|Created by||Roald Dahl|
In the film:
|Voiced by||Lauren Mote|
|Relatives||Harry Wormwood (father)
Zinnia Wormwood (mother)
Michael Wormwood (brother)
Miss Honey (adoptive mother)
Magnus Honey (adoptive grandfather, deceased)
Mrs. Honey (adoptive grandmother, deceased)
Matilda Wormwood, also known by her adoptive name Matilda Honey, is the title character and protagonist of the bestselling children's novel Matilda by Roald Dahl. She is a highly precocious six and a half year old girl who has a passion for reading books. Her parents do not recognize her great intelligence and show little interest in her, particularly her father, a secondhand car dealer who has performed numerous abusive actions on her. She discovers she has psychokinetic powers which she uses to her advantage. In the BBC Radio 4 two-part adaptation of the novel, she is played by Lauren Mote and in the film, as a six-year-old she is portrayed by American actress Mara Wilson and as a toddler she is portrayed by Amanda and Caitlin Fein.
Matilda has either black or dark brown hair in the novel (however in the film her hair is bright brown) and is small in size. In the film, she says she is six and a half, in the novel, she is five and a half when she starts school. She is described as sensible and quiet, and almost unaware of her intelligence, but, as Roald Dahl observed, if one talked to her about literature or mathematics, she would show the extent of her intelligence (Dahl, 1988)." However, her friend Lavender sees her as gutsy and adventurous. She has the mental ability of telekinesis, the ability to move and levitate inanimate objects by mere thought, without having to physically touch them.
Matilda is a young girl of genius intelligence, having developed skills such as walking and speech at early ages. However, these prodigious characteristics displayed by her character are perpetually ignored by her wealthy, neglectful, dimwitted parents who deem their daughter's incredible literacy skills and knowledge as worthless and spend more time watching television. Angered by her parents' arrogance and rudeness towards her, her vindictive side is shown through the vengeful practical jokes that she plays on her parents after they've done wrong against her (such as replacing her father's hair tonic with her mother's platinum blonde hair dye and gluing her father's favorite hat to his head with Superglue).
After entering kindergarten, Matilda's sweet-natured teacher Miss Honey takes an immediate interest in her kindness and intelligence, but is shocked by her mother and father's lack of regard for her and careless dismissal of her intellect. Matilda is also frequently challenged by the behavior of the tyrannical headmistress Miss Trunchbull, who disciplines students through what can best be described as extreme child abuse for little misdeeds, as well as being very strong. Upon learning of how the life of Miss Honey, who happens to be Miss Trunchbull's niece, has been so negatively affected by her aunt's abuse, Matilda is inspired to put her newly discovered abilities to good use in assisting her beloved teacher in her time of need.
When Miss Trunchbull becomes ready to discipline Matilda, she uses her abilities by writing on a chalkboard, posing as the ghost of Miss Honey's deceased father Magnus, who died a mysterious death (which Miss Trunchbull may have been involved in). In the film, she also protects the other children from Miss Trunchbull's wrath and also uses her telekinesis to pelt her with food and garbage. A petrified Miss Trunchbull is compelled by Matilda's prank to leave Miss Honey her proper inheritance before suddenly vanishing. After her family flees the country on the run from the police because of Mr. Wormwood's deceit in the automotive industry, Matilda is adopted by Miss Honey, thus providing her with a more loving home. In addition, with Miss Trunchbull gone, Miss Honey becomes the new headmistress in addition to her teaching duties.
Matilda has read a variety of books, especially at the age of four, when she read many in six months:
- The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
- Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
- Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
- Gone to Earth by Mary Webb
- Kim by Rudyard Kipling
- The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
- The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
- The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
- The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
- The Good Companions by J. B. Priestley
- Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- Moby Dick by Herman Melville
- Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
- The Red Pony by John Steinbeck
- Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie
- One and a half years old - Linguistic skill and vocabulary on par with those of an adult. (called a "noisy chatterbox" by her parents and told sharply that little girls should be "seen and not heard").
- Three years old - She demonstrates amateur reading skills.
- Four years old - She soon develops reading skills on par with those of an adult.
