Tales of the Unexpected



talesThe Tales of the Unexpected are a collection of short stories by Roald Dahl (1916 – 1990) published in 1979. Almost all of them has been publish before in other short stories collection or in journals such as The New Yorker. In this stories we see a side of Dahl that most of the people do not know.

Dahl is pretty famous for his books for kids (who haven’t listen about Matilda or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?) but the thing is that he was already well know as a writer for an older audience.  His stories are dark, they play with the mind and let you wondering about what other people think about you.

This collection has been so popular that there was even a TV Show created based on them.  The TV show had Alfred Hitchcock as a presenter and sometimes even Dahl himself! So, when we think in Dahl we should not only think in these amazing writer of tales for kids but also we most recognize him as an author that can give us the Goosebumps as adults.

The list of the tales is:

#1 Taste – First Publish in March 1945 Ladies Home Journal

#2 Lamb of the slaughter – First Publish September 1953 – Harper’s Magazine

#3 Man from the south – First publish in 1948 Collier’s

#4 My Lady Love, My love – First publish June 21 1952 The New Yorker

#5 Dip in the pool – First publish January 19 1952 The New Yorker

#6 Galloping Foxley – First publish in 1953 Town &Country

#7 Skin – First Publish in 1952

#8 Neck – First Publish in 1953 in the collection story Someone like you

#9 Nunc Dimittis – First publish in 1953 in Colliers under the name The Devious Bachelor

#10 The Landlady – First published 28 of November 1959 in The New Yorker

#11 William and Mary –First published in 1959

#12 The Way up to Heaven – First published in February 27 1954 in The New Yorker

#13 Parson’s Pleasure – First published in April 1958 in Esquire

#14 Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat – First publish in 1959 in Nugget

#15 Royal Jelly – First publish in 1960 in Kiss Kiss

#16 Edward the Conqueror – First published in October 31 1953 in The New Yorker

#17 The sound machine – First published in September 17 1949 in The New Yorker

#18 Georgy Porgy – First published in 1960 in Kiss Kiss

#19 The Hitchhiker – First published in July 1977 in The Atlantic Monthly

#20 Poison – First published in June 1950 in Collier’s

#21 The Boy Who talked with animals – First published in 1977 in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

#22 The Umbrella Man – N/A

#23 Genesis and Catastrophe – First published in December 1959 in Playboy Magazine

#24 The Butler – N/A

Most of these stories are really good but I will said my favourites are Skin, William and Mary and Georgy Porgy.  The three of them resume pretty well Dahl’s style o write and provide a good idea of how are the rest of the stories.

I don’t know how Dahl makes it, but each story is more fascinating than the other to me.  His tales are as the title says, unexpected, we never expect the twist in the stories, their endings are very open and we always wonder what was left, what he hides behind each line and what he did not tell us.

Here I am presenting a short synthesis of these three stories:

Skin – First Published in 1952 

Skin takes place in Paris,  1946. We find a tattoo artist (Drioli) that now lives as a homeless person walking around finds and art Gallery and sees a painting that makes him remember a friend that later on became a very famous artist.  It turns out that this painting and all the selection of paints there are from him. He enters to the Gallery and claims that he knew the artist and remove his t- shirt.  When he does that it shows a giant tattoo of his wife that was made by the artist in his back.  As soon as he does this people starts to approach him to ask the possibility to sell it, confuse he refuse and accept the offer of a man that offers him to live in Cannes in his luxury hotel with just wandering around showing the tattoo in the back.

At the end of the story we learn that the skin on the back of the man has been remove and sell in the black market in Argentina.  Dahl suggest by the end that he expects that Drioli still lives, but we can only guess that actually he is not.


William and Mary –First published in 1959

This is the story of a very dominative husband (William) and his wife (Mary).  The story begins a week after he dies from cancer.  She went to their lawyer and got a letter that her late husband leaves to her.  In the letter we see how he decide to be part of an experiment, very much in the Frankenstein style in which his brain will be preserve, as well as one of his eyes so his mind will be preserve longer than his body.  In the last lines of the letter the husband continues to write advice lines to his widow that just shows how dominant he is and his expectations to do it after his death.  Mary then goes to see him in his new state and releasing that in his new form he can’t not longer dominate her but instead to see how she acts, decides that now she wants her husband back home.  Is clear from the story that she will have her sweet revenge.

Georgy Porgy – First published in 1960 in Kiss Kiss

I will said that here Dahl really plays with us.  The story centres in the life of Georgy Porgy a Vicar that have several problems with women and he is unable to establish a relationship with them.  We are show how Georgy things that all the women in the pariahs that he works try to seduce him and he gets scare.

In the last pages one of them put alcohol in his drink (he normally does not have any alcohol) and when they are walking they start to kiss and in the middle of the moment he loose control and decide to remove her teeth. Then we see how he has a mental break down and assume that was swallowed by her and now lives inside. Is clear in the story that he enters in a mental institution, and that a doctor is trying to give him support to try to “escape from the inside” but Georgy refuses saying that he feels comfortable in the place that he is right now.