|Cover artist||Quentin Blake|
|Publisher||Jonathan Cape (London)|
|Media type||Print (hardback, paperback)|
The idea of The Twits was triggered by Dahl's desire to "do something against beards", because he had an acute hatred of them. The first sentence of the story is, "What a lot of hairy-faced men there are around nowadays!"
A hideous, vindictive, spiteful couple known as the Twits live together in a brick house without windows. They continuously play practical jokes on each other out of hatred for one another. They also keep a family of pet monkeys, the Muggle-Wumps. The Twits, who are retired circus trainers, are trying to form the first upside-down monkey circus, leaving the monkeys to stand on their heads for hours on end. If they fail to do what Mr. Twit says, Mrs. Twit beats them with her cane. Mr. Twit also coats tree limbs with a strong sticky glue in hopes of catching birds for Mrs. Twit to make into a bird pie. The monkeys try to warn the birds, but since the monkeys speak in an African language, the English birds cannot understand them, so the poor birds wind up boiling in Mrs. Twit's pie. One week, the Roly-Poly bird flies in from Africa to visit the monkeys, and acting as an interpreter of languages, keeps the birds from sitting anywhere Mr. Twit has spread glue. Mr. Twit tries several times to catch the birds, spreading the glue on an increasing number of perches, but the Roly-poly bird changes his warning to reflect the new traps. Tired of chasing the birds, the Twits decide to buy guns to kill them. The Muggle-Wumps, tired of being forced to stand on their heads, with the help of the birds, use Mr. Twit's powerful glue to attach the couple's furniture to their ceiling while they are away to trick them into thinking that they are upside-down and that their ceiling is actually their floor. The birds also smear glue on the Twits' heads, which permanently fixes them to the ground so that they catch the "Terrible Shrinks" (a disease that Mr. Twit had convinced Mrs. Twit that she had earlier in the book), resulting in them shrinking away into nothing, leaving the Muggle-Wumps free to escape.
Mr. Twit is a wicked person, having hair that covers his entire face, with the exception of his forehead, eyes, and nose. His hair (which he falsely believes makes him appear "wise and grand"), is spiky and hard. Because he never washes it, his beard holds scraps of food dropped there while he ate, including tinned sardines, stilton cheese, and corn flakes. Occasionally, he licks these scraps out and eats them. Instead of wiping his mouth with a cloth, Mr. Twit simply wipes it on his sleeve. Mr. Twit is a beer drinker – even drinking at breakfast. He is known to seem very quiet when he is plotting evil tricks, the victim of which is usually his equally unpleasant wife. He and his wife mistreat their monkeys.
Mrs. Twit is the hideously ugly, menacing wife of Mr. Twit, whose former beauty was distorted as a result of constant horrible thoughts over time. She takes advantage of her right glass eye to play practical jokes in revenge against her husband, and demonstrates multiple acts of cruelty and viciousness throughout the story; it has been mentioned that the main reason behind her use of a walking cane was as a weapon against innocent children and animals, she participates in the torment of the couple's pet monkeys the Muggle-Wumps, and serves Mr. Twit a lunch of earthworms disguised as spaghetti. Albeit she also frequently demonstrates acts of stupidity, she has also exhibited intelligence; she managed to manoeuvre her way out of a prank that ended with her being carried off into the sky with balloons by chewing through several of them and landing safely on the ground. However, aside from this, she is portrayed as being hideous and unhygienic.
A series of pranks advance the plot of the story. Brief descriptions appear below:
The Glass Eye
Mrs. Twit, as if to have Mr. Twit know that she is always watching him, places her glass eye in Mr. Twit's beer to scare him when he finished it and with her back facing Mr. Twit, she says that he was plotting.
In revenge for the glass-eye trick, Mr. Twit places a frog in Mrs. Twit's bed, and frightens Mrs Twit by claiming the item in her bed is a 'Giant Skillywiggler', with "teeth like screwdrivers" with which it would bite off her toes. Mrs. Twit then faints, at which point Mr. Twit splashes a jugful of cold water onto her face. She soon recovers, as the frog hops onto her face to get near the water. Mr. Twit then claims the 'Giant Skillywiggler' will soon bite off her nose. Mrs. Twit then flees.
The Wormy Spaghetti
Seeking revenge for the Frog Trick, Mrs. Twit places worms from the garden in cooked spaghetti, which Mr. Twit eats, being re-assured by Mrs. Twit that it is merely a "new kind" she has recently bought. When he has eaten it, Mrs. Twit joyfully reveals the truth.
In revenge for the Wormy Spaghetti, Mr. Twit glues pieces of wood no thicker than a penny onto Mrs. Twit's cane each night, as well as onto the legs of her chair, making Mrs. Twit believe that she is slowly shrinking. Mr. Twit then frightens her by claiming that she has contracted an illness called the 'shrinks', by which she will be caused to disappear. Mr Twit then claims that to cure the shrinks, Mrs Twit will have to be "stretched". Mr Twit then ties Mrs Twit up in the garden to 60 gas balloons intending to leave her there for a while to teach her a lesson. However, Mrs Twit comments that if the strings break, it's goodbye for her, so Mr Twit pretends to tie some more strings to her ankles, before cutting through the strings and sending her skywards. Mrs Twit eventually returns by biting through several of the balloon strings so she sinks slowly down, eventually collapsing on Mr Twit in the garden; cracking him senseless with her long walking stick which she had somehow managed to hold onto throughout the duration of the prank.
