Growing Reader

Tween

My BFG

by Lucy Dahl

© RDNL/QB 2016

Written by Lucy Dahl, the following is an excerpt from the introduction to the brand new edition of Roald Dahl’s The BFG. Lucy opens a window into her childhood as the daughter of a creative genius, shares how the BFG took shape in the nightly bedtime stories Roald told, and demonstrates just how far her loving father went to keep his children’s belief in magic alive.

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When I was a child, every night at bedtime, my father would pace back and forth in the little tiny bedroom I shared with my sister, Ophelia, and tell us wonderful stories of the BFG. We would sit up in bed mesmerized by the tales of our BFG, as we sipped on our witch’s po­tions, which my father always gave us to drink during our “story,” as he called it. The witch’s potion was a deli­cious concoction that my father made us every evening at bedtime, a combination of canned peaches or pears, milk, and a few drops of either red, green, or blue food coloring whizzed up in a blender to make a homemade milkshake-type drink. “The witches dropped it off at the doorstep five minutes ago,” my father would tell us with convincing authority, the same way he told us about our BFG who lived in a cave under the apple trees of our orchard right next to our house.

Everything was magical, even the witch balls that hung on clear fishing twine at different lengths and heights from our bedroom ceiling. “Witch balls” are beautiful, antique, fragile balls of all different colors. My father told us that they were to keep the bad witches away: “One look at her reflection in the witch ball and she’ll be scared to death and disappear faster than she arrived.” We were safe; we had so many mystical things around us. The Witches (good ones); the BFG; Fantastic Mr. Fox, who lived under the “witch tree,” a spectacular beech tree that had grown from three small trees into one massive climbing tree, which stood gracefully halfway up the little country lane where we lived, in a rambling farm­house called Gipsy House.

The stories were always a surprise — some nights it was the BFG, sometimes it was Fantastic Mr. Fox, some­times my father told us stories about when he was our age and all the naughty things he and his friends got up to at school, stories he put together later in a book called Boy. But what never changed was our evening ritual. After our story (which was never read, always told) was over, my father would take our empty witch’s potion glasses, then always ensure that our little window was cracked the tiniest bit. He did this to make sure that later the BFG could get his stick through to blow dreams into our room. Then my father kissed us good night, tucked us in snugly, and turned out our light. Then we waited…

The wait was never long. Usually within about five min­utes a long bamboo stick slowly poked its way through the middle of our curtains. First the stick would aim at my older sister Ophelia’s bed. It stopped steadily for a moment, and then we would hear two terrifically loud blows, rather like the sound a great big whale makes when it blows through its spout. Then, very slowly and careful­ly, the bamboo stick would turn toward me. The thrill was exhilarating: What could be my dream tonight? Two huge blows were exhaled in my direction, and then the long bamboo would slowly retract back through the curtains, and within seconds we went to sleep. We couldn’t wait to go to sleep and dream our special dreams that the BFG had made for us that day, from his cave under the apple trees of our orchard.

One evening Ophelia asked my father, “How do we know that you are not making up the BFG?”

“Making him up!” my father said with horror.

“Why can’t we go to the window and see him?” I asked.

“Because if you do, he will never come back. He is very shy and does not want anyone to ever see him; his magic might even be stolen by little girls’ eyes. The Big Friendly Giant is a magical giant, and magical things are never seen; you just have to believe, and if you don’t believe in magic, then you will never find it.” We weren’t convinced and my father sensed it; yet we believed enough not to go to the window when the bamboo stick came through, just in case.

The very next morning, when we woke up and opened our curtains, all of our doubts were dissolved, as written on our perfectly green lawn were giant brown letters: B.F.G.

We ran downstairs to tell our father, who was extreme­ly annoyed that his prize lawn had been tampered with.

“Now do you believe that the BFG is real?” he asked. “My lawn has been all messed up.”

Yes. We believed. And still today, I believe in magic, the BFG, Witches, and Fantastic Foxes; but I also know that late that night, my father had used weed killer to make the giant letters on his precious lawn. The idea of his chil­dren believing in magic was far more important than the beautiful grass that he tended with great care.