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Dirty Beasts is a 1983 collection of Roald Dahl poems about unsuspecting animals. Intended as a follow-up to Revolting Rhymes, the original Jonathan Cape edition was illustrated by Rosemary Fawcett. In 1984, a revised edition was published with illustrations by Quentin Blake. An audiobook recording was released in the 1980s read by Prunella Scales and Timothy West. Later in 1998 Puffin Audiobooks published a recording featuring Pam Ferris and Geoffrey Palmer, and in 2002 Harper Audio released a recording of Alan Cumming reading both Revolting Rhymes and Dirty Beasts.
An OVA was also released by Abbey Home Entertainment in the 1990s as part of their Tempo Video range, featuring all 9 tales told alternately by Prunella Scales [first version]/Dawn French [Revoiced version for 1996] ("The Pig", "The Scorpion", "The Porcupine", "The Cow" and "The Tummy Beast") and Timothy West [first version]/Martin Clunes [Revoiced version for 1996] ("The Lion", "The Anteater", "The Crocodile" and "The Toad and the Snail").
The book contains nine poems, telling of the unusual exploits of unsuspecting animals (save for the Tummy Beast, who is made up). They are as follows:
- The Pig – When a genius pig realises that he is born for humans to eat, he turns on his farmer owner and eats him instead.
- The Crocodile – A father tells his son in bed about Crocky-Wock, a crocodile who eats six children each Saturday, preferably three boys (who he smears with mustard to make them hot) and three girls (who he dips in butterscotch and caramel for a sweet taste). Little did they know that Crocky-Wock is more than just a tale...
- The Lion – The narrator (depicted in the OVA as a waiter) asks the lion what his favourite meat is in the form of offering numerous meaty dishes (including a live hen), only for them to be turned away. The lion then states "The meat I am about to chew is neither steak nor chops. IT'S YOU!"
- The Scorpion – The poem starts off with a description of Sting-a-ling, a black scorpion who likes to sting people's rumps when in bed. It then proceeds with a boy telling his mother that something's crawling towards his rear-end and is then stung by Sting-a-ling.
- The Anteater – Roy, a spoiled boy who lives "somewhere near San Francisco Bay", is pondering what to get next (he was bored with his usual supplies of toys and shoes); he decides on an exotic pet, choosing a giant anteater. It took a while for his father to get one, finally buying one from an Indian man who sold his pet for 50 thousand rupees. The animal arrives half-starved, begging for food, but the brat cruelly sends him off to find some ants, though the anteater finds none. On that very day, Roy's Aunt Dorothy comes to visit and Roy demands that the anteater greet his Aunt (the narrator gives a quick explanation that Americans can't say some words correctly (Ant instead of Aunt and kant instead of can't) Upon hearing of an 83-year-old ant, the anteater devours the aunt, while Roy hides in the manure shed. However, the anteater finds him and decides Roy is his afters (presumably in revenge for being malnourished by the boy).
- The Porcupine – A girl buys sweets on Saturday with her weekly money and sits down on a nice rock. Unfortunately, she mistakes a porcupine for said rock. She runs home to tell her mother, who refuses to take the quills out herself. Instead, she takes her daughter to the dentist, Mr. Myers, who takes great pleasure in removing the quills. Unlike the other stories, it doesn't involve the namesake animal throughout, only mentioned when the girl sits on it and at the end as she is warning the reader to be aware of it if they want to sit down.
- The Cow – A cow named Miss Milky Daisy suddenly sprouts a pair of gold and silver wings from two bumps on her back. Daisy quickly becomes a celebrity and everyone adores her "except for one quite horrid man who travelled from Afghanistan", who loudly insults the flying cow. Angered by this rudeness, Daisy drops a cowpat on him.
- The Toad and the Snail – A boy playing in a park fountain is approach by a toad the size of a pig, reminding the boy of his Auntie Em. They (the boy and the Toad) leap all over England and eventually arrive in France. The locals are amazed by the size of the toad and prepare to cook the Toad and eat his legs. The toad, who often goes to France to tease the locals, presses a button on his head, turning him into a giant snail. Despite this change to prevent his demise, the Frenchmen start up once again, dying to get a taste of the snail. Nevertheless, the snail pulls a lever on his shell and becomes a Roly-Poly Bird. The boy and the bird then fly back to the fountain where the tale started, the boy keeping his adventure a secret. This is the only tale to feature more than one animal. It is also the longest.
- The Tummy Beast – A fat boy tells his mother that a person is living in his tummy, but his mother doesn't believe the child and, disgusted with the horrible "excuse", she sends him to his room. However, a voice erupts from the boy's tummy, telling him to get something to eat or it'll twist his guts. The boy asks his mother if she believes him now, but she doesn't answer, having fainted.
In the OVA, the "Crocodile" was moved so that it would be told before the "Tummy Beast", which also was moved to be told before the "Toad and the Snail".
Historical Context of Roald Dahl's poems
In all of Roald Dahl's poem he makes adults mean and horrid because of his history. He had a lot of mean teachers and adults throughout his childhood.