First edition cover
|Original title||THE BFG|
|Publisher||Jonathan Cape (original)
Penguin Books (current)
The BFG (short for "Big Friendly Giant") is a 1982 children's book written by Roald Dahl and illustrated by Quentin Blake. It is an expansion of a short story from Dahl's 1975 book Danny, the Champion of the World. The book is dedicated to Dahl's late daughter, Olivia, who died of measles encephalitis at the age of seven in 1962. As of 2009, the novel has sold 37 million copies in UK editions alone.
An animated television adaptation was released in 1989 with David Jason providing the voice of the BFG and Amanda Root as the voice of Sophie. It has also been adapted as a theatre performance. A theatrical live-action adaptation directed by Steven Spielberg was released in 2016.
The story is about a young orphaned girl named Sophie, living in a girl's orphanage run by the cantankerous and abusive Mrs. Clonkers. One night, Sophie sees a large, cloaked person blowing something via a trumpet-like object into a bedroom window down the street. She is discovered by the mysterious person, who carries her to his homeland of Giant Country. There, he identifies himself as the Big Friendly Giant ('BFG'), who nightly blows bottled dreams into the bedrooms of children, and explains the other type of giants that eat humans, mostly children. Because the BFG refuses to eat people or steal food from humans, he subsists on a foul-tasting vegetable known as a snozzcumber.
Sophie and the BFG quickly become friends; but Sophie is soon put in danger by the sudden arrival of the Bloodbottler Giant, who suspects the BFG of harboring Sophie. Sophie hides in the snozzcumber, unknown to the BFG, and the BFG offers the snozzcumber to the Bloodbottler, hoping that its foul taste will repel him from the area; whereupon the Bloodbottler spits out the snozzcumber and Sophie, and leaves in disgust. When Sophie announces she is thirsty, the BFG treats her to a fizzy drink called frobscottle, which causes noisy flatulence because of the bubbles sinking downwards. The BFG calls this "Whizpopping". The next morning, the BFG takes Sophie to Dream Country to catch more dreams, but is tormented by the other giants along the way; notably by their leader, the Fleshlumpeater, the largest and most fearsome.
In Dream Country, the BFG demonstrates his dream-catching skills to Sophie; but the BFG mistakenly captures a nightmare, and uses it to start a fight among the other giants. Sophie later persuades him to approach the Queen of England toward imprisoning the other giants. To this end, she uses her knowledge of London to navigate the BFG to Buckingham Palace, and the BFG creates a nightmare, introducing knowledge of the man-eating giants to the Queen, and leaves Sophie in the Queen's bedroom to confirm it. Because the dream included the knowledge of Sophie's presence, the Queen believes her and speaks with the BFG.
After considerable effort by the palace staff to create a table, chair, and cutlery of appropriate size, the BFG is given a lavish breakfast, and the Queen telephones the King of Sweden and the Sultan of Baghdad to confirm the BFG's story – the giants having visited those locations on the previous two nights – then summons the Head of the British Army and the Marshal of the Royal Air Force. The said officers, though initially belligerent and skeptical, eventually agree to cooperate. A fleet of helicopters then follows Sophie and the BFG to the giants' homeland, where the giants are tied up as they sleep, suspended under the helicopters, and carried back to London, where they are imprisoned in a pit. The only one not easily caught is the Fleshlumpeater, who wakes up as the British attempt to tie him up, but Sophie and the BFG trick him into allowing his own capture by claiming that he has been poisoned so that he will put his hands and feet together to be tied up. Fleshlumpeater and his fellow giants are then imprisoned where they are only fed snozzcumbers.
Afterwards, a huge castle is built as the BFG's new house, with a little cottage next door for Sophie. While they are living happily in England, with several gifts coming in for many years from the governments of every country ever targeted by the giants (notably England, Sweden, Iraq, Arabia, India, Panama, Tibet, the United States, Chile, Jersey and New Zealand), the BFG writes a book of their adventures, which is then identified as the novel itself.
- Sophie: The protagonist of the story who becomes an international heroine.
- The BFG: A 24-foot-tall individual giant who has superhuman hearing abilities and immense speed. His primary occupation is the collection and distribution of good dreams to children. He also appears in another novel, Danny, the Champion of the World, in which he is introduced as a folkloric character. His name is an initialism of 'Big Friendly Giant.'
- The Queen of England: The monarch of England.
- Mary: The Queen's maid.
