What Is the Story of Willy Wonka?
The big day had finally arrived! At the edge of town, there stood a giant chocolate factory. It was the Wonka Factory, and it was the largest and most famous chocolate and candy factory in the world.
The factory was owned by a mysterious man named Willy Wonka. Wonka was called “the most fantastic
, the most extraordinary
chocolate maker the world has ever seen!” What no one could figure out, though, was how his factory produced its amazing candy. The huge iron gates to the Wonka Factory had been locked shut for the past decade. No employees were seen entering or leaving the building. No one had seen Willy Wonka himself for years. But that was about to change.
On February 1, the gates were going to open for five very lucky children. All five had been promised a tour of the factory that was going to be led by Willy Wonka himself. The children were told that they were about to experience “mystic and marvelous surprises that will entrance, delight, intrigue, astonish, and perplex you beyond measure. In your wildest dreams you could not imagine that such things could happen to you!”
The biggest surprise of all, though, was a secret that only Willy Wonka himself knew.
The story of Willy Wonka and his chocolate factory, written by Roald Dahl, has been a best seller for decades. It has inspired two feature films and a stage musical that has been performed around the world. And it introduced the world to Willy Wonka, one of the most memorable characters in children’s literature. CHAPTER 1: Growing Up
The man who created Willy Wonka was named Roald Dahl. He was born in Wales on September 13, 1916, to Norwegian parents. Roald’s mother read bedtime stories to him, and he especially loved to hear old Norwegian fairy tales that were filled with monsters and trolls and other fantastic creatures.
When Roald was three, one of his older sisters died. A few months after that, his father died. Roald’s mother was forced to care for six children on her own, but she kept her loving family together.
Roald started attending school in the town of Llandaff in Wales when he was seven years old. Every day, as he and his friends traveled to and from school, they would stop in front of a local candy store. Roald and his friends all loved candy.
Years later, Roald remembered: “We lingered outside its rather small window gazing in at the big glass jars full of Bull’s--eyes and Old Fashioned Humbugs and Strawberry Bonbons and Glacier Mints and Acid Drops and Pear Drops and Lemon Drops and all the rest of them. My own favorites were Sherbet Suckers and Liquorice Bootlaces.” These were the fantastic names of the types of candy available in Wales in the early twentieth century.
Unfortunately, the owner of the candy store was a very mean woman named Mrs. Pratchett. She had a terrible temper and was never nice to the children who came into her store.
“She never smiled,” said Roald. “She never welcomed us when we went in, and the only times she spoke were when she said things like, ‘I’m watchin’ you so keep yer thievin’ fingers off them chocolates!’ ”
Roald and four of his friends decided to teach Mrs. Pratchett a lesson. Roald came up with what he called the Great Mouse Plot. It involved dropping a dead mouse into a jar of Gobstopper candies in her store. Gobstoppers cost one penny each and were large hard round balls that were about the size of small tomatoes.
One day after school, the boys entered the shop. When Mrs. Pratchett wasn’t looking, Roald lifted the glass lid of the Gobstoppers jar and dropped the mouse in it.
“I felt like a hero,” said Roald. “I was a hero.”
Unfortunately, the boys’ moment of triumph didn’t last long. Mrs. Pratchett went to their school the next day and demanded that the boys be punished. The headmaster of the school decided to hit all five boys hard on their rears with a wooden cane!
“When I returned to the classroom my eyes were wet with tears and everybody stared at me,” remembered Roald. “My bottom hurt when I sat down at my desk.”
Roald’s mother was outraged when she heard about the caning. She marched over to the school and told the headmaster never to hit her son again. She also decided that Roald would attend a different school the following year. CHAPTER 2: Boarding Schools
When Roald was nine years old, he was sent away to a boarding school in England. It was called St. Peter’s Preparatory School, and he was forced to live there full--time except during the holidays when he could return home. Roald hated St. Peter’s and was very homesick. One thing that made him happy, though, was writing.
“At St. Peter’s, Sunday morning was letter--writing time,” remembered Roald. “At nine o’clock the whole school had to go to their desks and spend one hour writing a letter home to their parents. From that very first Sunday at St. Peter’s until the day my mother died thirty--two years later, I wrote to her once a week, sometimes more often, whenever I was away from home.”
Roald was so homesick during his first year at St. Peter’s that he came up with a scheme to get away from the school. He faked having appendicitis. He wasn’t able to fool a doctor, though, and was sent back to school.
When Roald turned thirteen, he started attending a different boarding school. This one was in Repton, England, and it turned out to be even worse than St. Peter’s. At Repton School, the teachers, and even some of the other students, were allowed to beat Roald with a wooden cane!
Roald hated almost everything about his life at Repton. But he did have one pleasant memory from those days. The famous Cadbury’s chocolate company was located nearby, and occasionally it would send a free box of wrapped chocolates to each student in the school.
“Inside the box there were twelve bars of chocolate, all of different shapes, all with different fillings and all with numbers from one to twelve stamped on the chocolate underneath,” said Roald.
Cadbury’s wanted the schoolboys to rate the chocolate bars and send in their comments on why they liked or disliked each one. Roald loved eating chocolates, and he began to realize that large chocolate companies had workrooms that were like laboratories where they invented and developed all kinds of wonderful new items.
“I used to imagine myself working in one of these labs and suddenly I would come up with something so absolutely unbearably delicious that I would grab it in my hand and go rushing out of the lab and along the corridor and right into the office of the great Mr. Cadbury himself. ‘I’ve got it Sir!’ I would shout, putting the chocolate in front of him. ‘It’s fantastic! It’s fabulous! It’s marvellous! It’s irresistible!’ ”
Almost thirty years later, those dreams would prove to be quite useful when Roald started writing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Copyright © 2021 by The Roald Dahl Story Company Ltd.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.