7 darker stories by Roald Dahl you've never heard of and should read immediately

By Edmund Ho

The well loved British author of countless children’s classics also has a darker side to his literary genius. Read these short stories to find out more

By Edmund Ho |

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No death or mischief in the Chocolate Factory, but that doesn't mean Dahl always sticks to kids' tales.

This weekend, Victoria Park will once again play host to HK YAF’s annual Arts in the Park festival. This year’s theme ties together a large peach, a clever fox and a whole lot of chocolate. The theme is – you guessed it – the books of Roald Dahl.

While many people have read James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Fantastic Mr Fox, not many know Dahl was a short story writer, too.

His short stories, though darker than his children’s books, seem to be written with that same cheek and whimsy of his that we’ve come to know and love. Here are seven of his best works.

The Landlady

This is a story that many students probably read once as part of their English curriculum. The premise is simple: a young businessman, fresh out of school, has been ordered to report to his company’s branch office in the town of Bath. As he had no friends or place to stay there, he decides to stay in a curious little bed and breakfast that is filled with creepy, petrified animals. Suffice to say, he comes to regret that decision, gravely.

The Way Up to Heaven

Mrs Foster is a woman with a pathological fear of being late. Even just the thought of being tardy will drive her into a state of panic. And whenever her husband sees her in this state, he will deliberately draw out every movement to delay and torture his wife.

Will the villainous Mr Foster realise the error of his wicked ways or will the long-suffering Mrs Foster be rid of him before he gets the chance? Read and find out.

The Hitchhiker

Hitchhikers have the go-to for writers of horror stories for many years. Perhaps it’s not knowing where the hitchhiker comes from or whether they can be trusted. In this story, however, Dahl exploits this unknown in a rather delightful tale.

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

The length of this really qualifies it to be a novella, but The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar lives up to every bit of the word “wonderful”.

The story concerns a young man called (predictably) Henry Sugar. Because his family is wealthy, he spends most of his time gallivanting around English casinos. One night at a party in his friend’s mansion, he stumbles upon a notebook, and the secret within changes his entire life.

Mrs Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat

Mrs Bixby is bored. She is bored of her boring husband and his dental practice, and of her life as a housewife. She starts a romantic relationship with a man who eventually gives her a mink coat.

She is unable to find any excuse to explain how she now owns this enormously expensive coat without revealing her affair, so she drops it at a pawnbroker, intending to collect it at a later time. Trouble ensues.

Lamb to the Slaughter

Mary is a devoted housewife, so of course she doesn’t understand at all why her husband Patrick is asking for a divorce. She even prepared a delicious leg of lamb for dinner, but perhaps Patrick won’t be in a position to enjoy it after all. #revenge

Lucky Break

It’s not all dark and cynical. In Lucky Break, Dahl talks about how he got his start in fiction writing and what he thinks are good traits for novelists to have. Essential reading for all aspiring writers.

Edited by Nicole Moraleda