TRIVIA FROM OLIVIA: Roald Dahl and the Gremlins
“Gremlin” was a slang word coined by the Royal Air Force during the 1920s and its usage really picked up steam during the Second World War when the imaginary creatures became the scapegoats for all manners of mechanical problems and sabotage in aircraft. Interestingly enough, the term was even used by the German military indicating these fantastical critters weren’t necessarily for one side or the other.
In September of 1940 a Royal Air Force pilot crashed his Gladiator plane in the desert of North Africa, sustaining serious injuries, including a concussion. He took about six months to recover from his wounds and eventually went back to the front, even taking part in the Battle of Athens. After the war that pilot went to the United States where he met writer C.S. Forester. In 1943 the pilot published his first children’s book, The Gremlins. You might better recognize that pilot’s later books some of which were my childhood favorites: James and the Giant Peach, Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and Willie Wonka and the Great Glass Elevator among others.
The pilot’s name was Roald Dahl. He credits his WWII plane crash with his becoming a writer, not only because his first published work was an account of his experience but also because he believed the injuries awakened a creative part of his brain.
After Dahl published The Gremlins he entered into talks with Walt Disney about making the story into a film project. While that never happened, the gremlins continued to expand into pop culture. The fictional creature made appearances in cartoons as well an episode of The Twilight Zone entitled “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” featuring William Shatner. And of course most of us remember them best from the movies Gremlins and Gremlins 2.