Back to: West Bengal Board Class 8th English Guide and Notes
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‘Tales of Childhood’ is an excerpt from Roald Dahl’s autobiography titled ‘Boy: Tales of Childhood’. As the title suggests, it is from Dahl’s childhood. It details upon his earliest memories or the lack thereof, for being a child, he remembers very little of what had happened in his life.
About the Author:
Roald Dahl (1916-1990) was a prominent British novelist. He is quite known for his works, especially those for children. Famous works of his include ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’, ‘The Witches’ and ‘Matilda’.
The theme of this excerpt is reminiscing of childhood days. Dahl recollects his life when it had been much simpler, when even tragedy striking his household had been diminished by his age. He narrates how his life had been after than as well as a child, his memory of going to a kindergarten being highlighted, even as it was blurred.
The excerpt begins with a description of Roald Dahl’s father and his story. It details on how his father, Harold Dahl, hailing from a rather well-off family judging from the description provided for his own father, had lost an arm as a child. Despite this, he had managed to become a successful shipbroker before marrying Sofie Magdalene Hesselberg, Roald Dahl’s mother. The story moves on to how they had shifted to a village named Radyr in 1918, when he was two. Roald Dahl paints a picturesque and a rather simplistic domestic imagery of the place.
In 1920, unfortunately, Dahl’s elder sister Astri died of appendicitis. Having been very fond of his eldest daughter, his father was distraught. He developed a pneumonia soon after, not particularly caring whether he lives or not after his daughter’s untimely demise. Dahl notes how had penicillin been invented at that point of time, his sister and father could have been saved. His mother, with the passing away of her husband and daughter and having to take care of five other children all by herself, suffers. She sold their house to sustain her family. They move to Llandaff and had to forgo their previous life. At the age of six, Dahl notes that this is where he goes to his first school.
Roald Dahl describes his kindergarten, which was named the ‘Elmtree House’, run by two sisters. Unsurprisingly, Dahl, being the child that he was, remembers very little of this particular stage of his life. While he could hardly remember the faces from there or his classroom, Dahl distinctly recalls the journey from his house to the kindergarten for he found it very exciting, his excitement predominantly centering around the new tricycle that he had had. He starkly remembers riding in it to his kindergarten, how happy he and his sister had been while doing so.
This is an excerpt that shows the working of the mind of a child. While, as an adult, he understands the difficulty his mother must have underwent, at that age, it had all been a blurred memory. Even kindergarten was a memory diminished in his mind. However, what is highlighted is the joy children partook in over simple things in life, coated by unblemished innocence.