Books

Forget Miss Trunchbull: in 2018, Matilda’s biggest nemesis is Donald Trump

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Moya Crockett
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In celebration of Matilda’s 30th birthday, new statues show Roald Dahl’s beloved bookworm standing up to Donald Trump.

On 1 October 1988, Roald Dahl published Matilda. The author had already written more than a dozen dark, witty and fantastical books for children, including The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Witches. But for a generation of children, it was Dahl’s story about a bookish girl from a horrible family that introduced them to the magic of reading.

What made Matilda Wormwood such a compelling heroine? Like all of Dahl’s protagonists, she was a clever, thoughtful underdog. But she was also deliciously mischievous and unafraid to stand up for herself. She got her own back on her nasty parents and brother by playing practical jokes on them, and used her gift of telekinesis to destabilise the rule of tyrannical teacher Miss Trunchbull. Many children feel helpless in the face of adult prejudice and cruelty – but Matilda offered an escape into a world where grown-up bullies could be outwitted and overpowered.

Now, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Matilda’s publication, two statues have been unveiled in Buckinghamshire that show the tiny bookworm facing down her arch-nemesis. But in 2018, Matilda isn’t taking on her relatives or Miss Trunchbull. Instead, she’s standing up to Donald Trump.

The statues of Matilda and Trump were erected in Great Missenden, the village where Dahl lived for 36 years, after the US president topped a poll of 2,000 Brits as the person Matilda would most likely be standing up to in 2018. 

A girl looks up at the statue of Donald Trump in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire 

More than 40% of respondents to the survey, which was commissioned by the Roald Dahl Story Company, said they thought Matilda would use her powers to challenge Trump. Less than a quarter (21%) said they believed Dahl’s character would be standing up to Theresa May in 2018, while 16% thought she would challenge Piers Morgan.

“Matilda demonstrates that it’s possible for anyone, no matter how small and powerless they feel, to defeat the Trunchbulls in their own lives – a message that feels even more relevant today than it did 30 years ago,” said Bernie Hall, from The Roald Dahl Story Company.

Lexicographer Susie Dent appears in ‘Dictionary Corner’ on Countdown and has built up a cult following on Twitter for sharing the etymology of words. She said she wasn’t surprised that many people could imagine Matilda standing up to Trump: “Many clearly see in him some similar traits to the fictional headmistress, Miss Trunchbull.”

“Matilda demonstrates that it’s possible for anyone, no matter how small and powerless they feel, to defeat the Trunchbulls in their own lives”

The Roald Dahl Story Company also asked people what they thought Matilda would be doing for a career aged 30. 

Almost a third (29%) of respondents said they believed she would be working as a teacher, while others thought she would be a UN ambassador (12%) or a librarian (11%).

The British public also said they thought Matilda would have travelled the world (53%) and been knighted by the Queen (29%), and that she’d be friends with actor and activist Emma Watson (24%) and Meghan Markle (14%).

Matilda, Emma and Meghan taking on Trump: now there’s an idea.

Images: David Parry/PA Wire/PA Images

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Moya Crockett

Moya is Women’s Editor at stylist.co.uk, where she is currently overseeing the Visible Women campaign. As well as writing about inspiring women and feminism, she also covers subjects including careers, podcasts and politics. Carrying a tiny bottle of hot sauce on her person at all times is one of the many traits she shares with both Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton.

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