of good dreams to children. He also appears in another novel, Danny, the Champion of the World, in which he is introduced as a folkloric character.
- The Queen of England: The Queen is based on Elizabeth II.
- Mary: The Queen's Maid
- Mr. Tibbs: The Palace butler
- Mrs. Clonkers: The unseen director of the orphanage in which Sophie lives at the start of the novel; described as cruel and often abusive to her charges.
- Head of the Army: Very dependent on guns
- Head of the Air Force: Very dependent on bombs
- King of Sweden: Sometimes called the Queen of Sweden in play versions
- Sultan of Baghdad: Often omitted from plays and films as he is portrayed in a slightly racist and dated way.
- Monsieur Papillon: The Queen's chief cook.
- The Fleshlumpeater
- The Bonecruncher
- The Manhugger
- The Childchewer
- The Meatdripper
- The Gizzardgulper
- The Maidmasher
- The Bloodbottler
- The Butcher Boy
Most of the evil giants are only mentioned by name; some are given a larger role, such as Fleshlumpeater, who is the largest and most dangerous of them all (and therefore something of a leader), and Bloodbottler, who invades the BFG's cave early in the story. The BFG later narrates the hunting methods of Childchewer, Gizzardgulper, and Meatdripper. It is also remarked that each giant has his favourite hunting ground, though they vary at times. Because every ethnicity of humans is said to taste different from the others, the giants have certain preferences, although all detest Greece as a hunting ground. This is because the flavours supposedly reflect the names and/or principal exports of the native land: therefore, Greeks taste greasy; Turks taste like turkey, and are a particular favourite of Bonecruncher; Danes taste like dogs (Labradors – those from Labrador taste like Great Danes), and Swedes taste sweet and sour; people from Wales taste of fish (because the name sounds like that of "whales"); etc. Also, the BFG says that the evil giants are twice as tall as him, so he's a comparatively runty giant. (In his own words, "24 feet is puddlenuts in giant country.")
The story is about a little girl named Sophie, after the author's granddaughter Sophie Dahl. One night, when Sophie cannot fall asleep during the "witching hour", she sees a giant blowing something into the bedroom windows down the street. The giant notices her, reaches through the window, and carries her to his home in Giant Country.
Once there, he reveals that he is the world's only benevolent giant, the Big Friendly Giant or BFG, who operating in the strictest secrecy, collects good dreams that he later distributes to children. By means of immense ears he can hear dreams and their contents (which manifest themselves in a misty Dream Country as floating, blob-like objects) and blow them via a trumpet-like blowpipe into the bedrooms of children. When he catches a nightmare, he destroys it, or uses it to start fights among the other giants, who periodically enter the human world to steal and eat "human beans", especially children. The BFG, because he refuses to do likewise, subsists on a foul-tasting vegetable known as a snozzcumber (an exaggerated cartoon English cucumber), and on a drink called frobscottle, which is unusual in that the bubbles in the drink travel downwards and therefore cause the drinker to break wind instead of burp; this causes noisy flatulence known as Whizzpoppers.
Sophie and the BFG become friends early on; later, she persuades him to approach the Queen of England with the aim of capturing the other giants to prevent them from eating any more people. To this end, the BFG creates a nightmare introducing knowledge of the man-eating giants to the Queen and leaves Sophie in the Queen's bedroom to confirm it true. Because the dream included the knowledge of Sophie's presence, the Queen believes her and speaks with the BFG. After considerable effort by the palace staff to create a table, chair, and cutlery of appropriate size for him to use, the BFG is given a lavish breakfast, and the Queen forms a plan to capture the other giants. She calls the King of Sweden and the Sultan of Baghdad to confirm the BFG's story – the giants having visited those locations on the previous two nights – then summons the Head of the Army and the Marshal of the Air Force. The said officers, though initially belligerent and sceptical, eventually agree to co-operate.
Eventually, a huge fleet of helicopters follows the BFG to the giants' homeland. While the people-eating giants are asleep, the Army ties them up, hangs them under the helicopters, and (after a brief struggle with the largest and fiercest of the giants, known as the Fleshlumpeater), flies them to London, where a special pit has been constructed from which they will not be able to escape. With thousands watching closely, the BFG unties the giants, then feeds them snozzcumbers which they will eat for the rest of their lives as a punishment for eating human beings.
Afterwards, a huge castle is built to serve as the BFG's new house, with a little cottage next door for Sophie. While they are living happily in England, the BFG writes a book of their adventures, which is stated to be the same book in which the afore-mentioned story is narrated (a literary device also apparent in James and the Giant Peach and The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar).
- ISBN 0-224-02040-4 (hardcover, 1982)
- ISBN 0-374-30469-6 (hardcover, 1982)
- ISBN 0-590-06019-8 (paperback, 1982)
- ISBN 0-435-12279-7 (hardcover, 1984)
- ISBN 0-14-031597-7 (paperback, 1984)
- ISBN 0-14-034019-X (paperback, 1985)
- ISBN 1-85715-924-1 (hardcover, 1993)
- ISBN 0-679-42813-5 (hardcover, 1993)
- ISBN 0-14-130105-8 (paperback, 1998)
- ISBN 0-14-130283-6 (paperback, 1999)
- ISBN 0-14-131137-1 (paperback, 2001)
- ISBN 0-224-06452-5 (hardcover, 2002)
- ISBN 978-0-14-241038-7 / ISBN 0-14-241038-1 (paperback, 2007)
- ISBN 0-141-33216-6 (audio CD read by Natasha Richardson)
- ISBN 84-320-6178-6 (El gran gigante Bonachón, Spanish, 1984)
- ISBN 3-498-01250-9 (Sophiechen und der Riese, German, 1984)
- ISBN 88-7782-004-7 (Il GGG, Italian, 1987)
- ISBN 2-07-051372-6 (Le bon gros géant, French, 1988)
- ISBN 0-624-03190-X (Die GSR: die groot sagmoedige reus, Afrikaans, 1993)
- ISBN 1-904357-03-2 (Yr CMM: yr èc èm èm, Welsh, 2003)
On Christmas Day in 1989, ITV1 aired an animated film based on the book, with David Jason providing the voice of the BFG and Amanda Root as the voice of Sophie. The film was dedicated to animator George Jackson who worked on numerous Cosgrove Hall Productions.
Planned future film
In September 2011, DreamWorks announced that they had picked up the film rights to the book; Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall are slated to produce, and screenwriter Melissa Mathison will adapt the story.
Awards and recognition
The book has won awards and has received recognition as follows:
- Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis prize in 1985
- National Education Association "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children" based on a 2007 online poll
- School Library Journal "Top 100 Chapter Books" of all time based on a 2012 poll
- "BFG at the theatre- Preview". digyorkshire.com. 24 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-17.
- Martin Chilton (18 November 2010) The 25 best children's books The Daily Telegraph
- Weinstein, Joshua L. (24 September 2011). "DreamWorks Is Still Buying – Picks Up Roald Dahl's 'BFG' (Exclusive)". Retrieved 27 September 2011.
- "Sophiechen und der Riese" (in German). Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis. 1985. Retrieved 19 August 2012.
- National Education Association (2007). "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". Retrieved 19 August 2012.
- Bird, Elizabeth (7 July 2012). "Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results". School Library Journal "A Fuse No. 8 Production" blog. Retrieved 19 August 2012.