Sunday, January 31, 2010

voice is inherited

Roald Dahl (1916-1990)

Enough of that picture of the lady with the dog carrier, right! On to more interesting things...
I recently finished reading The BFG "Big Friendly Giant" (Puffin Books, 1982) written by Roald Dahl, and I am enthralled. I like almost anything Roald Dahl has written, but The BFG especially itched that whimsical, fantasy scratch. Dahl has that special touch that translates into effortless, old world storytelling that's never short of villains with a darker than normal sense of humor - in The BFG, other giants - mean ones - eat adults and little children. Not the BFG though, remember he is friendly, and captures dreams which at night he blows into the bedrooms of sleeping children via their open windows.

In one passage, the BFG describes dreams saying: "Dreams," he said, "is very mysterious things. They is floating around in the air like little wispy-misty bubbles. And all the time they is searching for sleeping people."

The Big Friendly Giant was never lucky enough to receive a formal education, so many of his words are all mixed-up, yet somehow still make sense: "I is not understanding human beans at all," the BFG said. "You is a human bean and you is saying it is grizzling and horrigust for giants to be eating human beans. Right or left?"

Dahl was born to Norwegian parents in the year 1916. He has said that his mother told him stories of trolls and other mythical Norwegian creatures. I like to dream that some gene from my own Norwegian ancestors (whose last name was Saetre) besides their height, has rubbed of on me, especially in the storytelling arena, and maybe it has. Like eye color, and height, I believe that some aspect of a person's voice is inherited. Your ancestry, where you were born, where your grandparents were from, etc., on some level influences the type of storyteller you are or will be. If you're lucky enough to find letters or school papers, or goldmine - actually have an author in the family -from relatives, it's likely you'll hear some version of yourself, only modernized.
So give it a whirl, look for an old birthday card, a holiday newsletter, a love letter from your granddad to your grandma, and see if you can find your voice in theirs...
(Image of Roald Dahl from

No comments:

Post a Comment