"The Landlady" and Other Short Stories

"The Landlady" and Other Short Stories Summary

Throughout his life, Roald Dahl gained acclaim as an adult short story writer. Dahl's short stories often center specific themes, including revenge, Royal Air Force pilots, ingenuity, and black humor. Dahl's early stories center around Royal Air Force pilots and focus on several dark aspects of World War II, depicting young men entering the battlefield and experiencing loss of limbs, friends, and sanity. His later stories recount femmes fatales, difficult marriages, and murderous plots, and often end ambiguously.

In "An African Story," a young fighter pilot writes down a story told to him by an old man. After Judson, the old man's assistant, breaks the back of the old man's dog, the old man exacts revenge on Judson, setting him up to be bitten by a black Mamba as he steals milk from a cow.

In "Beware of the Dog," Peter Williamson, a young pilot, is forced to crash-land after he loses a leg. Though his nurse tells him he is in Brighton, he begins to suspect that he is actually in France, and learns that he has been captured.

"Skin" is a story of Drioli, a man who gets a tattoo from Chaim Soutine. After seeing Chaim's work in a prominent art gallery, Drioli reminisces about his friend, and decides to wander into the gallery. Several attendants try to expel him until he shows his tattoo, and a man offers to display his tattoo in a hotel—the Bristol in Cannes. After Drioli agrees to accompany this man, the reader learns that there is no Hotel Bristol in Cannes, and that a painting similar to Drioli's tattoo is up for sale in Buenos Aires.

In "Man from the South," an old man bets a young man that if he can light a lighter ten times without faltering, he will win a Cadillac. If he loses the bet, he will lose a finger. The cadet agrees to the bet, and after lighting the lighter successfully 8 times, a woman storms into the room and stops the game. The woman explains that the old man has lost 11 cars and stolen 47 fingers. The woman claims to have won all of the old man's possessions. When the cadet hands her back the keys to her Cadillac, she puts up a hand with only one finger and a thumb.

"The Great Automatic Grammatizator" begins with Knipe, an inventor and unpublished writer, meeting with his boss, Bohlen. Bohlen congratulates Knipe on his work, and gives Knipe some time off. Knipe hatches a plot to built a story-generating machine, and the outputs begin to get published at an alarming rate. Knipe then creates a novel-generator, and, as his ambition grows, he sets out to contractually buy out writers and let him generate their stories.

A young pregnant wife murders her husband with a leg of lamb in "Lamb to the Slaughter." The woman then feeds the leg of lamb to unsuspecting policemen, disposing of the evidence.

Meanwhile, "Genesis and Catastrophe" recounts the birth of Hitler, and explains his family situation and the fears of his mother.

"The Landlady" recounts the tale of Billy, a young man looking to lodge in Bath and start his business career. He stops at the boarding house of an old woman, and realizes that her interest in taxidermy may extend to humans.

Oswald Hendryks Cornelius, a hypochondriac and the main character of "The Visitor," meets his tragic end after he tries to seduce the wife and daughter of a hospitable man who houses him. Oswald probably ends up sleeping with the man's leprous daughter, contracting her disease as well.