Today marks the end of our Everything Dahl and Magical theme. And to celebrate, what better way than to join this week’s Poetry Friday (which incidentally is hosted by Laura Salas of Writing the World for Kids) with Dahl’s word play in verse. Together, we can exclaim yuck! eew! coolness! as we read through his Revolting Rhymes.
Fractured Fairy Tale in Verse. As I was flipping the pages (and chuckling out loud), I was actually reminded of our recently-concluded fractured fairy tale theme for July and August. The only difference is that while all the books we have reviewed were almost-exclusively written in narrative form – this deliciously-repugnant book is written in verse – and the lines rhyme!
In this book, the reader gets introduced to a Cinderella who eventually married – not a prince with a predilection for chopping off women’s heads but – a simple jam-maker, who just happens to make an awesome home-made marmalade (yum!).
I loved how Jack (yes, the one who traded a useless old cow for a bean) discovered the virtues of bathing and rinsing and shampooing (a little conditioner, too, perhaps?) his hair until it gleams and shines.
Recall that the giant atop the beanstalk would continually announce “FEE FI FO FUM, I SMELL THE BLOOD OF AN ENGLISHMAN” each time that Jack tries to steal the giant’s baubles and trinkets. Lo and behold – all it takes is soap and water to dull the Giant’s acute senses – making Jack an instant millionaire!
The reader also becomes intimately familiar with a Snow White who eventually ended up
with seven funny little men, Each one not more than three foot ten, Ex horse-race jockeys, all of them.
Naturally it didn’t work for Dahl to have these seven little men work as miners in a dark and sordid cave (heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go), they had to be part of something more exciting. And yes, you’d be pleased with the crafty ways through which the magic mirror can actually make itself useful in predicting horse-race outcomes. Sweet!
Children won’t easily forget Goldilocks who got swallowed up by Baby Bear (with Papa Bear’s blessing and slight instigation, naturally) or the sharp-eyed and trigger-happy Little Red Riding Hood who with a quick “bang bang bang” shot the wolf dead (say hello to her lovely furry Wolfskin Coat).
Dahl’s audacity and Taste for the Macabre. It says a lot about Dahl that he is able to take all the basic elements of the original fairy tale and turn them all over on its head with a sordidly macabre twist. Trust me though when I say that, similar to the Vicar of Nibbleswicke, his irreverent humor may not sit well with others (if anything, Dahl may have made the lines extra-sordid to shock the pants off the punctiliously prim and proper aunts and uncles). My nine year old daughter, for one, is slightly revolted by it, while I just couldn’t help but snicker and laugh uproariously as I read through the rhymes. Here are some of my favorites.
From Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
Later, the Huntsman made a stop Within the local butcher’s shop, And there he bought, for safety’s sake, A bullock’s heart and one nice steak. ‘Oh Majesty! Oh Queen!’ he cried, ‘That rotten little girl has died! ‘And just to prove I didn’t cheat, ‘I’ve brought along these bits of meat.’ The Queen cried out, ‘Bravissimo! ‘I trust you killed her nice and slow.’ Then (this is the disgusting part) The Queen sat down and ate the heart! (I only hope she cooked it well. Boiled heart can be as tough as hell.)
From Jack and the Beanstalk
‘Oh mum!’ he gasped. ‘Believe you me ‘There’s something nasty up our tree! ‘I saw him, mum! My gizzard froze! ‘A Giant with a clever nose!’ ‘A clever nose!’ his mother hissed. ‘You must be going round the twist!’ ‘He smelled me out, I swear it, mum! ‘He said he smelled an Englishman!’ The mother said, ‘And well he might! ‘I’ve told you every single night ‘To take a bath because you smell, ‘But would you do it? Would you hell! ‘You even make your mother shrink ‘Because of your unholy stink!’
Enjoy shrieking eew and yuck as you watch these revolting rhymes on video. As I was searching google for a few resources connected to this book, I discovered lovely video clips on Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. Have fun watching these snippets of fairy tales made beguilingly-gruesome and delightfully-revolting by no less than the master storyteller of all time, Roald Dahl.
Three Little Pigs
Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl as illustrated by Quentin Blake. Puffin Books, New York, 1982. Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos taken by me.