"Greetings to you, the lucky finder of this Golden Ticket, from Mr Willy Wonka!"
That is what the golden ticket said, and with that, our hero Charlie Bucket found what he'd been longing for. A boy who was so poor he could make a bar of chocolate last an entire month had a dream which was so impossible, so ridiculous, so preposterous, that it couldn't be true - and yet there it was... I think Roald Dahl has contributed greatly to the fervent, unyielding belief of children everywhere, myself included, that it is perfectly reasonable to have your most secret unrealistic dream come to you if you really want it enough... even if it's not from under a Wonka's Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight wrapper.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was first published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1964, illustrated by Joseph Schindelman and by Allen & Unwin in 1967, illustrated by Faith Jacques in Great Britain. Now I personally like the illustrations by Joseph Schindelman because he makes Charlie look so positively drawn, hungry and hopeful.
Our hero, Charlie Bucket lives with his mother, his father (yes, he had a father, and he worked screwing on the caps at a toothpaste factory), his Grandpa George, his Grandma Georgina, his Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine in a one room shack where the Grandparents occupy the only bed. Charlie is always cold and his family eats cabbage water every day and on Sundays they get a second helping.
On the days Charlie walks to school past the famous Wonka factory he is surrounded by a delicious, mouth-watering smell that wafts past his wain cheeks and into his pathetic little nostrils. Only once a year does he get to partake of a confection that comes from the beloved factory, and that is on his birthday. He is deeply reminded of this every time he passes the silent factory, trance-like with the tip of his nose in the air, awash in chocolaty goodness.
It is announced that Willy Wonka has put forth a special contest in which five lucky children will win a lifetime's supply of chocolate and be allowed to tour the Wonka factory with a guardian of their choice. I wonder who will win?
If you've seen the classic film based on the book by the name of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I need not go further. If you've not seen the film or read the book, I definitely need not go further... Much of the screenplay was written by David Seltzer with some contribution by Roald Dahl, though there are conflicting reports on this. Like all movies adapted from books, there is much distorted and left out... So much of Dahl's voice, quirky charm and wit was removed and some violence was added (like what the hell is with that chicken getting its head cut off in the paddleboat tunnel? Hello? Warner Brothers? What were you thinking?) I enjoyed the movie as much as the next person, but heed my advice... forget everything you saw in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory some afternoon and settle down to read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. A thousand delights await you...
For example, you'll come across what really happened with Fizzy Lifting Drinks, which was nothing at all... Charlie and Grandpa Joe did not break the rules.
FIZZY LIFTING DRINKS, it said on the next door.
"Oh, those are fabulous!" cried Mr. Wonka. "They fill you with bubbles, and the bubbles are full of a special kind of gas, and this gas is so terrifically lifting that it lifts you right off the ground just like a balloon, and up you go until your head hits the ceiling and there you stay."
"But how do you come down again?" asked little Charlie.
"You do a burp, of course," said Mr Wonka. "You do a great big long rude burp, and up comes the gas and down comes you! But don't drink it outdoors! There's no knowing how high up you'll be carried if you do that. I gave some to an old Oompa Loompa once out in the back yard and he went up and up and disappeared out of sight! It was very sad. I never saw him again."
"He should have burped," Charlie said.
"Of course he should have burped," said Mr Wonka. "I stood there shouting 'Burp, you silly ass, burp, or you'll never come down again!' But he didn't or couldn't or wouldn't, I don't know which. Maybe he was too polite. He must be on the moon by now."
On the next door, it said, SQUARE SWEETS THAT LOOK ROUND.
"Wait!" cried Mr Wonka, skidding suddenly to a halt. "I am very proud of my square sweets that look round. Let's take a peek."
The Oompa Loompas are not in fact orange with green hair and they sing their satirical jibes at Mike Teevee, Veruca Salt, Violent Beauregard and Augustus Gloop in rhymed iambic couplets and are much much more entertaining than those from the film. In fact, the Oompa Loompas were originally from the deepest, darkest African jungle who were pygmies who had nothing to eat except caterpillars and eucalyptus leaves, and adored working for Mr. Willy Wonka where they were safe from Wangdoodles and Vermicious Knids and could feast on a diet of pure chocolate. Dahl was attacked in 1972 by Eleanor Cameron for being a racist and eventually the editors changed the Oompa Loompas to dwarves with golden-brown hair and rosy-white skin. Nonetheless, the beloved Oompa Loompas are highly entertaining, didactic and critical to the storyline and highlight Dahl's satiric eye. Here are some excerpts... please do forget those hideous 'Oompa Loompa doompadee doo' ditties...
For dear Augustus...
"Augustus Gloop! Augustus Gloop!
The great big greedy nincompoop!
How long could we allow this beast
To gorge and guzzle, feed and feast
On everything he wanted to?
Great Scott! It simply wouldn't do!
For dear Mr. Teevee...
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks–
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something good to read.
And once they start–oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hears. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.
P.S. Regarding Mike Teavee,
We very much regret that we
Shall simply have to wait and see
If we can get him back his height.
But if we can't it serves him right."
I like that one. That's what I need to do...
For dear, sweet Violet...
Did any of you ever know
A person called Miss Bigelow?
This dreadful woman saw no wrong
In chewing, chewing all day long.
She chewed while bathing in the tub,
She chewed while dancing at her club,
She chewed in church and on the bus;
It really was quite ludicrous!
And when she couldn't find her gum,
She'd chew up the linoleum,
Or anything that happened near
A pair of boots, the postman's ear,
Or other people's underclothes,
And once she chewed her boy friend's nose.
You get the idea... If you enjoy this book, I highly recommend Dahl's James and the Giant Peach, which also is an incredible piece of fiction...
ahhh... What I wouldn't give for some lickable wallpaper. I think I have snozzberries all figured out... kind of like a cross between a rambutan and a pink lady apple.