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James and the Giant Peach

Roald Dahl

  Other books by Roald Dahl











  For younger readers







  Picture books

  DIRTY BEASTS (with Quentin Blake) THE ENORMOUS CROCODILE (with Quentin Blake) THE GIRAFFE AND THE PELLY AND ME (with Quentin Blake) THE MINPINS (with Patrick Benson) REVOLTING RHYMES (with Quentin Blake) Plays

  THE BFG: PLAYS FOR CHILDREN (Adapted by David Wood) CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY: A PLAY (Adapted by Richard George) FANTASTIC MR FOX: A PLAY (Adapted by Sally Reid) JAMES AND THE GIANT PEACH: A PLAY (Adapted by Richard George) THE TWITS: PLAYS FOR CHILDREN (Adapted by David Wood) THE WITCHES: PLAYS FOR CHILDREN (Adapted by David Wood) Teenage fiction






  Roald Dahl

  James and the Giant Peach

  illustrated by

  Quentin Blake



  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3

  (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Ireland, 25 St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell,Victoria 3124, Australia

  (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand

  (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  First published in the USA 1961

  Published in Great Britain by George Allen & Unwin 1967

  Published in Puffin Books 1973

  eissued with new illustrations 1995

  This edition published 2007


  Text copyright (c) Roald Dahl Nominee Ltd, 1961

  Illustrations copyright (c) Quentin Blake, 1995

  All rights reserved

  The moral right of the author has been asserted Except in the United States of America, this book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher's prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN: 978-0-14-192987-3

  This book is for Olivia and Tessa


  Until he was four years old, James Henry Trotter had a happy life. He lived peacefully with his mother and father in a beautiful house beside the sea. There were always plenty of other children for him to play with, and there was the sandy beach for him to run about on, and the ocean to paddle in. It was the perfect life for a small boy.

  Then, one day, James's mother and father went to London to do some shopping, and there a terrible thing happened. Both of them suddenly got eaten up (in full daylight, mind you, and on a crowded street) by an enormous angry rhinoceros which had escaped from the London Zoo.

  Now this, as you can well imagine, was a rather nasty experience for two such gentle parents. But in the long run it was far nastier for James than it was for them. Their troubles were all over in a jiffy. They were dead and gone in thirty-five seconds flat. Poor James, on the other hand, was still very much alive, and all at once he found himself alone and frightened in a vast unfriendly world. The lovely house by the seaside had to be sold immediately, and the little boy, carrying nothing but a small suitcase containing a pair of pyjamas and a toothbrush, was sent away to live with his two aunts.

  Their names were Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, and I am sorry to say that they were both really horrible people. They were selfish and lazy and cruel, and right from the beginning they started beating poor James for almost no reason at all. They never called him by his real name, but always referred to him as 'you disgusting little beast' or 'you filthy nuisance' or 'you miserable creature', and they certainly never gave him any toys to play with or any picture books to look at. His room was as bare as a prison cell.

  They lived - Aunt Sponge, Aunt Spiker, and now James as well - in a queer ramshackle house on the top of a high hill in the south of England. The hill was so high that from almost anywhere in the garden James could look down and see for miles and miles across a marvellous landscape of woods and fields; and on a very clear day, if he looked in the right direction, he could see a tiny grey dot far away on the horizon, which was the house that he used to live in with his beloved mother and father. And just beyond that, he could see the ocean itself - a long thin streak of blackish-blue, like a line of ink, beneath the rim of the sky.

  But James was never allowed to go down off the top of that hill. Neither Aunt Sponge nor Aunt Spiker could ever be bothered to take him out herself, not even for a small walk or a picnic, and he certainly wasn't permitted to go alone. 'The nasty little beast will only get into mischief if he goes out of the garden,' Aunt Spiker had said. And terrible punishments were promised him, such as being locked up in the cellar with the rats for a week, if he even so much as dared to climb over the fence.

  The garden, which covered the whole of the top of the hill, was large and desolate, and the only tree in the entire place (apart from a clump of dirty old laurel bushes at the far end) was an ancient peach tree that never gave any peaches. There was no swing, no seesaw, no sand pit, and no other children were ever invited to come up the hill to play with poor James. There wasn't so much as a dog or a cat around to keep him company. And as time went on, he became sadder and sadder, and more and more lonely, and he used to spend hours every day standing at the bottom of the garden, gazing wistfully at the lovely but forbidden world of woods and fields and ocean that was spread out below him like a magic carpet.


