Rachel and I enjoy reading to each other out loud. We’ve trekked through Middle Earth, fenced on the Cliffs of Insanity, washed up on the shores of Hikueru, and we are currently on an ill-fated expedition to Isla Sorna.
Just prior to Isla Sorna, though, we spent some time in Giant Country with the Big Friendly Giant and his slightly smaller friend, Sophie.
It had been about twenty years since I last read The BFG, Roald Dahl’s classic children’s nocturnal adventure novel. I had never read it out loud, which is a shame because Dahl is a master of gloriumptious language. As we approached the climax, the story began to feel familiar, but not because I was remembering the plot from my childhood readings. It felt familiar, I realized, because I had experienced it more recently in another form.
Unbeknownst to the human race, giants exist. The BFG is a relatively small giant, and unlike the much larger of his kind, the BFG does not eat human beings. Rather, he lives in semi-isolation, subsisting on snozzcumbers (a vile vegetable) and frobscottle (a delectable drink). His one joy in life comes in his pastime: he captures and bottles dreams, then stealthily delivers them to the subconscious minds of sleeping children by means of a special trumpet.
“I is a dream-blowing giant,” the BFG said. “When all the other giants is galloping off every what way and which to swollop human beans, I is scuddling away to other places to blow dreams into the bedrooms of sleeping children. Nice dreams. Lovely golden dreams. Dreams that is giving the dreamers a happy time.”
As was mentioned, the BFG is something of an anomaly among giants due to his diet. He likes humans for their humanity rather than their taste, and makes friends with a human orphan named Sophie. Sophie is shocked to hear that the other giants eat humans every night, and naturally wants to do something to stop them. The two come up with a plan to stop the giants. And this is where my alarms kicked off.
Sophie has the bright idea of telling the Queen of England about the existence of man-eating giants, then leaving the problem to the government to solve. The BFG doesn’t think the queen would believe Sophie (and he’s got a pretty good point there). Sophie has another moment of inspiration, and adds a twist to her idea:
“You say that if we tell the Queen, she would never believe us?”
“I is certain she wouldn’t,” the BFG said.
“But we aren’t going to tell her!” Sophie said excitedly. “We don’t have to tell her! We’ll make her dream it!”…
“Can you make a person dream absolutely anything in the world?”
“Anything you like,” the BFG said proudly.
“If I said I wanted to dream that I was in a flying bathtub with silver wings, could you make me dream it?”
“I could,” the BFG said.
“But how?” Sophie said. “You obviously don’t have exactly that dream in your collection.”
“I do not,” the BFG said. “But I could soon be mixing it up.”
Okay, so the BFG delivers dreams. But he also manufactures dreams.
“How could you mix it up?”
“It is a little bit like mixing a cake,” the BFG said. “If you is putting the right amounts of all the different things into it, you is making the cake come out any way you want, sugary, splongy, curranty, Christmassy, or grobswitchy. It is the same with dreams.”
“Go on,” Sophie said.
“I has dillions of dreams on my shelfs, right or left?”
“Right,” Sophie said.
“I has dreams about bathtubs, lots of them. I has dreams about silver wings. I has dreams about flying. So all I has to do is mix those dreams together in the proper way and I is very quickly making a dream where you is flying in a bathtub with silver wings.”
So they concoct a dream, or more accurately, a nightmare, to manipulate a powerful global figure to action.
Do you feel the familiarity? If not, you musn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.
Inception. That cerebral 2010 film that everyone—including myself—raved about for its originality? Mr. Dahl beat it to the punch by nearly thirty years.