Dahl Biography

Children of all ages have read and enjoyed books by Roald Dahl. Many of his stories, such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach, have become classics in their own time.

As recounted in Boy, Roald Dahl’s father, Harald Dahl, immigrated to England from Norway around the turn of the century (1900). Not long after the death of his first wife, he took a trip back to Norway in hopes of finding a wife to help him raise his young son and daughter. He married Sofie Magdalene Hesselberg in 1911 and the couple moved to Dahl’s home in Llandaff, Wales. Over the next six years they had five children: Astri, Alfhild, Roald, Else, Asta. Roald was born on September 13, 1916 in Llandaff. Unfortunately Astri, the eldest, died of appendicitis in 1920. Harald Dahl quickly deteriorated after his daughter’s death and he died of pneumonia a few months later. Sofie Dahl, pregnant at the time with Asta, was left with three of her own children, two step-children, a sizeable estate, and her husband’s dying wish that his children would be educated in English schools, which he thought the best in the world.

A less determined woman would have packed up and moved back home to Norway, but Sofie decided to stay in Wales and carry out Harald’s wish. But she wasn’t ready to move to England yet. First she moved the family into a smaller, more manageable home in Llandaff and then one-by-one sent each of her children to Elmtree House, a local school, for kindergarten. When Roald was seven Sofie decided it was time for him to go to a proper boy’s school, so she sent him to nearby Llandaff Cathedral School. He spent two years there and his only memories of it are described in Boy – one involves an older boy whizzing by on a bicycle, and the other involves The Great Mouse Plot that earned him and his friends a savage caning by the school’s headmaster. This violent incident was what prompted Sofie to withdraw Roald from the Llandaff school and finally send him off to an English boarding school: St. Peter’s.