Matilda's supreme intellect has given her psychokinetic abilities, which she discovered in class one day after inadvertently tipping over a glass of water containing a live newt on Miss Trunchbull, using said powers. Her capabilities of psychokinesis were confirmed on the afternoon of that same day when using the powers of her mind to tip over a glass, to the shock of herself and Miss Honey, so Matilda decides to exercise this ability at home by levitating a cigar. She continues to polish her talent, and learns of Miss Honey's traumatic and unspeakably abusive childhood at the hands of her aunt and guardian, Miss Trunchbull, after her father Magnus' unexpected death. Out of sympathy for Miss Honey's woes, Matilda develops a scheme in revenge against Miss Trunchbull, and in class one day she levitates a piece of chalk to the blackboard while Miss Trunchbull is visiting the room and tormenting the students, posing as the spirit of Magnus and threatening to punish Miss Trunchbull by name if she doesn't leave her inheritance to his daughter. Horrified, she completely vanishes from existence following the events of Matilda's practical joke, leaving her house and worldly possessions to her niece, without any information established relating to her current whereabouts. After the position of headmaster is overtaken by a different teacher, Matilda is relocated to the sixth grade classroom (one of the many preventions standing in her way during Miss Trunchbull's tyranny, due to her particular hatred for especially young children and doubts regarding Matilda's genius intelligence), but finds herself unable to summon her psychokinesis one day. Miss Honey suggests that, after her promotion to the sixth grade, all of the intellect remaining unused in kindergarten was now being exercised, so as a result Matilda had lost her gift. (However, in the movie, albeit Matilda ceases using her telekinetic ability quite as frequently as before but due to the more frequent use of her knowledge, she still continues to use it on occasion, whereas in the book she seems to lose it entirely). Aside from this, Matilda also specializes in the fields of reading and multiplication, having developed an astounding vocabulary and intellect during babyhood that went ignored because of her parents' immense ignorance.
In the 1996 film Matilda was portrayed by American child actress Mara Wilson. Newborn Matilda was portrayed by two sets of twins Alissa and Amanda Graham and Trevor and James Gallagher; nine month was portrayed by Kayla and Kelsey Fredericks; toddler by Amanda and Caitlin Fein and four year by Sara Magdalin. In the Musical Stratford production Matilda was portrayed by three young actresses Adrianna Bertola; Josie Griffiths and Kerry Ingram. When the production transferred to West End Kerry Ingram was the only one who transferred and three new actresses were brought in Cleo Demetriou; Sophia Kiely and Eleanor Worthington Cox. When Kerry Ingram and Sophia Kiely left the show two actresses replaced them Jade Marner and Isobelle Molloy. In the Autumn of 2012, a whole new cast was brought in with Lucy-Mae Beacock, Hayley Canham, Chloe Hawthorn and Lara Wollington all playing Matilda. At the end of their runs, these four girls were replaced by Elise Blake, Cristina Fray, Lollie Mckenzie and Georgia Pemberton. With the most recent cast change in March 2014, Blake and Fray departed and three new girls joined the cast in the role of Matilda; Tasha Chapple, Cara Jenkins and Lottie Sicilia.
Later on in September 2014, Jenkins and McKenzie departed and two new girls joined the cast in the role of Matilda; Matilda Shapland (who was on Les Misérables before) and Violet Tucker (on her west end debut.) With the most recent cast change in March 2015, Chapple and Sicilia departed and two new girls joined the cast in the role of Matilda; Anna-Louise Knight and Lara McDonnell. Later on in September 2015, Shapland and Tucker departed and two new girls joined the cast in the role of Matilda; Evie Hone and Lizzie Wells.  When Matilda transferred to Broadway Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon and Milly Shapiro started rotating the role. They have since been replaced by four new actresses Paige Brady, Gabriella Pizzolo, Ripley Sobo and Ava Ulloa. Later on they have been replaced by four new actresses Tori Feinstein, Eliza Holland Madore, Brooklyn Shuck and Fina Strazza. Later on in September 2015, Matilda Shapland and Violet Tucker will depart and two new girls will the cast in the role of Matilda; Evie Hone and Lizzie Wells. Elza, Brooklyn and Fina departed from the show and are replaced by Mattea Conforti, Mimi Ryder, Alexandra Vlachos and Rileigh McDonald. With the most recent cast change in March 2016, Lara McDonnell and Anna-Louise Knight departed and three new girls joined the cast in the role of Matilda; Zaris-Angel Hator, Clara Read and Emily-May Stephenson.
- Serena Alllot (26 Nov 2010) Waltzing Matilda: Dahl's classic dances on to the stage The Daily Telegraph
- Once upon a time, there was a man who liked to make up stories ... The Independent (Sunday, 12 December 2010)
- Tomalin, Mary (1999). "Matilda by Roald Dahl" (PDF). Penguin Readers Factsheets. Pearson Education. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-20.
- ScreenTerrier: Matilda's 3 young stars
- ScreenTerrier: Meet the four West End Matildas
- "New Casting announced". uk.matildathemusical.com. March 25, 2013. Retrieved April 10, 2013.
- Felicia R. Lee (15 November 2012). "‘Matilda’ Musical Names Four Stars". NY Times. Retrieved 17 November 2012.