The Twits

by Roald Dahl

Because of NaNoWrMo and Over the Garden Wall I got to thinking: what was this frightening whimsy I found so appealing?

Since that’s how I identified Over the Garden Wall, and as a result, for Halloween I tried reading more classic ghost stories. But after realizing that that’s not the mood I wanted for my NaNoWriMo and then realizing that nope, it’s more of a Roald Dahl mood, I thought I should re-read his books.

I started with The Twits.

I’ve always liked this book. Not because of the Twits (they’re terrible, terrible people), but then why?

Reading it now, here are facts that gratify me by reading it:

  1. the Twits get their comeuppance through the same wicked means and schemes they used against each other and the birds (the Hugtight Sticky Glue for the Bird Pie and the SHRINKS Mr. Twit tricks Mrs. Twit into thinking she has)
  2. it’s a retribution story, meaning they’re punished for being terrible people

Some factors of plot and characterization:

  • There’s a clever male figure (others refer to him a “dotty” “off his rocker” etc.

It’s common for Dahl’s stories to feature male characters who use cleverness to outwit and/or punish nasty, disagreeable, unpleasant folk (or witches)

  • There’s an edge of silliness and the horrific combined.

While the idea of getting the Twits to stand on their heads is a silly idea, the result – that they get the SHRINKS for real and eventually their bodies are sucked up into themselves until there’s noting left but their shoes and clothes (and Mrs. Twit’s cane) – is a pretty horrifying fate, if you think about. But you can’t feel bad for them (I can’t) because they’re horrible people.

Examples of their terrible character:

  • Bird Pie
  • Carrying a cane to beat children and animals, not because of any physical need
  • Playing tricks on each other – convincing her she has a terrible illness, mixing worms in his pasta
  • Growing nettles to keep children away
  • Threatening to eat children that got stuck on the Dead Tree


One thought on “The Twits

  1. Pingback: The Witches | Work-In-Progress

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