Miss Trunchbull

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Agatha Trunchbull
Matilda character
First appearanceMatilda (1988)
Created byRoald Dahl
Portrayed byIn the film:
Pam Ferris
In the musical:
Bertie Carvel
In-universe information
OccupationSchool headmistress/principal
FamilyA sister/stepsister
Jennifer Honey (niece/step-niece)
Magnus Honey (brother in law/step brother in law) (victim)

Agatha Trunchbull, also known as Miss Trunchbull or simply The Trunchbull, the fictional headmistress of Crunchem Hall Primary School (or Elementary School), is the main antagonist in Roald Dahl’s 1988 novel Matilda, in the 1996 film Matilda and the 2011 musical Matilda. She is said to look "more like a rather eccentric and bloodthirsty follower of the stag-hounds than the headmistress of a nice school for children".[1]

Fictional character biography[edit]

Miss Trunchbull is depicted as a Unwholesome Rolemodel, a fierce tyrannical monster who “frightened the life out of pupils and teachers alike"[2] notorious for her brutal and wildly idiosyncratic discipline: trivial misdeeds (including simply wearing pigtails) incurring punishments up to potentially-fatal physical discipline. Her hatred of children is so great she denies ever having been a child herself.

She is revealed to be the maternal aunt (or step-aunt in the film) of Matilda's sweet-natured primary school teacher Miss Jennifer Honey. Miss Trunchbull served as Jennifer's childhood guardian after the passing of her parents. It's strongly implied that Agatha murdered Magnus Honey, Jennifer's father, and made it appear a suicide. Agatha then became the legal owner of the Honey estate and Jennifer's legal guardian. Jennifer's exposure as a little girl to Agatha's abuse rendered her soft-spoken and timid. Jennifer admits she became Agatha's slave, doing the chores and housework. Once Jennifer graduated school and teachers' training college, Agatha seized hold of Jennifer's salary.

Out of adoration for her schoolteacher, Matilda uses her telekinetic abilities to drive Agatha from her own house one day by posing as Magnus's spirit and levitating a chalk stick to scrawl a message on the board. Terrified, Miss Trunchbull subsequently vanishes, and gives back her house to her niece, after which Miss Honey becomes the new headmistress.

It is revealed that Miss Trunchbull is very superstitious and has an intense fear of ghosts, black cats, and the supernatural in general. Her fear is later used as a weakness for Matilda to scare her thus teaching Miss Trunchbull a lesson.

Miss Trunchbull was a past shot putter, hammer, and javelin thrower in the Munich Olympics. She often throws children and uses a crop to scare children as punishment, which often ends in accidents or injuries. She is brutal to all children and also made a boy (Bruce Bogtrotter) eat a colossal chocolate cake as punishment for apparently eating a piece of her own chocolate cake only to make the children rewrite the dictionary by hand and blaming Bruce for eating the whole cake in the first place.


As children, Roald Dahl and his friends played a trick on the local sweet-shop owner—a “mean and loathsome” old woman named Mrs Pratchett—by putting a dead mouse in a gobstopper jar. This would inspire Dahl to include a scene in Matilda where Matilda’s friend Lavender puts a newt into the water jug of Miss Trunchbull.[3]


Miss Trunchbull is portrayed by Pam Ferris in the film,[4] and by Bertie Carvel in the musical,[5] later replaced by Christopher Sieber.[6]

Miriam Margolyes confirmed that she auditioned for the role (before Ferris was cast) during a filmed interview with Jo Brand for the UK television special Roald Dahl's Revolting Rule Book which was hosted by Richard E. Grant and aired on September 22, 2007. This documentary commemorated Dahl's 90th birthday and also celebrated his impact as a children's author in popular culture.[7]


  1. ^ Dahl, Roald (2012). Roald Dahl: Three Tales of Magic and Mischief. Random House. p. 214.
  2. ^ Trunchbull, Agatha. Matilda. Jonathan Cape.
  3. ^ "Dahl's childhood sweetshop and its influence on his books". BBC News Online. BBC Online. BBC. 13 September 2016. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
  4. ^ Swain, Cynthia (2011). Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Benchmark Education Company. p. 12. ISBN 9781450929554.
  5. ^ Masters, Tim (7 December 2011). "Bertie Carvel plays Miss Trunchbull in Matilda The Musical". BBC News Online. BBC Online. BBC. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  6. ^ Piepenburg, Erik (4 February 2014). "Christopher Sieber Joins the Cast of 'Matilda'". NY Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 4 August 2019.
  7. ^ "Roald Dahl's Revolting Rule Book (TV Movie 2007)". IMDb.