Everyone thinks that they know the plot of traditional fairy tales forwards, backwards and upside down; however, Roald Dahl intends to prove otherwise with the shortest book he ever wrote, Revolting Rhymes, which is a collection of poetic parodies of beloved stories such as Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk. However, Dahl contends that the stories we think we know were actually heavily sanitized and sentimentalized over time so that parents would feel comfortable about reading them to their children at bedtime. The true endings of these tales are not so much happily ever after as bloodily ever after, because most of the less likable characters come to somewhat of a gory end.
There are six poetic tales in all. In each of them, Dahl's female protagonist is far feistier than in the original versions of the story; for example, Cinderella, whom he lovingly refers to as Cindy, decides that the Prince is not really for her after all, and instead asks her Fairy Godmother for a down-to-earth, ordinary man instead. Similarly, Little Red Riding Hood, who has quite a reputation as a sharp shooter, becomes the hired gun for the other fictional characters in need of protection from the Big Bad Wolf. This might be because Dahl always wrote his stories with his daughters and grand-daughters firmly in his mind, and wanted to show them that girl power trumps fairy magic every time.
Predictably, the book was an enormous hit with children and their parents alike, although there were some complaints about the verbiage used by the author, and grocery store chain Aldi refused to sell the book unless the word "slut" was removed from one of the poems. It was, being replaced with the word "mutt", although this is not an enormous improvement if one happens to be the character being described as such. Nonetheless, it satisfied the powers that be at Aldi and the book was re-stocked due to customer pressure.
In 1983, one year after the publication of Revolting Rhymes, Dahl was presented with the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He is widely recognized as one of the greatest children's storytellers of the twentieth century. He is most famous for the novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, about a little boy who found riches for his family by finding a golden ticket in a bar of Wonka chocolate, and it's sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. In the early 1980s three other novels - James and the Giant Peach, Fantastic Mister Fox and The Magic Finger combined with the Charlie Bucket books to make the best children's boxed set of all time.
Although they were written for children, Dahl's books often had twisted and dark plot lines and rather macabre endings, a side of his work that Dahl explored more fully in his novels directed at an adult readership, particularly the often psychologically disturbing series Tales of the Unexpected. However, they also championed the underdog, promoted good manners and had a layer of sentimentality at their core.
Dahl passed away in 1990 and is buried in the little English village of Great Missenden, where children still come to visit, and leave small toys at his grave. The village also receives over fifty thousand overseas visitors every year, who come to enjoy the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Center, which was opened in June 2005.