The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More is a collection of seven short stories written by Roald Dahl. They are generally regarded as being aimed for a slightly older audience than many of his other children's books.
The stories were written at varying times throughout his life, and are believed by many to reflect some of his best fiction writing. Two of the stories are autobiographical in nature; one describes how he first became a writer while the other describes some of Dahl's experiences as a fighter pilot in World War II. Another piece in the collection is a non-fiction account of a British farmer finding a legendary haul of ancient Roman treasure.
The book was first published in 1977 by Jonathan Cape.
The Boy Who Talked with Animals
This is a first person
fiction piece of medium-length writing, telling of how the narrator remembers a child that used to be able to talk to animals, and as a consequence of this is able to save a turtle that would otherwise have been killed by some malicious fishermen
. The boy was then seen riding the turtle the next day, having run away.
This is another fictional first person narrative that simply charts an eventful journey that the narrator had when he picked up a hitch-hiker who turned out to be an extremely skilled thief – a so-called "fingersmith".
The Mildenhall Treasure
This is a non-fiction account of a labourer named Gordon Butcher who uncovered a large quantity of Roman treasure
in a field that he was ploughing for a farmer
named only as Ford
This is a third person fictional account of two boys named Ernie
who bully a smaller child, Peter Watson
. Peter is clever, but the other two boys regard him as a sissy. Unfortunately, Ernie has just received a rifle as a birthday present from his father; this rifle is involved in their torturous "games" with Peter, that include tying Peter down to a railway track as a train comes. The story culminates when Ernie shoots a swan and forces Peter to wear its wings; Peter, again under the threat of being shot, is forced to climb an extremely tall tree, whilst wearing the dead swan's wings. At this point, Ernie and Raymond order him to attempt to fly from his high perch -- a jump that may well be lethal. Peter hesitates until Ernie indeed shoots him in the leg with the rifle. The story ends ambiguously, with Peter's mother (who, apparently, was within view, albeit completely unaware, of the entire episode) seeing him fall from the tree . The reader is left unclear firstly on the fate of Peter (dead, alive, maimed), and secondly on the status of Ernie, who initially appeared as an identifiable protagonist, but quickly morphed into a sadistic torturer. Like many of Dahl's adult stories, the reader is left to draw their own conclusion of the denouement.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
This is the central, largest story in the book, and claims to be a true account of a rich bachelor referred to as Henry Sugar. After reading a forgotten book documenting an Indian Yogi
's powers (possibly based on the actual Indian mystic Kuda Bux
), Henry eventually discovers he is one of the rare people who is able, through years of concentrated study, to gain special yogic powers that allow him to see using any part of his body, and also to see the reverse side of playing cards. Being a gambling addict, he uses this power to cheat in casinos. He finds, though, that his desire for money has been greatly diminished. He throws all of his recent winnings out of his London
apartment window, causing a near-riot, and is scolded by an indignant police officer who suggests that he give away his winnings in a more useful way, for example by founding an orphanage. Henry then sets off around the world with two accomplices (an accountant and a make-up artist) in order to get as much money from as many casinos as possible, and subsequently uses his winnings in order to set up orphanages around the world.
This is a non-fictional account, similar to Roald Dahl's Boy
and Going Solo
albeit in a much more concise form. It discusses the events in his life that led him to becoming a writer, including a meeting with the writer. writes about his school and all the teachers.
A Piece of Cake
This is an autobiographical account of Dahl's time as a fighter pilot
in World War II, particularly the details of how Dahl was injured and eventually forced to leave the Mediterranean
arena. It was originally written for C. S. Forester so that he could get the gist of Dahl's story and rewrite it in his own words. However, Forester was so impressed by the story (Dahl at the time did not believe himself to be anything approaching an accomplished writer) that he sent it straight off to his agent who had it published in the Saturday Evening Post
, thereby kick-starting Dahl's writing career.
- ISBN 0-375-81423-X (hardcover, 2001)
- ISBN 0-435-12237-1 (hardcover, 1979)
- ISBN 0-224-01547-8 (hardcover, 1977)
- ISBN 0-14-130470-7 (paperback, 2000)
- ISBN 0-14-037348-9 (paperback, 1995)
- ISBN 0-14-032874-2 (paperback, 1988)
- ISBN 0-14-005773-0 (paperback, 1982)