  After James Henry Trotter had been living with his aunts for three whole years there came a morning when something rather peculiar happened to him. And this thing, which as I say was only rather peculiar, soon caused a second thing to happen which was very peculiar. And then the very peculiar thing, in its own turn, caused a really fantastically peculiar thing to occur.

  It all started on a blazing hot day in the middle of summer. Aunt Sponge, Aunt Spiker and James were all out in the garden. James had been put to work, as usual. This time he was chopping wood for the kitchen stove. Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker were sitting comfortably in deck-chairs near by, sipping tall glasses of fizzy lemonade and watching him to see that he didn't stop work for one moment.

  Aunt Sponge was enormously fat and very short. She had small piggy eyes, a sunken mouth
, and one of those white flabby faces that looked exactly as though it had been boiled. She was like a great white soggy overboiled cabbage. Aunt Spiker, on the other hand, was lean and tall and bony, and she wore steel-rimmed spectacles that fixed on to the end of her nose with a clip. She had a screeching voice and long wet narrow lips, and whenever she got angry or excited, little flecks of spit would come shooting out of her mouth as she talked. And there they sat, these two ghastly hags, sipping their drinks, and every now and again screaming at James to chop faster and faster. They also talked about themselves, each one saying how beautiful she thought she was. Aunt

  Sponge had a long-handled mirror on her lap, and she kept picking it up and gazing at her own hideous face.

  'I look and smell,' Aunt Sponge declared, 'as lovely as a rose!

  Just feast your eyes upon my face, observe my shapely nose!

  Behold my heavenly silky locks!

  And if I take off both my socks

  You'll see my dainty toes.'

  'But don't forget,' Aunt Spiker cried, 'how much your tummy shows!'

  Aunt Sponge went red. Aunt Spiker said, 'My sweet, you cannot win,

  Behold MY gorgeous curvy shape, my teeth, my charm ing grin!

  Oh, beauteous me! How I adore

  My radiant looks! And please ignore

  The pimple on my chin.'

  'My dear old trout!' Aunt Sponge cried out, 'You're only bones and skin!'

  'Such loveliness as I possess can only truly shine

  In Hollywood!' Aunt Sponge declared: 'Oh, wouldn't that be fine!

  I'd capture all the nations' hearts!

  They'd give me all the leading parts!

  The stars would all resign!'

  'I think you'd make,' Aunt Spiker said, 'a lovely Frankenstein.'

  Poor James was still slaving away at the chopping-block. The heat was terrible. He was sweating all over. His arm was aching. The chopper was a large blunt thing far too heavy for a small boy to use. And as he worked, James began thinking about all the other children in the world and what they might be doing at this moment. Some would be riding tricycles in their gardens. Some would be walking in cool woods and picking bunches of wild flowers. And all the little friends whom he used to know would be down by the seaside, playing in the wet sand and splashing around in the water...

  Great tears began oozing out of James's eyes and rolling down his cheeks. He stopped working and leaned against the chopping-block, overwhelmed by his own unhappiness.

  'What's the matter with you?' Aunt Spiker screeched, glaring at him over the top of her steel spectacles.

  James began to cry.

  'Stop that immediately and get on with your work, you nasty little beast!' Aunt Sponge ordered.

  'Oh, Auntie Sponge!' James cried out. 'And Auntie Spiker! Couldn't we all - please - just for once - go down to the seaside on the bus? It isn't very far - and I feel so hot and awful and lonely...'

  'Why, you lazy good-for-nothing brute!' Aunt Spiker shouted.

  'Beat him!' cried Aunt Sponge.

  'I certainly will!' Aunt Spiker snapped. She glared at James, and James looked back at her with large frightened eyes. 'I shall beat you later on in the day when I don't feel so hot,' she said. 'And now get out of my sight, you disgusting little worm, and give me some peace!'

  James turned and ran. He ran off as fast as he could to the far end of the garden and hid himself behind that clump of dirty old laurel bushes that we mentioned earlier on. Then he covered his face with his hands and began to cry and cry.


  It was at this point that the first thing of all, the rather peculiar thing that led to so many other much more peculiar things, happened to him.

  For suddenly, just behind him, James heard a rustling of leaves, and he turned round and saw an old man in a funny dark-green suit emerging from the bushes. He was a very small old man, but he had a huge bald head and a face that was covered all over with bristly black whiskers. He stopped when he was about three yards away, and he stood there leaning on his stick and staring hard at James.

  When he spoke, his voice was very slow and creaky. 'Come closer to me, little boy,' he said, beckoning to James with a finger. 'Come right up close to me and I will show you something wonderful.'

  James was too frightened to move.

