|Cover artist||Quentin Blake|
|Publisher||Jonathan Cape (London)|
|Media type||Print (hardback, paperback)|
The Twits is a humorous children's book written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake. It was written in 1979, and first published in 1980. The Twits as a book has remained so successful since its publication in 1980 that it was adapted for the stage in 2007.
The idea of The Twits was triggered by Dahl's desire to "do something against beards", because he had an acute dislike of them himself. The first sentence of the story is, "What a lot of hairy-faced men there are around nowadays!"
A hideous, vindictive, spiteful couple known as the Twits live together in a brick house without windows with their abused, mistreated family of pet monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps, and they continuously play practical jokes on each other out of hatred for one another; Mrs. Twit drops her glass eye into her husband's beer mug and fills his dinner plate with worms claiming that it is a new brand of spaghetti, Mr. Twit constantly lengthens his wife's cane and chair and convinces her that she is shrinking and needs to be stretched out using helium balloons (in hopes of ridding himself of her once and for all, only for her to figure out how to land and learn about Mr. Twit's charade in the end). However, the book also chronicles the Twits' mistreatment of those around them; Mr. Twit apparently coats tree limbs with glue in hopes of catching birds for pie, but when a group of little boys wind up sticking to the tree he very nearly winds up forcing them to endure the same fate until they figure out how to free themselves. (Fortunately the Roly-Poly Bird, a character also featured in several other works by Dahl, with the assistance of the Muggle-Wumps, manages to caution unsuspecting birds of the fate that awaits them if they perch on the tree on the Twits' property). However, the Muggle-Wumps, tired of being forced to stand on their heads by their owners (who believe that they can start a circus of monkeys that way), with the help of the Roly-Poly Bird, use Mr. Twit's powerful glue to attach the couple's furniture to their ceiling while they are away to trick them into thinking that they are upside-down and that their ceiling is actually their floor, and the glue permanently affixes them to the ceiling so that they catch the "Terrible Shrinks" (the disease that Mr. Twit had convinced Mrs. Twit that she had earlier in the book), resulting in them shrinking away into nothing, leaving the Muggle-Wumps free to escape.
Mr Twit is a horrible person, having hair that covers his entire face, with the exception of his forehead, eyes, and nose. His hair (which he falsely believes makes him appear "wise and grand"), is spiky and hard. Because he never washes it, his beard holds scraps of food dropped there while he ate, including tinned sardines, stilton cheese, and corn flakes. Occasionally, he licks these scraps out and eats them. Instead of wiping his mouth with a cloth, Mr. Twit simply wipes it on his sleeve. Mr Twit is a beer drinker – even drinking at breakfast. He is known to seem very quiet when he is plotting evil tricks, the victim of which is usually his equally unpleasant wife.
Mrs. Twit is the hideously unattractive, menacing wife of Mr. Twit, whose formerly pretty countenance was erased as a result of constant horrible thoughts over time. She takes advantage of her glass eye to play practical jokes in revenge against her husband, and demonstrates multiple acts of cruelty and viciousness throughout the story; it has been mentioned that the main reason behind her use of a walking cane was as a weapon against innocent children and animals, she participates in the torment of the couple's pet monkeys the Muggle-Wumps, and serves Mr. Twit a lunch of earthworms disguised as spaghetti. Albeit she also frequently demonstrates acts of stupidity, she has also exhibited intelligence; she managed to manoeuvre her way out of a prank that ended with her being carried off into the sky with balloons by chewing through several of them and landing safely on the ground. However, aside from this, she is portrayed as being hideous and unhygienic.
A series of pranks advance the plot of the story. Brief descriptions appear below:
The Glass Eye
In revenge for the glass-eye trick, Mr. Twit places a frog in Mrs. Twit's bed, and frightens Mrs Twit by claiming the item in her bed is a 'Giant Skillywiggler', with "teeth like screwdrivers" with which it would bite off her toes. Mrs. Twit faints during this trick, and after Mr. Twit splashed a jugful of cold water onto her, she later recovered as the frog hops onto her face; upon seeing it, she flees.
The Wormy Spaghetti
Seeking revenge for the Frog Trick, Mrs. Twit places worms from the garden in cooked spaghetti, which Mr. Twit eats, being re-assured by Mrs. Twit that it is merely a "new kind" she has recently bought. When he has eaten it, Mrs. Twit reveals the truth.
