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Who will save Roald Dahl's writing shed?

September 13, 2011 |  9:13 am


If only Willy Wonka were here to help. The shed where author Roald Dahl wrote needs a hand -- a golden ticket, if you will -- and it's causing a stir in England.

Dahl was the author of now-classic children's books "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," "Willy Wonka and the Great Glass Elevator," "James and the Giant Peach" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Dahl's books were so popular with young readers, perhaps, because they weren't just cutesy -- they were kind of scary. In his stories for adults, his dark, profane, R-rated side came out. He won three Edgar Awards and had two stories filmed for the TV series "Alfred Hitchcock Presents."

His family has asked for help in raising more than $790,000 to move the shed from its current location to the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in town in Buckinghamshire. The funds would also help preserve and restore the shed and its contents, which haven't been kept in pristine archival condition -- instead, they've been in a shed, which is sometimes referred to in its less-than-glamorous condition as a "hut."

The plea has caused considerable consternation among those who think Dahl's family should pick up the tab. People have noticed that his books continue to enchant young readers and that movies continue to be made from them. in the Guardian, Sarah Crown writes:

I'm not quibbling over the significance of the shed itself, nor even the half-a-million-quid price tag: never having attempted to move and/or archive the contents of a garden shed myself, after all, who am I to argue? No: the real question, posed by countless listeners on Twitter, Andrew M Brown blogging over at the Telegraph and about 98% of the commenters on his article, is why, given the extensive wealth the Dahl family has presumably accrued off the back of the sales of his books (not to mention all the related merchandising, film rights and so forth), can its members not fork out for the shed move themselves?

Dahl also wrote the screenplay adaptations for two books by Ian Fleming, the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice" and the children's movie "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang." That probably paid decently, but how far does 1960s movie money go? It's nice to think that writers create such wealth that their descendants could pay several hundred thousand dollars to preserve their legacy -- but that notion might be as fantastic as a gigantic peach.


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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Roald Dahl's writing shed. Credit: Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre / Associated Press