  The old man hobbled a step or two nearer, and then he put a hand into the pocket of his jacket and took out a small white paper bag.

  'You see this?' he whispered, waving the bag gently to and fro in front of James's face. 'You know what this is, my dear? You know what's inside this little bag?'

  Then he came nearer still, leaning forward and pushing his face so close to James that James could feel breath blowing on his cheeks. The breath smelled musty and stale and slightly mildewed, like air in an old cellar.

  'Take a look, my dear,' he said, opening the bag and tilting it towards James. Inside it, James could see a mass of tiny green things that looked like little stones or crystals, each one about the size of a grain of rice. They were extraordinarily beautiful, and there was a strange brightness about them, a sort of luminous quality that made them glow and sparkle in the most wonderful way.

  'Listen to them!' the old man whispered. 'Listen to them move!'

  James stared into the bag, and sure enough there was a faint rustling sound coming up from inside it, and then he noticed that all the thousands of little green things were slowly, very very slowly stirring about and moving over each other as though they were alive.

  'There's more power and magic in those things in there than in all the rest of the world put together,' the old man said softly.

  'But - but - what are they?' James murmured, finding his voice at last. 'Where do they come from?'

  'Ah-ha,' the old man whispered. 'You'd never guess that!' He was crouching a little now and pushing his face still closer and closer to James until the tip of his long nose was actually touching the skin on James's forehead. Then suddenly he jumped back and began waving his stick madly in the air. 'Crocodile tongues!' he cried. 'One thousand long slimy crocodile tongues boiled up in the skull of a dead witch for twenty days and nights with the eyeballs of a lizard! Add the fingers of a young monkey, the gizzard of a pig, the beak of a green parrot, the juice of a porcupine, and three spoonfuls of sugar. Stew for another week, and then let the moon do the rest!'

  All at once, he pushed the white paper bag into James's hands, and said, 'Here! You take it! It's yours!'


  James Henry Trotter stood there clutching the bag and staring at the old man.

  'And now,' the old man said, 'all you've got to do is this. Take a large jug of water, and pour all the little green things into it. Then, very slowly, one by one, add ten hairs from your own head. That sets them off! It gets them going! In a couple of minutes the water will begin to froth and bubble furiously, and as soon as that happens you must quickly drink it all down, the whole jugful, in one gulp. And then, my dear, you will feel it churning and boiling in your stomach, and steam will start coming out of your mouth, and immediately after that, marvellous things will start happening to you, fabulous, unbelievable things - and you will never be miserable again in your life. Because you are miserable, aren't you? You needn't tell me! I know all about it! Now, off you go and do exactly as I say. And don't whisper a word of this to those two horrible aunts of yours! Not a word! And don't let those green things in there get away from you either! Because if they do escape, then they will be working their magic upon somebody else instead of upon you! And that isn't what you want at all, is it, my dear? Whoever they meet first, be it bug, insect, animal, or tree, that will be the one who gets the full power of their magic! So hold the bag tight! Don't tear the paper! Off you go! Hurry up! Don't wait! Now's the time! Hurry!'

  With that, the old man turned away and disappeared into the bushes.


  The next moment, James was running back towards the house as fast as he could go. He would do it a
ll in the kitchen, he told himself - if only he could get in there without Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker seeing him. He was terribly excited. He flew through the long grass and the stinging-nettles, not caring whether he got stung or not on his bare knees, and in the distance he could see Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker sitting in their chairs with their backs towards him. He swerved away from them so as to go round the other side of the house, but then suddenly, just as he was passing underneath the old peach tree that stood in the middle of the garden, his foot slipped and he fell flat on his face in the grass. The paper bag burst open as it hit the ground and the thousands of tiny green things were scattered in all directions.

  James immediately picked himself up on to his hands and knees and started searching around for his precious treasures. But what was this? They were all sinking into the soil! He could actually see them wriggling and twisting as they burrowed their way downward into the hard earth, and at once he reached out a hand to pick some of them up before it was too late, but they disappeared right under his fingers. He went after some others, and the same thing happened! He began scrabbling around frantically in an effort to catch hold of those that were left, but they were too quick for him. Each time the tips of his fingers were just about to touch them, they vanished into the earth! And soon, in the space of only a few seconds, every single one of them had gone!

  James felt like crying. He would never get them back now - they were lost, lost, lost for ever.

  But where had they gone to? And why in the world had they been so eager to push down into the earth like that? What were they after? There was nothing down there. Nothing except the roots of the old peach tree... and a whole lot of earthworms and centipedes and insects living in the soil.