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15 life lessons we can learn from Roald Dahl

From love to cornflakes, Roald Dahl’s books are full of gems of wisdom

Written by
Cath Clarke

He never went to university and described himself as a person ‘with one half that has failed completely to grow up’. But writing in his garden shed every day, Roald Dahl filled his books and essays with wise words. As Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of ‘The BFG’ arrives in cinemas, here’s 15 whoopsy whiffling lessons we can take from Dahl’s books.

1. On beauty

‘A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly… If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.’

2. On growing up

‘Never grow up...always down.’

3. On doing your best

‘Never do anything by halves… Be outrageous. Go the whole hog. Make sure everything you do is so completely crazy it's unbelievable.’

4. On parenting

‘A stodgy parent is no fun at all. What a child wants and deserves is a parent who is sparky.’

5. On reading

‘If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.’


6. On love

‘It doesn't matter who you are or what you look like as long as somebody loves you.’

7. On gender

‘I'm afraid men are not always quite as clever as they think they are. You will learn that when you get a bit older, my girl.’

8. On sex

‘The act of copulation is like that of picking the nose. It's all right to be doing it yourself but it is a singularly unattractive spectacle for the onlooker.’

9. On the nutritional value of corn flakes

'Do you know what breakfast cereal is made of? It's made of all those little curly wooden shavings you find in pencil sharpeners!'

10. On following your dreams

‘If you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good, either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.’

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

11. On strangers

‘There are no strangers in here, just friends you haven't met.’

12. On keeping everything in proportion

‘A life is made up of a great number of small incidents and a small number of great ones.’

13. On success

‘We all have our moments of brilliance and glory...’

14. On being decisive

‘You’ll never get anywhere if you go about what-iffing.’

15. On life

‘Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely of places.’ (This was almost the last line of Dahl’s final story.)

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