The Magic Finger

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First British edition (Allen & Unwin, 1968)
Author Roald Dahl
Illustrator William Pène du Bois (first),
Pat Marriott, Tony Ross, Quentin Blake
Cover artist Pène du Bois (first),
Marriott, Ross, Blake
Country United States
Subject Hunting, magic[1]
Genre Children's picture book, fantasy
Publisher Harper & Row (first), George Allen & Unwin (first UK)[2]
Publication date
Media type Print (hardcover)
Pages 40
LC Class PZ7.D1515 Mag[1]

The Magic Finger is a fantasy story written by Roald Dahl in 1962.[3][4] It was first published in the United States, by Harper & Row in 1966, as a picture book illustrated by William Pène du Bois.[1][5] Allen & Unwin published a Pène du Bois edition in the U.K. in 1968.[2] Later editions have been illustrated by Pat Marriott, Tony Ross, and Quentin Blake.[5]


The narrator is an unnamed eight-year-old girl who hates hunting, particularly from the neighbouring Gregg family. She tries to talk the Greggs out of it, but either they laugh at her, or they ignore her completely. The girl possesses an ability known as the Magic Finger, which is triggered whenever she gets upset and sees red. She will then blast a beam of magical energy from her finger that can permanently disfigure the person she is upset at. After turning her teacher Mrs. Winter into a cat, she swears that she will never use the finger again. However, she gives in to temptation and uses it again when she finally has had enough of the Greggs' mocking of her hatred for hunting.

The next day the Greggs wake up as tiny people with bird wings replacing their arms and their house is taken over by four human-size ducks with human arms instead of wings. The Greggs are forced to leave and build a nest in one of the trees in their garden where they spend the night. The next morning they wake up to find the large ducks with the Greggs' guns standing under their tree, threatening to shoot in the same way that they have shot ducks. Mrs Gregg begs the ducks not to kill her, her husband or their children, right before one of the ducks speaks to them, revealing that her own children were killed by the Greggs on their last hunting trip. The Greggs promise never to hunt again and the spell is broken, with the Greggs changed back into normal humans and the ducks returning to normal.

The next day, the girl goes to their house and finds the family smashing up their guns and setting up graves for the birds that they killed. They have even changed their surname to "Egg". The girl feels that things may have gotten a little out of hand but then hears a gun fired by another neighbouring hunting-mad family, the Coopers. She thus sets off, telling the Eggs that the Coopers will be nesting in the trees that night; in some versions of the book, an illustration at the end shows the Cooper family sitting in a nest, having fallen victim to the Magic Finger's same curse as the Eggs before.


  1. ^ a b c "The magic finger". LC Online Catalog. Library of Congress ( Retrieved 2016-02-13.
  2. ^ a b "The magic finger". Retrieved 2016-02-13.
    One library catalogue record for the 1974 Puffin Books edition. "Originally published: / with illustrations by William Pène du Bois. New York : Harper and Row, 1966 ; London : Allen and Unwin, 1968."
  3. ^ "The Magic Finger". Roald Dahl ( Retrieved 2015-10-01. 
  4. ^ "The Magic Finger". Stories: 1960s. Roald Dahl. Retrieved 2016-02-11.
      "The Girl". Characters: Children. Roald Dahl. Retrieved 2016-02-11.
  5. ^ a b The Magic Finger title listing at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database. Retrieved 2016-02-13. Select a title to see its linked publication history and general information. Select a particular edition (title) for more data at that level, such as a front cover image or linked contents.

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