In revenge for the Wormy Spaghetti, Mr. Twit glues pieces of wood no thicker than a penny onto Mrs. Twit's cane each night, as well as onto the legs of her chair, making Mrs. Twit believe that she is slowly shrinking. Mr. Twit then frightens her by claiming that she has contracted an illness called the 'shrinks', by which she will be caused to disappear. Mr Twit then claims that to cure the shrinks, Mrs Twit will have to be "stretched". Mr Twit then ties Mrs Twit up in the garden to 60 gas balloons intending to leave her there for a while to teach her a lesson. However, Mrs Twit comments that if the strings break, its goodbye for her, so Mr Twit pretends to go to tie some more strings to her ankles before cutting through the ropes and sending her skywards. Mrs Twit returns by biting through the balloon strings so she sinks slowly down eventually collapsing on Mr Twit in the garden.
The Sticky Tree
There is an unimaginatively named "Big Dead Tree" in the Twits' garden, which Mr Twit uses to trap birds by spreading Hug-Tight Sticky Glue on the branches. Captive birds are then made into a pie by Mrs. Twit. During the story four schoolboys are caught instead of birds; but escape by unfastening their trousers and falling to the ground outside the Twits' garden. It is this use of glue that gives the captive monkey Muggle-Wump and his family the idea of using it against the Twits. There is a glue in the Twits' workshed called Hug-Tight Sticky-Glue and that's how they get birds down from the tree to make Bird pie.
Rescuing the Birds
Using their friend the Roly-Poly Bird as an interpreter of languages, Muggle-Wump and his wife and children convey the warning that any bird landing on the Big Dead Tree will be cooked into Mrs. Twit's Bird Pie. When Mr. Twit, in retaliation, spreads glue on the monkeys' cage (which serves as a substitute perch), the monkeys alter the warning, so that the birds land instead on the Twits' roof. This prompts Mr. and Mrs. Twit to buy fire-arms; and during their absence on this errand, Muggle-Wump plots another trick, described below.
Turning the Twits Upside-Down
In the Twits' absence, the monkeys and birds use Mr. Twit's glue to attach all the Twits' living-room furniture upside-down to the ceiling, so that Mr. and Mrs. Twit will, upon entry, believe themselves upside-down. Upon the Twits' return, they are themselves soiled with glue (that birds dropped on their heads which they thought were droppings), so that when they enter the house and attempt to reverse themselves, they are attached to the floor. Thereafter the weight of their bodies compresses them until they can no longer be said to physically exist, so that an inspector upon arriving, finds only their possessions.
A feature film adaptation of the book has been in development since 2003 by Vanguard Animation and its founder John H. Williams. As part of multi-picture deal with Walt Disney Pictures, Vanguard was set to produce a CG animated/live action film, with John Cleese and Kirk DeMicco writing the screenplay. In 2004, it was reported that Mark Mylod signed up to direct the feature, and that Cleese may star in the film.
In 2006, after the executive/regime changes at Disney, the project moved to Working Title and Universal. As of 2012, the official site of Vanguard Animation is stating that Conrad Vernon, the director of Shrek 2 and Monsters vs. Aliens, will direct the film.
Relations to other Roald Dahl books
- A monkey named Muggle-Wump also appears in The Enormous Crocodile. A monkey bearing resemblance to Quentin Blake's illustration of the same character also appears in The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me.
- A Roly-Poly Bird likewise makes an appearance in The Enormous Crocodile and is also to be found in Dirty Beasts.
- Certain things within the book, such as Mr Twit's beard, "Wormy Spaghetti" and bird pie, appear within Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes.
- An extremely strong glue is also mentioned in Matilda.
- "The Twits hit Lancaster!". BBC. Retrieved 3 June 2012
- Brodesser, Claude (4 February 2003). "'Twits' pic pleases Cleese". Variety. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- Dawtrey, Adam (21 November 2004). "Bigscreen goes Dahl-crazy". Variety. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- Dawtrey, Adam (22 October 2006). "Working Title takes reality check". Variety. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "Kirk DeMicco: Monkey Business". Total Sci-Fi Online. 15 July 2008. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "The Twits". Vanguard Animation. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- Roald Dahl's Completely Revolting Recipes: A Collection of Delumptious Favourites. Random House, 2 November 2009
- ISBN 0-141-80563-3 (audio CD read by Simon Callow, 2004)
- ISBN 0-224-06491-6 (hardcover, 2003)
- ISBN 0-14-130107-4 (paperback, 2002)
- ISBN 0-375-82242-9 (hardcover, 2002)
- ISBN 0-14-131138-X (paperback, 2001)
- ISBN 0-14-034640-6 (paperback, 1991)
- ISBN 0-14-031406-7 (paperback, 1982)
- ISBN 0-224-01855-8 (hardcover, 1980)
- The Twits information and games
- The Twits title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database