The Sticky Tree
There is an unimaginatively named "Big Dead Tree" in the Twits' garden, which Mr Twit uses to trap birds by spreading Hug-Tight Sticky Glue on the branches. Captive birds are then made into a pie by Mrs. Twit. During the story four schoolboys are caught instead of birds; but escape by unfastening their trousers and falling to the ground outside the Twits' garden after Mr. Twit said that he will make boy pie instead of bird pie. It is this use of glue that gives the captive monkey Muggle-Wump and his family the idea of using it against the Twits.
Rescuing the Animals
Using their friend the Roly-Poly Bird as an interpreter of languages, Muggle-Wump and his wife and children convey the warning that any bird landing on the Big Dead Tree will be cooked into Mrs. Twit's Bird Pie. When Mr. Twit, in retaliation, spreads glue on the monkeys' cage (which serves as a substitute perch), the monkeys alter the warning. The birds end up landing on the Twits' roof. This enrages Mr. Twit, who doesn't want to keep waiting for his pie, so the Twits decide to go to the shop and buy a gun each. During their absence on this errand, Muggle-Wump plots a final trick: to turn the Twits' house upside-down. With the help of the birds, Muggle-Wump removes the carpet from the floor, as well as all of the tables, chairs, and other objects in the house, and uses Mr. Twit's glue to stick the objects upside-down to the ceiling, leaving the floor absolutely bare. By doing this, the Twits will believe that they have been turned upside-down, as they will be standing on what looks like the ceiling of their house, and will stand on their heads to be the right way up. To keep their heads glued to the ground, two birds will put a small amount of glue on the Twits' heads right before they enter the house, so that when they stand on their heads, they will be stuck. Just as the preparations for this trick are finished, the twits return home. Everything goes as planned, the Twits believed they've been turned upside down and so stand on their heads to counter it, only to be stuck to the bare floor. However, heads are not made to be stood upon. With so much weight on it from above, the Twits literally get 'the shrinks', as was mentioned earlier in the book. However, this time it's not a trick, it's the real thing. After a week or so, the Twits disappear, and everyone who knew of them shouts "hooray!" Meanwhile, The Muggle-wumps and Roly-Poly bird escape to their native African land.
Since 2003, a feature film adaptation of the book has been in development by Vanguard Animation and its founder John H. Williams. As part of multi-picture deal with Walt Disney Pictures, Vanguard was set to produce a CG animated/live action film, with John Cleese and Kirk DeMicco writing the screenplay. In 2004, it was reported that Mark Mylod signed up to direct the feature, and that Cleese may star in the film.
In 2006, after the executive/regime changes at Disney, the project moved to Working Title and Universal. As of 2012, the official site of Vanguard Animation is stating that Conrad Vernon, the director of Shrek 2 and Monsters vs. Aliens, would direct the film.
Relations to other Roald Dahl books
- A monkey named Muggle-Wump also appears in The Enormous Crocodile. A monkey bearing resemblance to Quentin Blake's illustration of the same character also appears in The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me.
- A Roly-Poly Bird likewise makes an appearance in The Enormous Crocodile and is also to be found in Dirty Beasts.
- Certain things within the book, such as Mr Twit's beard, "Wormy Spaghetti" and bird pie, appear within Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes.
- An extremely strong glue is also mentioned in Matilda.
- A version of "The Twits" was translated by Matthew Fitt in 2008 to include Scottish language phrases, words and expressions. The book title was renamed "The Eejits" (Glasgow slang for idiots).
- "The Twits hit Lancaster!". BBC. Retrieved 3 June 2012
- Brodesser, Claude (4 February 2003). "'Twits' pic pleases Cleese". Variety. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- Dawtrey, Adam (21 November 2004). "Bigscreen goes Dahl-crazy". Variety. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- Dawtrey, Adam (22 October 2006). "Working Title takes reality check". Variety. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "Kirk DeMicco: Monkey Business". Total Sci-Fi Online. 15 July 2008. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- "The Twits". Vanguard Animation. Retrieved 21 January 2012.
- Roald Dahl's Completely Revolting Recipes: A Collection of Delumptious Favourites. Random House, 2 November 2009
- ISBN 0-141-80563-3 (audio CD read by Simon Callow, 2004)
- ISBN 0-224-06491-6 (hardcover, 2003)
- ISBN 0-14-130107-4 (paperback, 2002)
- ISBN 0-375-82242-9 (hardcover, 2002)
- ISBN 0-14-131138-X (paperback, 2001)
- ISBN 0-14-034640-6 (paperback, 1991)
- ISBN 0-14-031406-7 (paperback, 1982)
- ISBN 0-224-01855-8 (hardcover, 1980)