- Mr. Tibbs: The Queen's butler.
- Mrs. Clonkers: The unseen director of the orphanage in which Sophie lives at the start of the novel; described as cruel to her charges.
- The Heads of the Army and the Air-force: Two bombastic officers answering to the Queen.
- Nine anthropophagus (man-eating) giants, each about 50-foot-tall and proportionately broad and powerful.
- The Fleshlumpeater: The de facto leader of the nine man-eating giants and the most horrible of the bunch.
- The Manhugger: One of the nine man-eating giants.
- The Meatdripper: One of the nine man-eating giants.
- The Childchewer: One of the nine man-eating giants.
- The Butcher Boy: One of the nine man-eating giants.
- The Bloodbottler: Second in command to the Fleshlumpeater.
- The Maidmasher: One of the nine man-eating giants.
- The Bonecruncher: One of the nine man-eating giants who is known for crunching up two humans for dinner every night.
- The Gizzardgulper: One of the nine man-eating giants.
Awards and recognition
The BFG has won numerous awards including the 1985 Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis as the year's best children's book, in its German translation Sophiechen und der Riese and the 1991 Read Alone and Read Aloud BILBY Awards.
In 2012 it was ranked number 88 among all-time children's novels in a survey published by School Library Journal, a monthly with primarily U.S. audience. It was the fourth of four books by Dahl among the Top 100, more than any other writer.
- ISBN 0-224-02040-4 (hardcover, 1982)
- ISBN 0-374-30469-6 (hardcover, 1982)
- ISBN 0-590-06019-8 (paperback, 1982)
- ISBN 0-435-12279-7 (hardcover, 1984)
- ISBN 0-14-031597-7 (paperback, 1984)
- ISBN 0-14-034019-X (paperback, 1985)
- ISBN 1-85715-924-1 (hardcover, 1993)
- ISBN 0-679-42813-5 (hardcover, 1993)
- ISBN 0-14-130105-8 (paperback, 1998)
- ISBN 0-14-130283-6 (paperback, 1999)
- ISBN 0-14-131137-1 (paperback, 2001)
- ISBN 0-224-06452-5 (hardcover, 2002)
- ISBN 978-0-14-241038-7 / ISBN 0-14-241038-1 (paperback, 2007)
- ISBN 0-141-33216-6 (audio CD read by Natasha Richardson)
- ISBN 84-320-6178-6 (El gran gigante Bonachón, Spanish, 1984)
- ISBN 3-498-01250-9 (Sophiechen und der Riese, German, 1984)
- ISBN 88-7782-004-7 (Il GGG, Italian, 1987)
- ISBN 2-07-051372-6 (Le bon gros géant, French, 1988)
- ISBN 0-624-03190-X (Die GSR: die groot sagmoedige reus, Afrikaans, 1993)
- ISBN 1-904357-03-2 (Yr CMM: yr èc èm èm, Welsh, 2003)
On Christmas Day in 1989, ITV aired an animated film based on the book, with David Jason providing the voice of the BFG and Amanda Root as the voice of Sophie. The film was dedicated to animator George Jackson who worked on numerous Cosgrove Hall Productions.
A theatrical film adaptation was produced by Walt Disney Pictures, directed by Steven Spielberg, and starring Mark Rylance as the BFG, as well as, Ruby Barnhill, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall and Bill Hader. The film was released on July 1, 2016 to positive critical reception.
- Singh, Anita (7 August 2010) "Roald Dahl's secret notebook reveals heartbreak over daughter's death". The Telegraph. Retrieved 4 January 2011.
- BBC. "Whizzpoppingly wonderful fun in Watford!". Retrieved 24 June 2016.
- "Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company presents The BFG". birmingham-rep.co.uk. Retrieved 2016-06-30.
- "Sophiechen und der Riese" (in German). Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis. 1985. Archived from the original on 3 June 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
- "Previous Winners of the BILBY Awards: 1990 – 96" (PDF). The Children's Book Council of Australia Queensland Branch. Retrieved 4 November 2015.
- "BBC – The Big Read". BBC. April 2003. Retrieved 12 December 2013.
- National Education Association (2007). "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". Retrieved 19 August 2012.
- Bird, Elizabeth (7 July 2012). "Top 100 Chapter Book Poll Results". A Fuse #8 Production. Blog. School Library Journal (blog.schoollibraryjournal.com). Retrieved 19 August 2012.
- Samuel French. Accessed October 26, 2015