The Magic Finger

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First edition (publ. Allen & Unwin)

The Magic Finger is a children's story published by Roald Dahl in 1966. Although the original edition had illustrations by William Pene du Bois, there have been later editions of the book with illustrations by Pat Mariott, Tony Ross, and Quentin Blake.

Synopsis[edit]

The narrator is an unnamed eight-year-old girl who hates hunting, particularly from the neighbouring Gregg family. She tries to talk the Greggs out of it, but either they laugh at her, or they ignore her completely. The girl possesses an ability known as the Magic Finger, which is triggered whenever she gets upset and sees red. She will then blast a beam of magical energy from her finger which can permanently disfigure the person she is upset at. After turning her teacher Mrs. Winter into a cat, she swears that she will never use the finger again. However, she gives in to temptation and uses it again when she finally has had enough of the Greggs' mocking of her hatred for hunting.

The next day the Greggs wake up as tiny people with bird wings replacing their arms and their house is taken over by four human-size ducks with human arms instead of wings. The Greggs are forced to leave and build a nest in one of the trees in their garden where they spend the night. The next morning they wake up to find the large ducks with the Greggs' guns standing under their tree, threatening to shoot in the same way that they have shot ducks. Mrs Gregg begs the ducks not to kill her, her husband or their children, right before one of the ducks speaks to them, revealing that her own children were killed by the Greggs on their last hunting trip. The Greggs promise never to hunt again and the spell is broken, with the Greggs changed back into normal humans and the ducks returning to normal.

The next day, the girl goes to their house and finds the family smashing up their guns and setting up graves for the birds that they killed. They have even changed their surname to "Egg". The girl feels that things may have gotten a little out of hand but then hears a gun fired by another neighbouring hunting-mad family, the Coopers. She thus sets off, telling the Eggs that the Coopers will be nesting in the trees that night. An illustration at the end of the book shows the Cooper family sitting in a nest, having fallen victim to the Magic Finger's same curse as the Eggs before.