15 September 2011
Like every child with working eyes and an imagination, I devoured Roald Dahl's books. This week's story of his decrepit hut where he brought his characters to life is both enlightening and depressing.
However, when I think of him now I think, rather churlishly, of his major continuity error. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, his most famous and most reproduced work, was a glorious read. Then out came the sequel, Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator.
If you remember, via either book or film, the original story ends with Charlie being told by Willy Wonka that he was giving him the factory as a gift, and the whole family - mum, dad, four extremely elderly grandparents - could all move in too. And so the factory's transparent portable lift crashed right through the roof of the Bucket family's tiny home and collected the remaining members of the clan, the three bed-bound grandparents pushed in via their bed, still in their nightshirts.
Then, via the book, the sequel took us into space and a bit of a to-do with the American government and the Vermicious Knids, before Wonka revealed his new sideline into health foods with Wonka Vite - the pill that would take 20 years off your life. The three bedridden grandparents - who, incidentally, had taken an illogical dislike to Wonka despite endorsing Charlie's hero-worship of him in the first book - took far too many pills each. Grandpa George and Grandma Josephine went back to being babies, and Grandma Georgina disappeared entirely.
Now, here lies the problem. For this storyline to work, Dahl put words into secondary characters' mouths that revealed that the three affected grandparents were 81, 80 and 78 respectively. Yet in the first book, when first describing them, he said that all four were over 90 and Grandpa Joe, who didn't do Wonka Vite as he was long already up and out of bed for his trip round the factory with Charlie and didn't think Wonka had anything to prove, was labelled the eldest at 96 and a half. As all three remaining grandparents took four pills each, they should all have been reduced to school age children, not babies or glints in the muffin man's eye.
Of course, the fantasy brilliance continued with Georgina's revival as a woman of more than 300 years of age ("the Mayflower!") prior to the introduction of Vita Wonk to revert the babies back to old gifferdom. And Dahl did write it beautifully. But he made a massive error. If this nine year old child noticed it, how on earth did he or his publishers not?
It's a bit late to get worked up about it, I know...