Roald Dahl is regarded as one of the best children’s authors of all time. There is no doubting that his stories appeal to children young and old, as well as adult readers. They are packed with magic, mystery, fantasy and fun, featuring lots of dark humour and underlying themes of kindness and warm sentiment.
In 1980, Dahl published The Twits – a story about a really nasty and vile couple who didn’t like each other, never mind anyone else – especially children, and how the Muggle-wump monkeys and the Roly-Poly Bird combine forces to give them exactly what they deserve!
Roald Dahl hated beards, he thought that people with beards had something to hide so it really isn’t a surprise that The Twits starts with the line “What a lot of hairy-faced men there are around nowadays.” Clearly something he thought was a relevant observation in 1980. Fast-forward 42 years to 2022 and he could still be stating the same fact, leaving you asking the same questions he poses in the book about beards and cleanliness – how do they keep all that hair clean? How often is it washed? Is it full of food detritus? How do you keep it nicely groomed – shampoo, trimmers, barbers or DIY job? Luckily enough readers of The Twits do not have to answer those questions.
So why are we talking about hairy faced men anyway? Well, Mr Twit is one of the antagonists in the story and he just happens to have some dirty, food collecting pieces of face furniture. How often does Mr Twit wash his hairy face? Never, he hasn’t in years. He really is totally disgusting (look closely and you will see lots of stuck food in his hairy beard), maybe he is saving it for snacks later. He really is a foul and smelly man. Mr Twit has the perfect partner in Mrs Twit. She is just as nasty and vile, although she is yet to grow a beard but she does have a glass eye that is always looking in a different direction than the other eye.
The Twits, of course, are the main focus of the story. They are not the nicest of people, rude and nasty to everyone – especially to each other. They love to play pranks on each other – not the fun and harmless kind but the vile, nasty, rude and dangerous kind from eating wormy spaghetti to frogs in beds. No, they are not the nicest of people. I mean, how many people do you know that keep a family of monkeys locked in a cage in their garden and force them to spend a lot of time standing on their heads?
Apart from their mutual love of hating each other, they do have something else in common – they love eating fresh bird pie! Mr Twit catches the birds and Mrs Twit bakes them into a pie. Every week Mr Twit paints really strong glue on the Big Dead Tree in their garden to catch the birds.
Now, as with all mean, nasty and vile people, sooner or later they will get their comeuppance. And in case of The Twits that happens when The Roly-Poly Bird, is on holiday from Africa and who happens to speak the same language as the monkeys, lands in their garden and finds the Muggle-Wump monkeys. The monkeys are not happy with the weekly gluing of the branches on the tree to catch birds. As the Muggle-wumps can’t communicate with the birds but the Roly-Poly Bird can, they get the Roly-Poly Bird to speak to all the other birds telling them not to land in the tree and become an essential ingredient of The Twits weekly bird pie.
This upsets The Twits, and they then hatch another plan to catch the birds. The Muggle-Wumps then come up with a plan of their own to teach The Twits a lesson.
Overall, The Twits is a really fun and enjoyable story full of Dahl’s trademark dark humour. With wonderful descriptions of characters that bring them alive in your mind’s eye. This is a book where you are not rooting for the protagonists to win but for the villains of the story to lose – never have the antagonists in a book been so loved and hated at the same time and cheered when they get what they truly deserve.
The Twits must be the nasty and vilest, smelly and dirtiest characters to have ever been written in a children’s book and their contempt for each other just leaps out of the pages. But it works and their antics makes a fun story that will leave readers, young and old, with a big smile on their faces. Readers will be enthralled with their antics.
The humour in the book is excellent and will appeal to all ages. Readers will definitely laugh along with the silly, petty and spiteful antics of The Twits and the deviousness of the Muggle-wumps. The story is well-written, easy to read and the made up words Dahl is renowned for just add another dimension to the story that fit it extremely well. Muggle-wumps is a fantastic word (and features in more than one of Dahl’s books).
To accompany Dahl’s excellent storytelling are some equally excellent illustrations by Quentin Blake that really help tell the story in a fun way. Quentin Blake, Dahl’s favourite illustrator, has done an excellent job, as always.
The Twits is a fun and enjoyable story that readers will just love the silliness of. Under the silliness is also a message of how being rude, horrible and unkind will see you pay for it in the long run and that kindness is always the way to go – kindness, respect and goodness will always triumph over evil, vile and nasty.
RRP: £6.99 (Paperback) / £0.99 (Kindle)