"Somewhere inside all of us is the power to change the world." -Matilda
The stories of Roald Dahl are some of the most beloved in the world. Dahl has a way of creating unique stories that boast so much heart and moral values. Some of his best works include James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, and of course, Matilda.
In today's article, we will analyse the Matilda story and how it was adapted to the screen as a feature film and the stage as a musical.
Who Developed the Matilda Story?
The story of Matilda is a peculiar one originally written by the world-famous British author Roald Dahl. His books have sold more than 250 million copies worldwide making him one of the successful authors on the planet.
Dahl's greatest works include James and the Giant Peach, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches, The BFG, Fantastic Mr Fox, and Matilda. The grand majority of Roald Dahl's works have been adapted to the big screen and have starred famous actors such as Gene Wilder, Johnny Depp, and Angelica Huston.
Nevertheless, in today's article, we will single out one of the best works of Dahl, Matilda.
How did the story of Matilda come about?
Dahl published Mathilda in 1988, a few years before his death, after a couple of years of writing and based many of the events and characters on personages from his actual life. For instance, Mr Wormwood is based on a real person that Dahl encountered from his home village of Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire. Also, Dahl's town's library provided inspiration for Mrs Phelps library where Matilda reads from a very young age.
The Matilda story for children has outsold all of Dahl's other works and was named among the 30th best children's novel in a survey published by the School Library Journal.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Matilda has been adapted as an audio reading by Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet, a 1996 feature film directed by Mr Danny Devito, a BBC Radio programme, and a 2010 West End production musical.
Also, it is worth mentioning that in October of 2018, the original illustrator of the novel, Quentin Blake, celebrated the 30th anniversary of Matilda's release by drawing pictures of her at age 30 and what her life may be.
Of all the adaptions the 1996 feature film version is most recognisable. Devito's Jersey Films company acquired the rights to adapt the novel to the big screen and joined forces with TriStar Pictures.
Matilda is a cult classic and favourite of so many people, it comes as no surprise that it was adapted to become a musical on the West End in London and later on Broadway.
What is Matilda About Anyway?
If you were born under a rock or have been in a coma for the last thirty years and never heard of Matilda, firstly your in for a wonderful treat when you read the book, see the movie, or attend a stage production, and second, the following plot details will help you to become acquainted with the story to not look like a fool in front of your friends:
In a little itty-bitty town in Buckinghamshire, lives 5 and a half-year-old Matilda wormwood with her very neglectful parents. To express her disdain towards her parents and get their attention, Matilda resorts to wonderfully planned pranks against them.
Matilda is extremely brilliant and finds comfort in the books she reads at the public library. When at school Matilda learns wonderful things, makes friends, and creates a special relationship with her magnificent teacher Miss Honey. After becoming familiar with Matilda's wonderful abilities, Miss Honey wants her to attend a higher class. When talking to the headmistress and Matilda's parents she is rejected.
Miss Honey and Matilda develop a strong bond and they submissively watch Miss Agatha Trunchbull commit horrible punishments on her students. Matilda doesn't know with who else to share her secrets; therefore, she reveals to Miss Honey that she has telekinetic powers and subsequently Miss Honey states that she had an abusive aunt/legal guardian who turns out to be Miss Trunchbull.
Ready to avenge the crimes committed against Miss Honey, Matilda plans to practice her telekinetic powers at home and use them against Miss Trunchbull. She successfully does so and Miss Trunchbull is forced to hand over her house to Miss Honey and leave the school.
Mr Trilby becomes the head of the school upon Miss Trunchbull's departure and he turns out to be a very kind and mild-tempered man. He advances Matilda to the highest level of schooling and since Matilda is using all of her brainpower for her complex school work she loses her telekinetic powers which prove to be a relief.
The story ends in a very happy way since her father and mother must flee the country since her Mr Wormwood was involved in selling stolen cars and Matilda asks to live with Miss Honey which her parents uninterestingly agree. Miss Honey and Matilda live happily ever after!
