- The Twits
Author(s) Roald Dahl Illustrator Quentin Blake Cover artist Quentin Blake Country United Kingdom Language English Genre(s) Children's novel Publisher Jonathan Cape (London) Publication date 1980 Media type Print (hardback, paperback)
Mr. and Mrs. Twit are two ugly, smelly, nasty, stupid people who spend their lives playing nasty tricks on each other. They also enjoy being cruel to animals, which they do by luring birds to glue-smothered trees so they can be baked into bird pie, and tormenting their pet monkeys, Muggle-Wump and his family, by getting them to stand upside down, one on top of the other. They hate children, and Mrs. Twit often carries a walking stick in her right hand that she uses to hit children and animals.
One day, the arrival of the Roly-Poly Bird from Africa allows the monkeys and the surviving birds to get the revenge they have craved for years. They glue the carpet and furniture to the living room ceiling while the Twits are out. On the Twits' return, two ravens swoop over and drop glue from paintbrushes held in their claws onto the Twits' heads. When the Twits go indoors and see their furniture upside down, they stand on their heads, believing they are upside down, and because of the glue on their heads, they remain stuck that way. With the Twits out of the way, the Muggle-Wumps are able to return to their native Africa with the help of the Roly-Poly Bird. Eventually, the Twits' bodies collapse into themselves, until there is nothing left of them but their clothes.
- 1 The Twits
- 2 The Tricks
- 3 Overview
- 4 Trivia
- 5 Film
- 6 Relations to Other Roald Dahl Books
- 7 References
- 8 Editions
- 9 External links
Mr Twit is a trollish person, having hair that covers his entire face, with the exception of his forehead, eyes, and nose. His hair (which he falsely believes makes him appear "wise and grand"), is spiky and hard. Because he never washes it, his beard holds scraps of food dropped there while he ate, including tinned sardines, stilton cheese, and corn flakes. Occasionally, he picks these scraps out and eats them. Mr Twit is a beer drinker, even doing so at breakfast. He is known to seem very quiet when he is plotting evil tricks, the victim of which is usually his equally unpleasant wife.
Mrs Twit is the shrewish wife of Mr Twit. She, unlike her husband, was once very beautiful, but became gradually monstrous by reason of thinking malevolent thoughts. One of her eyes is made of glass,and she sometimes takes it out and uses it to frighten her husband.She even has a walking stick which she tells to everyone that she has warts on her left foot and walking is very painful but in reality, she uses it to cane people (e.g. children, Muggle-Wump's family in case they do not do what Mr. Twit forces them to do etc.).
A series of pranks advance the plot of the story. Brief descriptions appear below:
The Glass Eye
Mrs. Twit, as if to have Mr Twit know that she is always watching him, places her glass eye in Mr. Twit's beer to scare him.
In revenge for the glass-eye trick, Mr. Twit places a frog in Mrs. Twit's bed, and frightens Mrs Twit by claiming the item in her bed is a 'Giant Skillywiggler', with "teeth like screwdrivers" with which it would bite off her toes. Mrs. Twit faints during this trick,and after Mr. Twit splashed a jugful of cold water onto her,she later recovered as the frog hops onto her face, and upon seeing it, flees.
The Wormy Spaghetti
Seeking revenge for the Frog Trick, Mrs. Twit places worms from the garden in cooked spaghetti, which Mr. Twit eats, being re-assured by Mrs. Twit that it is merely a "new kind" she has recently bought. When he has eaten it, Mrs. Twit reveals the truth.
In revenge for the Wormy Spaghetti, Mr. Twit glues pieces of wood no thicker than a penny onto Mrs. Twit's cane each night, as well as onto the legs of her chair, making Mrs. Twit believe that she is slowly shrinking. Mr. Twit then frightens her by claiming that she has contracted an illness called the 'shrinks', by which she will be caused to disappear.
Mrs. Twit Goes Ballooning Up
To complete his trick, Mr. Twit ties Mrs Twit by her ankles to an iron ring in the ground, then tying helium-filled balloons to her arms, hair, and neck until she is rising into the air. Inspired by a remark of hers, he then severs her tether sending Mrs Twit into the sky; whereupon she bites the balloons off one at a time and lands atop Mr. Twit, whom she then beats with her stick.
There is an unimaginatively-named "Big Dead Tree" in the Twits' garden, which Mr Twit uses to trap birds by spreading glue on the branches. Captive birds are then made into a pie by Mrs. Twit. During the story four schoolboys are caught instead of birds; but escape by unfastening their trousers and falling to the ground outside the Twits' garden. It is this use of glue that gives the captive monkey Muggle-Wump and his family the idea of using it against the Twits. There is a glue in the Twits' workshed called Hug-Tight Sticky-Glue and that's how they get birds down from the tree to make Bird pie.
