Written in 1979 and published in 1980, The Twits is one of those kids books that sticks with you for life. Roald Dahl created a creepy but amusing world where two odious halfwits behave with general malice—and it’s great!
To complement Dahl’s words, Sir Quentin Blake went and did some depraved drawings as well. The two complement each other marvellously—let us reminisce about this one. Twit twoo.
The book pays attention to the lives of a hideous ageing couple who are hairy and unwashed. They display relentless spite towards the world around them – and each other.
The duo live in a brick house with no windows and play regular and unpleasant practical jokes on anything with a pulse. Mr. Twit also says to his wife:
“Oh, do shut up, you old hag.”
This is one of those books that made us realise, as stupid kids, not all people are nice. Positive world view shattered, and very much confirmed, over two decades on from our first trip through this crazy world.
The Twits (deliciously close to a slightly more vulgar name) are horrible. But in trademark Dahl genius, it’s all so thoroughly engaging. They’re despicable, yes, but readers get a sort of casually dark delight from their antics.
The author’s imagination was remarkable. He created an impossible amount of classics – the Shakespeare of childrens literature. And for us, The Twits has particular resonance.
It’s dark for children, of course. But Mother Wapojif read through it with us and we were completely enraptured. Mr. Twit, for instance, is foul-smelling and has rotting food in his beard.
Mrs. Twit was once beautiful, but her vile personality has led her on a downward slope towards physical hideousness.
And as a couple they perform horrible tricks on each other. But also local animals. Until the Roly-Poly Bird and The Twit’s monkey captives (the Muggle-Wumps) crack a revenge plan on the dastardly duo.
They face their comeuppance, of course, and there’s a great deal of schadenfreude delight in seeing the nefarious duo suffering at the hands of the animals they mistreated.
And that sets a nice message for kids. Be nice for nice things to happen back.
Looking at it now, as adults, Mr. Twit sort of resembles Rasputin. We’re sure that’s not what Dahl intended, but it’s an interesting comparison… made all the more real by the BBC’s brief dramatisation of the book in the clip a bit higher above.
And it raises an interesting question—why hasn’t The Twits received a film adaptation? It’d be brilliant as an animation.
Dahl comissioned various of his works, such as The BFG James and the Giant Peach, but The Twits has gone ignored.
A film was in early production back in 2003, which by 2012 was still whirling around between studios… and there’s no further news on that one.
However, good old Netflix has commissioned an animated series for the book—a fine way to mark its upcoming 40th anniversary.
But don’t forget to return to the book as well. If you’re an adult looking for some escapist enjoyment, or if you want to read your children a deviously brilliant story. This is the one.
Although Roald Dahl died in 1990, his regular artist Quentin Blake is still very much with us. At 86, he’s still working away as well.
He lent Dahl’s work a very distinctive appearance. Kind of like how Ralph Steadman did for Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Although the works of the two writers is distinctly different, wouldn’t you say?
In 2012 he was knighted for his contributions to culture. And we here at Professional Moron doff our caps for his sterling work.