Matilda by Roald Dahl: manuscript and typescript drafts


Tiny Matilda is a genius, even if her horrible parents don’t notice. She can do large sums in her head, knows how to spell stupendously difficult words and loves reading books. Mr and Mrs Wormwood completely overlook her incredible abilities - but luckily for Matilda, this also means they never fail to fall for her tricks...

Because as well as being very clever, Matilda is no stranger to a spot of mischief. From supergluing hats to hiding a parrot up a chimney, she makes her hapless parents pay for their indifference and stupidity in a number of subtle ways.

It's headmistress Miss Trunchbull she saves her greatest trick for, though... The terrible Trunchbull had better watch out!

A tricky start for Matilda

When Roald Dahl first wrote about Matilda, she was very different to the hero we know. She was still a genius, but the first Matilda was extremely naughty and not very nice!

Creating Matilda: Roald Dahl’s writing process

It took Roald two years and at least four drafts to get the story right. In these two images, we can see Roald trying out different characters, storylines and ideas.

In the first image – a page from the first draft – you can read how the mischievous Matilda puts itching powder in her classmates’ gym clothes before sports day. The doctor is called and sends everyone home with chickenpox. Sports day is cancelled! In another early draft, she dips her cat’s paws in paint and chases it round the house, to the dismay of her kind parents. Miss Honey was originally called Miss Hayes in the first draft – can you find her?

By the final draft, Matilda is the genius that we know and love – using her tricks to stand up to her horrible headteacher, Miss Trunchbull. Roald kept editing what he had written, like he has done on this page from the final draft. Take a look at his scribbles. Can you spot the words he’s experimented with to make Miss Trunchbull even more dastardly?

Did you know?

Roald liked to write with yellow-painted HB pencils on yellow paper in a hut with a yellow door. Guess what his favourite colour was?

Roald Dahl built a writing hut at the bottom of his garden to write all his stories in peace. You can see the inside of the hut, just as he left it, at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire (UK).


                        The Plan

          When Sports-Day arrived, Matilda went to school

carrying her plastic lunch-box under her arm as usual.  But before

leaving home, she had nipped off to the tool-shed and tipped out

the sandwiches and the apple her mother had put inside, and had

filled the box to the brim with Matilda’s Magic Itching-Powder.

          The whole school was to have normal lessons in the

morning, and the sports would start after lunch at Two o’clock sharp. 

During the last ^ morning lesson, Matilda put up her hand and said, “Please

may I be excused?”

          Miss Hayes regarded her suspiciously through wire-rimmed

spectacles, “Wait till the class is over”, she said.

          “Oh please, Miss Hayes!” Matilda cried, wriggling about

madly to show how urgent it was.  “I have to go!  I have to go now!”

          “Oh, very well then”, Miss Hayes said, unwilling to risk an

unpleasant catastrophe.  “But hurry up about it.”

          Out went Matilda, but not to the lavatory.  She went

straight to the changing-room where all the games-clothes were

hanging neatly on their pegs around the room.

          First, Matilda put on a pair of her mother’s best

gloves. borrowed for the occasion  Then she opened her lunch-box

and very swiftly, very expertly, she went all the way round the

room sprinkling her Magic Itching-Powder inside all the games-clothes

of all the children in the school.  She concentrated mostly on the

running-shorts of the little boys and the Knickers of the girls, giving

these a particularly good sprinkling. [in left margin She also sprinkled the insides of the boy’s shirts and girl’s blouses]  Then she returned to

her classroom and sat down at her desk, good as gold.

          “Thank you, Miss Hayes”, she said, smiling sweetly.  “I

feel better now.”

                        (end of p) chapter)

now what it was. She had seen plenty of ^ other newts in her time.
And what is more, she knew or thought she knew who was responsible
for this most terrible of crimes.
^ (10) (No para) Slowly she sat down again in
her chair. She looked at this moment more terrifying than ever
before. The fires of fury and hatred were smouldering in her
small black eyes.
“Matilda!” she barked. “Stand up!”
“Who, me?” Matilda said. “What have I done?”
“Stand up, you disgusting little wart!” cockroach!”
“I haven’t done anything, Miss Trunchbull, honestly I haven’t.
I’ve never seen that slimy thing before!”
“Stand up at once, you filthy little maggot!”
Reluctantly, Matilda got to her feet. She was in the second
row. Lavender was in the row behind her, and was beginning to ^ feeling a bit guilty. She hadn’t intended
enjoy herself enormously. ^ to get her friend into trouble. On the other hand, she was certainly not about to own up.//
“You are a vile, repulsive, repellant, malicious little
brute!” Miss ^ The Turnbull [sic] was shouting. “You are not fit to be in
this school! You ought to be behind bars, that’s where you ought
to be! I shall have you drummed out of this establishment in
utter disgrace! I shall have the prefects chase you down the
corridor and out of the front-door with hockey-sticks! I shall
have the staff escort you home under armed guard! And then I
shall make absolutely sure you are sent to a reformatory for
delinquent girls for the minimum of forty years!”
Miss ^ The Trunchbull was in such a rage that her great hammy face
had taken on a boiled colour and little trickles of saliva were ^ flecks of froth were
dribbling out of ^ gathering at the corners of her mouth. But she was not the
only one who was losing her cool. Matilda was also beginning to
see red. She didn’t in the least mind being accused of having
done something she had actually done. She could always wriggle ^ could see the justice of
her way out of that. ^ that. It was, however, a totally new experience
for her to be accused of a crime that she definately had not
committed. She had had absolutely nothing to do with that beastly
creature in the glass. By golly, she thought, that rotten
Trunchbull isn’t going to pin this one on me!
I did not do it!” she screamed.
“Oh yes, you did!” Miss ^ The Trunchbull roared back. “Nobody
else could have thought up a trick like that! Your father warned was right to warn me about you!” The woman seemed to have lost control of herself completely. She was ranting like a maniac. (11) (p. 33) (No para)

Full title:
Manuscript page from the first draft of Matilda; Typescript page from the fourth draft of Matilda
1986; 1987
Manuscript / Typescript / Draft
Roald Dahl
© The Roald Dahl Story Company Limited
Usage terms

© The Roald Dahl Story Company Limited, image courtesy of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.You may not use the material for commercial purposes. Please credit the copyright holder when reusing this work.

Held by
Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre
RD/2/27/1/20; RD/2/27/6/109

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