George's Marvellous Medicine

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George's Marvellous Medicine
George's Marvellous Medicine first edition.jpg
British first edition hardback
AuthorRoald Dahl
IllustratorQuentin Blake
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreChildren's novel
PublisherJonathan Cape (UK hardback)
Alfred Knopf (US hardback)
Puffin Books (paperback)
Publication date
10 January 1981
Media typePrint (Hardback, Paperback)

George's Marvellous Medicine (known as George's Marvelous Medicine in the US) is a book written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake. First published in 1981, it was praised for its humour, but was also criticised for its underdeveloped plot and offbeat ending. It is one of Dahl's shorter children's books.

Being a medical expert was one of what Dahl called his "dreams of glory": he had huge respect for doctors and particularly those who pioneered new treatments. He dedicated the book to "doctors everywhere".[1] An audio reading of it was released with the actor Richard E. Grant narrating. In 2003, the book was listed at number 134 on the BBC's The Big Read poll.[2]


While eight-year old George Kranky's parents are out grocery shopping, his elderly grandmother bosses him around and bullies him. She intimidates George by saying that she likes to eat insects and he wonders briefly if she's a witch. To punish her for her regular abuse, George decides to make a magic medicine to replace her old one. He collects a variety of ingredients from around the family farm including deodorant and shampoo from the bathroom, floor polish from the laundry room, horseradish sauce and gin from the kitchen, animal medicines, engine oil and anti-freeze from the garage, and brown paint to mimic the colour of the original medicine.

After cooking the ingredients in the kitchen, George gives it as medicine to his grandmother, who grows as tall as the house, bursting through the roof. When his grandmother doesn't believe it was George who made her grow so tall, he proves it by feeding the medicine to one of his father's chickens, which grows ten times its original size. As they return home, George's parents can't believe their eyes when they see the fattest chicken ever and the grandmother. George's father grows very excited at the thought of rearing giant animals. He has George feed the medicine to the rest of the farm's animals, causing them to become giants as well. However, his grandmother begins complaining about being ignored and stuck in the roof, so Mr. Kranky hires a crane to remove her from the house. Her extreme height has her sleeping in the barn for the next few nights.

The following morning, Mr. Kranky is still excited about George's medicine and announces that he and George shall make gallons of it to sell to farmers around the world, which would make his family rich. George attempts to recreate it, but is unable to remember all the ingredients. The second version makes a chicken's legs grow extremely long, and the third elongates a chicken's neck to bizarre proportions. The fourth has the opposite effect of the first and makes animals shrink. George's grandmother, now even more angry she's sleeping in the barn, storms over and starts complaining loudly that she's once again sick of being ignored. She sees the cup of medicine in George's hand and erroneously mistakes it for tea. Much to his and Mrs. Kranky's horror, and Mr. Kranky's delight, she drinks the entire cup and shrinks so much that she vanishes completely. At first, Mrs. Kranky is shocked, confused and distraught about the sudden, and very strange disappearance of her mother, but soon accepts that she was becoming a nuisance anyway. In the last page, George is left to think about the implications of his actions, feeling as though they had granted him access to the edge of a magic world.

Safety concerns[edit]

Though it was a popular book for reading to children in primary school, great care was taken by teachers to warn children to not try and recreate the medicine at home due to the hazardous nature of some of its ingredients.[3] There is a disclaimer warning before the story stating "Warning to Readers: Do not try to make George's Marvellous Medicine yourselves at home. It could be dangerous."[4][5] In 2020, a team of British researchers performed a toxicological investigation into the potion and all 34 of its ingredients. They reported in the BMJ that if ingested, it would cause vomiting, kidney injury, convulsions and other severe health problems, including 'the most likely clinical outcome', death. 'The overall outcome for Grandma would be fatal catastrophic physiological collapse,' they wrote.[6]


The original ingredients are as follows:[7]

  • Toothpaste
  • Golden gloss hair shampoo
  • Superfoam shaving soap
  • Vitamin enriched face cream
  • Scarlet nail varnish
  • Hair remover
  • Dishworth's dandruff cure
  • Brillident false teeth cleaner
  • Nevermore ponking deodorant
  • Liquid paraffin
  • Helga's hairset
  • Perfume: 'Flower's of turnips'
  • Pink plaster powder
  • Lipsticks
  • Superwhite washing powder
  • Waxwell floor polish
  • Flea powder for dogs
  • Canary seed
  • Dark tan shoe polish
  • Curry powder
  • Mustard powder
  • 'Extra hot' chilli sauce
  • Black peppercorns
  • Horseradish sauce
  • Gin
  • Fowl pest powder to mix with feed
  • Purple pills for hoarse horses
  • Thick yellowish liquid for cows
  • Sheep dip
  • Pig pills for swine sickness
  • Engine oil
  • Antifreeze
  • Grease
  • Dark brown gloss paint

In the cookbook Roald Dahl's Completely Revolting Recipes, collaborated on by Felicity Dahl and chefs Josie Fison and Lori-Ann Newman, George's medicine was adapted into "George's Marvellous Medicine Chicken Soup", the ingredients of which included chicken, onions, mushrooms, leeks and tarragon.


Dahl was influenced by Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, with the "Drink Me" episode in Alice inspiring a scene in George's Marvellous Medicine where the tyrannical grandmother drinks a potion concocted by George and is blown up to the size of a farmhouse.[4]

Television version[edit]

Rik Mayall read this story for the BBC's Jackanory children's programme in 1986, in a widely acclaimed performance.


  1. ^ "Roald Dahl on the death of his daughter". No. 3 February 2015. The Telegraph.
  2. ^ "The Big Read Top 100". BBC. April 2003. Retrieved 19 October 2018.
  3. ^ Ouellette, Jennifer (17 December 2020). "Don't try this at home: George's Marvelous Medicine is quite toxic". Retrieved 23 December 2020.
  4. ^ a b "World Book Day 2019: Roald Dahl's 10 best children's books, from Matilda to The Twits". The Independent. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
  5. ^ Johnson G, Davies P (2020). "Toxicological analysis of George's marvellous medicine: literature review". BMJ. 371: m4467. doi:10.1136/bmj.m4467. PMC 7726247. PMID 33303487.
  6. ^ Johnson, Graham; Davies, Patrick (2020). "Toxicological analysis of George's marvellous medicine: Literature review". BMJ. 371: m4467. doi:10.1136/bmj.m4467. PMC 7726247. PMID 33303487.
  7. ^ Johnson, Graham; Davies, Patrick (2020). "Toxicological analysis of George's marvellous medicine: Literature review". BMJ. 371: m4467. doi:10.1136/bmj.m4467. PMC 7726247. PMID 33303487.