Literary settings of Roald Dahl
Tales of the Unexpected settings
There are some stories where the settings really stick in your mind, years after reading them. I don’t read a lot of short stories as I like to take time to get to know characters and like to linger in literary settings but the stories by Roald Dahl have continued to fascinate me for years.
There are some that haunt me and those that make me daydream as I would love to be there. Situations I identify with and others I just love to imagine.
What stories from these Tales of the Unexpected have made the biggest impression?
Setting : A small, dark and grim looking guest house
A young man travels down to Bath for work and happens upon an unassuming guest house. An old woman opens the door even before he has had time to ring the bell. She seems to know he was coming.
As he settles into his room, he is invited down for tea with the landlady. He drinks several cups and is alarmed to see stuffed animals all around her living room. They were previous pets and she talks to them as if they were still there.
This man seems to be the only human guest but the landlady says there are two other guests staying here. The names of two men who are in the guest book he has been asked to sign. The man recognises the names of the men but not where from. He is starting to become uncomfortable and suspicious of the landlady.
The Way up to Heaven
Setting : An old fashioned lift in a grand old house
This takes place largely in a grand house wtih an old fashioned lift. The couple who live there are old and posh. The wife likes to travel but has a serious hatred of being late. She hates it and it makes her eye twitch. So, having a husband with no sense of time is not what she needs. As she takes the car to the airport, he comes with her to be dropped off at the office but he goes back into the house having forgotten a gift. The whole atmosphere of this story is grand – from that lovely house to the lift where you pull the concertina doors shut as you go in. It clanks into action and travels up and down the centre of the hallway. I loved that house and lift and wanted to live somewhere similar.
Dip in the Pool
Setting :A cruise ship
This one takes place on a huge cruise ship. People are having a great time and the weather is lovely. They are at sea when one man joins a table where they are making a bet as to when the ship will arrive in the next port. There is a lot of money at stake so he bets big. The weather is getting worse however so the ship will be slowing down and the man is sure he will win the pool. Trouble is when he wakes up, the weather over night has calmed so much that the ship is making up for lost time. The man is going to lose big unless he can make the ship slow down somehow….
I loved this for the grand cruise ship setting. The adventure at sea, the bet going on and the desparate attempts to get the ship to slow down. I felt trapped with the characters and a growing sense of desperation like the man who could lose everything. That ending!! Genius.
An art gallery in Paris
This was creepy! Especially so as it’s set in one of the most stunning and artistic cities in the world. A man with an exquisite painting tattooed on his back is courted by one of the city’s top art galleries who want to make use of the picture on his back to make money and their fortune. This picture is signed and one of a kind. They would do anything to get their hands on it so they make a deal with the man, down on his luck and in need of a fresh start in life…
Paris and art galleries have never been the same for me since I read this story. Grisly and creepy! Loved it.
There are so many great and creepy locations created by Roald Dahl. The power of an author to be able to create a memorable setting in only a few words!