Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Before Vermicious Knids, There Were Gremlins

Happy September, English Department, from Anne in Special Collections. This weekend marked the birthday of children's author Roald Dahl, known for his beloved classics such as James and the Giant Peach and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. One of Dahl's very first stories for children, called The Gremlins, was published in 1943 at the height of World War II. As a Royal Air Force pilot, Dahl became familiar with a superstition among air force men about the nasty little creatures who tinker with plane machinery to sabotage and cause all sorts of annoying mishaps. After being injured on duty and sent to Washington, D. C. as an air attaché, Dahl began writing the story and sent it to Walt Disney. And though he published as a book and made into several cartoons, Disney never made The Gremlins into the feature-length film he had originally wanted, supposedly because he decided there were too many "war films" being produced. Disney and Dahl parted ways (editorial: thank goodness!) after this effort, and The Gremlins was lost to history.

Special Collections just received a really brilliant copy of the rare first edition (published in an edition of only 5,000) from generous donor Carolyn Connor. The book would be at research home in a cultural study of later mythical figures in children's literature, or in textual/illustrative depictions of war for children, or...the list can go on and on! Stop by Special Collections to check out this gem and to see how it might contribute to your research. Tidbit: Dark Horse Comics reissued the original and did a strange tribute to this partnership in 2006.

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