Rescuing the Birds
Using their friend the Roly-Poly Bird as an interpreter of languages, Muggle-Wump and his wife and children convey the warning that any bird landing on the Big Dead Tree will be cooked into Mrs. Twit's Bird Pie. When Mr. Twit, in retaliation, spreads glue on the monkeys' cage (which serves as a substitute perch), the monkeys alter the warning, so that the birds land instead on the Twits' roof. This prompts Mr. and Mrs. Twit to buy fire-arms; and during their absence on this errand, Muggle-Wump plots another trick, described below.
Turning the Twits Upside-Down
In the Twits' absence, the monkeys and birds use Mr. Twit's glue to attach all the Twits' living-room furniture upside-down to the ceiling, so that Mr. and Mrs. Twit will, upon entry, believe themselves upside-down. Upon the Twits' return, they are themselves soiled with glue, so that when they enter the house and attempt to reverse themselves, they are attached to the floor. Thereafter the weight of their bodies compresses them until they can no longer be said to physically exist, so that an inspector, upon arriving, finds only their possessions.
The Twits, as a book, has, as Dahl himself acknowledged, occasionally made adults feel physically sick — perhaps not least because of the graphic description of what lies within Mr Twit's beard in the second chapter of the book (all the chapters being very short by the standards of Dahl's novels). However, it seems it was written with the view that children enjoy being disgusted — and frightened. Whatever the truth in this theory, it has remained popular amongst children and due to its shortness is occasionally seen as a good "starting point" by British parents — and primary school teachers — when introducing children to Roald Dahl's stories for younger readers.
- The idea of The Twits was triggered by Dahl's desire to "do something against beards", because he had an acute dislike of them himself. The first sentence of the story — "what a lot of hairy-faced men one sees nowadays" — is a genuine complaint.
- The Twits as a book has remained so successful since its publication in 1980 that it was adapted for the stage in 1999.
A film adaptation of the book is in the works with Walt Disney Pictures, with screenplay written by John Cleese. Shrek producer John H. Williams is developing the film at Disney, and it's thought that Cleese himself will play one of the titular Twits. It is rumored that Conrad Vernon will direct the film. It has a release date set for 2012. It will be the second adaptation of a Roald Dahl book to be distributed by Disney after James and the Giant Peach in 1996.
Relations to Other Roald Dahl Books
- A monkey named Muggle-Wump also appears in The Enormous Crocodile. A monkey bearing resemblance to Quentin Blake's illustration of the same character also appears in The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me.
- A Roly-Poly Bird likewise makes an appearance in The Enormous Crocodile and is also to be found in Dirty Beasts.
- Certain things within the book, such as Mr Twit's beard, "Wormy Spaghetti" and bird pie, appear within Roald Dahl's Revolting Recipes
- ISBN 0-224-06491-6 (hardcover, 2003)
- ISBN 0-14-130107-4 (paperback, 2002)
- ISBN 0-375-82242-9 (hardcover, 2002)
- ISBN 0-14-131138-X (paperback, 2001)
- ISBN 0-14-034640-6 (paperback, 1991)
- ISBN 0-14-031406-7 (paperback, 1982)
- ISBN 0-224-01855-8 (hardcover, 1980)
- The Twits information and games
- The Twits publication history at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
Works by Roald Dahl Children's novels
The Gremlins (1943) · James and the Giant Peach (1961) · Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964) · The Magic Finger (1966) · Fantastic Mr Fox (1970) · Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (1972) · Danny, the Champion of the World (1975) · The Enormous Crocodile (1978) · The Twits (1980) · George's Marvellous Medicine (1981) · The BFG (1982) · The Witches (1983) · The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me (1985) · Matilda (1988) · Esio Trot (1990) · The Minpins (1991) · The Vicar of Nibbleswicke (1991)
Children's poetry Adult novels
Sometime Never: A Fable for Supermen (1948) · My Uncle Oswald (1979)
Adult short story
Over to You: Ten Stories of Flyers and Flying (1946) · Someone Like You (1953) · Kiss Kiss (1960) · Switch Bitch (1974) · The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More (1977) · Tales of the Unexpected (1979) · More Tales of the Unexpected (1980) · Two Fables (1986) · Roald Dahl: Collected Stories (2006)
Non-fiction Film adaptations Plays
The Honeys (1955)
Film scripts Television series
Way Out (1961) · Tales of the Unexpected (1979–88)
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