“In the Ruins”

Sections: Information | Plot Description | Fun Stuff


  • First published:
    • Program of the World Book Fair, June 1964
  • Also published:
    • March 1965 issue of King
  • Trivia: According to Dahl collector Richard Walker, this story was originally meant to be published in the collection Kiss Kiss, even to the point of being included in the setting copy for the printers, but dropped at the last minute.

Plot Description

This is a very short and gruesome little story. It’s only been reprinted a few times and one of the most difficult stories for me to track down.

Spoiler warning! The narrator is walking through “the ruins”, presumably some village after it has been ravaged by war. He comes across a man sitting on the ground and sawing off his own leg. The man has a hypodermic needle next to him, which obviously contained some sort of an anesthetic. This “doctor” offers the narrator “some”. The narrator is crazy with hunger and accepts. The doctor says he will share as long as the narrator promises to “produce the next meal”. He also assures the narrator that he is “uncontaminated”. He explains that the hypodermic was a “caudal injection”, which is applied to the base of the spine. “You don’t feel a thing.” The narrator gathers some wood and makes a fire. He begins to roast the meat. A little girl comes up, drawn by the smoke and smell of cooking. The doctor offers her some of the meat, but tells her that she will have to “pay it back later”. The doctor observes that with the three of them, they should be able to survive for quite a long time. “I want my mummy,” the child begins to cry. “Sit down,” the doctor told her. “I’ll take care of you.”

(If you didn’t get it, they were eating the doctor’s leg. His plan to survive is that they will each provide body parts for food.)

Fun Stuff