Matilda Wormwood

Matilda Wormwood
Matilda Wormwood
First appearance Matilda
Created by Roald Dahl
Portrayed by In the film:
Alissa & Amanda Graham, Trevor & James Gallagher (newborn)
Kayla & Kelsey Fredericks (age 9 months)
Amanda and Caitlin Fein (toddler)
Sara Magdalin (age 4)
Mara Wilson (age 6)
Gender Female
Relatives Mr. Wormwood (father)
Mrs. Wormwood (mother)
Michael Wormwood (brother)
Miss Honey (adoptive mother)
Magnus Honey (adoptive grandfather)
Mrs. Honey (adoptive grandmother)
Nationality English in novel
American in film

Matilda Wormwood is a fictional character in the children's novel Matilda by Roald Dahl. She is a highly precocious six-year old girl who has a passion for reading books. Matilda's parents do not recognise their daughter's great intelligence and show little interest in her, particularly her father, a secondhand car dealer who has performed numerous abusive actions on Matilda. Matilda discovers she has psychokinetic powers which she uses to her advantage.[1][2] In the BBC Radio 4 two-part adaptation of the novel, she is played by Nicola McAuliffe and in the film, as a six year old she is portrayed by American actress Mara Wilson and as a toddler she is portrayed by Amanda and Caitlin Fein.



Matilda has black hair in the novel (however in the film her hair is brown) and is small in size. In the film, she says she is six and a half, in the novel, she is five and a half when she starts school. She is described as sensible and quiet, and almost unaware of her intelligence, but, as Roald Dahl observed, if you talked to her about literature or mathematics, she would show the extent of her intelligence[citation needed]. However, her best friend, Lavender, sees her as gutsy and adventurous. She has the power of telekinesis, the ability to move things without having to touch them.

About Matilda

Matilda is a young girl who lives in Buckinghamshire in the novel and Los Angeles in the film near the local library. She has parents and a big brother that neglect her and are constantly rude to her and insist she watches television.[3] After her parents' treatment of her becomes excessively harsh, she begins to set up various tricks as acts of revenge, such as exchanging her father's hair tonic for blonde hair dye, gluing his hat on his head, and hiding a parrot in her house to give the impression that a room is haunted.

Matilda's school is Crunchem Hall Primary School (Crunchem Hall Elementary School in the film) which is run by a fearsome middle-aged woman named Miss Trunchbull. The school is described as having "about 250 pupils". Matilda makes friends with many other students, particularly a girl called Lavender. While at school, Miss Trunchbull performs actions of child abuse, such as throwing a child out the window for eating sweets in class or locking children in a cupboard with nails and glass in the walls and door, known as the "Chokey", for any infringement of the unfair rules.[citation needed] She is the first child to encourage Bruce to finish up all of the chocolate cake.

Matilda lives with Miss Honey, a teacher at the school after her parents flee the country to escape the police, as her father sells stolen car parts. A man named Mr. Trilby is made headmaster of Crunchem Hall after Miss Trunchbull's departure at the conclusion of the novel. In the film, Miss Honey is made headmistress after Miss Trunchbull's departure.


Matilda has read a variety of books, especially at the age of four, when she read many books in six months:

Early skills

  • One and a half years old - Linguistic skill and vocabulary on par with that of an adult's[3] (called a "noisy chatterbox" by her parents and told sharply that little girls should be "seen and not heard").
  • Three years old - As evidence of extreme intelligence, Matilda demonstrates amateur reading skills.
  • Four years old - As proof of extreme intelligence, Matilda soon develops reading skills on par with that of an adult's[3].


Matilda has psychokinetic powers.[4] Her powers are first discovered when the glass from which Miss Trunchbull drinks tips over and a newt (which Lavender caught in her garden and placed in the water pitcher) jumps onto Miss Trunchbull's shirt. The Trunchbull accuses Matilda of running out and tipping the glass over when she wasn't looking. When Matilda says that she didn't do it, a verbal argument which lasts for about a minute sprawls out between Matilda and Miss Trunchbull. Miss Trunchbull ends the argument by telling Matilda to shut up and sit down. At home, Matilda practices using her powers with a cigar, learning fine control of her abilities. The last time that Matilda uses her powers is when she writes on the chalkboard while posing as the ghost of Miss Honey's father, ending Miss Trunchbull's reign over the school.

In the film, she ends up also using her powers before she knew she had them, such as causing a television to explode when her father was forcing her to watch it, and making some food that was falling land perfectly on her plate. While her use of her powers in the novel was limited to an object that she was directly concentrating on, and even this could be draining to her at first, in the film she shows the ability to move several objects at once, on one occasion creating a miniature "whirlwind" of objects as she practises in her living room. Direct eye contact is sometimes not even required for her to move an object; on one occasion in the film she is able to make a portrait move from an upper room of a house to hang it above the fireplace on the lower floor, despite the fact that she was unable to see it as it went down the stairs. She also uses her mind to levitate two chocolates out of the window and after that, she gets them and eats one, and gives the other one to Miss Honey.

The precise nature of her powers varies between the film and the novel. In the novel, Miss Honey speculates that her powers may tie into the amount of knowledge she possesses, the reasoning being that Matilda has so much information in her head that some of it has to be "forced out" because she lacks the space for everything she has read. This explanation also accounts for why her powers cease after she is moved to an older class; facing a real challenge from her classmates to keep up with them for the first time, she exhausts all her mental energy on her education. In the film, by contrast, her power is portrayed as the more conventional style of telekinesis, with no specific explanation implied beyond the traditional idea of her accessing potentially dormant portions of the human brain; this idea is further reinforced by the discovery that Matilda's powers are influenced by her emotions, as she is able to access them by recalling past occasions where she has been yelled at and insulted. Also, while in the novel Matilda could only direct her power through her eyes, the film version shows her flicking her hands to control something that she is manipulating with her powers as she masters greater control.

See also


  1. ^ Serena Alllot (26 Nov 2010) Waltzing Matilda: Dahl's classic dances on to the stage The Daily Telegraph
  2. ^ Once upon a time, there was a man who liked to make up stories ... The Independent (Sunday, 12 December 2010)
  3. ^ a b c Tomalin, Mary (1999). "Matilda by Roald Dahl" (pdf). Penguin Readers Factsheets. Pearson Education. Retrieved 2007-12-20. [dead link]
  4. ^ "Matilda, By Roald Dahl" (pdf). Novel units. Retrieved 2007-12-20. 

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