Tales of the UneXpected
Roald Dahl is best known for his classic children’s books, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Witches and Fantastic Mr Fox. Tales of the Unexpected is a collection of sixteen very dark short stories for adults that were first published in 1979. All of the stories were earlier published in various magazines, and then in the collections Someone Like You and Kiss Kiss. All the stories contain at least one shocking twist, many of them being of a violent or disturbing nature.
There are tales of risk-takers, such as the man who wagers his daughter’s hand in marriage to a wine connoisseur, or the traveller who throws himself overboard on a cruise liner to win a bet. Here too is the understated cruelty of Edward the Conqueror, in which a mysterious cat seems to threaten domestic life, or the innocuous-seeming Landlady, whose guests stay for longer than they intend.
Lamb to the Slaughter is the story of Mary Maloney. She is a pregnant young woman married to a policeman. One night her husband comes home and tells her he is going to leave her. Mary, as if in a trance, tries to act normally and gets a leg of lamb from the freezer to make for her husband’s dinner. But he becomes very angry with her. In a fit of rage and terror about her future, Mary strikes her husband over the back of his head with the leg of lamb and kills him.
She then goes to great lengths to cover up her crime, including doing away with the evidence in an ingenious but horrible way.
That said, the story is disturbing and shocking, and it is amazing to think that the same man who wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory managed to think of these dark tales.
There was also a British television series of the same name between 1979 and 1988 based on dahl’s stories. Each episode told its own story, with a sinister and wry undertone and an unexpected twist in the end.