We highly recommend watching the 1996 feature film or reading the book to capture a better idea of what Matilda is all about.
Important Characters from Matilda
The characters from a story transform it from good to great; the same is true with Matilda. Dahl spent much time and imagination crafting the personalities that make us remember Matilda fondly.
Therefore, without further delay, the following are the most important characters from Matilda:
- Matilda Wormwood: unlike the rest of her dull and self-involved family, Matilda is a light in a darkened world. She is highly intelligent possessing fantastic skills in mathematics and language arts. She often plays pranks on her parents to get back to them for her feelings of neglect. Her brilliance leads her to develop telekinetic abilities. She perfects her powers to get back at the cruel headmistress, Miss Trunchbull and save her dear teacher, Miss Honey. Matilda is characterised by her humility and likeability.
- Miss Agatha Trunchbull: the Wicked Witch of the West is not only a personage from The Wizard of Oz, but she is also the inspiration in other stories such as Roald Dahl's Matilda. In the story of Matilda, evil takes on the name of Miss Agatha Trunchbull; what can you expect with a name like Agatha? Nevertheless, Miss Trunchbull is the legal guardian of Miss Honey and she absolutely despises children. She is abusive towards the students in her school and frequently uses the torture chamber known as "Chokey" to punish the children.
- Miss Jennifer Honey: the true unsung hero in the Matilda story must be Miss Honey. She is Matilda's school teacher and the first person to truly recognize her intelligence. She is shy, sweet, and absolutely adored by all of her students. Miss Honey becomes the confidant and motherly figure that Matilda never had.
- Mr Harry Wormwood: the father of Matilda and husband of Zinnia Wormwood, he is neglectful, dishonest, and arrogant; not a nice person at all! Since he has been dishonest in many of his business dealings, he is forced to flee the country with his family yet he leaves Matilda behind. We could say that Mr Harry Wormwood is not a candidate for Father of the Year!
- Zinnia or Mrs Wormwood: extremely vain and self-centred, Mrs Wormwood prizes looks over intelligence and gives no importance to Matilda's intellectual gifts. She has often let Matilda alone at the house to go play bingo. She shares the same worldview as Mr Wormwood which make them a perfectly matched pair of terrible parents.
Other intriguing characters featured in the Matilda film, musical and classic novel include Mrs Phelps, Lavender, and Matilda's older brother Michael Wormwood.
Acclaim for the Matilda Story
Since its release in 1988, the Matilda novel published by Jonathan Cape, illustrated by Quentin Blake, and written by the wonderful Roald Dahl has received nothing but praise by so many critics and distinct media outlets.
For example, in 2012 the School Library Journal ranked Matilda as the 30th best children's novel of all time; four of Dahl's books made the list which is more than any other author. Also, Time Magazine has ranked Matilda on its list of 100 Best Young-Adult Books of All Time.
What about the 1996 feature film directed by the brilliant Danny DeVito?
Although considered a box-office bomb since it only grossed $33 million against a $36 million budget, the movie Matilda is a cult classic that has been watched by people all over the world. Greatly reviewed, boasting a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, Matilda was praised for the performances of the actors, the charm of the film, and the direction of DeVito.
Recently director Danny DeVito has spoken about making a sequel of the Matilda film; hopefully, he captures the same essence from the book as he did from the first film.
After the success of the movie and the demand to create more kid-friendly stage productions, development on The Matilda Musical began in 2009 after the Royal Shakespeare Company expressed interest on creating a musical adaption of the beloved novel. After some months of hard work and development, the musical opened at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon on December 9, 2010.
Due to its wonderful success at Stratford-upon-Avon, Matilda opened on the West End to rave reviews winning seven Olivier Awards. The same occurred on Broadway when Matilda won five Tony Awards.
Matilda the Musical has toured and opened productions around the world to fantastic acclaim from audience members and critics which comes as no surprise for such a magical story about good conquering the evil!