You’ve got to hand it to Roald Dahl. (And what is the ‘it’ that we hand over in that sentence? A drink, a medal, a dirty sock? Let’s go with medal.) Only Roald Dahl, that wonderful wordsmith, could come up with baddies called Vermicious Knids, and make them sound somewhat like a giant, horribly 'aware', poo:
‘It looked like an enormous egg balanced on its pointed end. It was as tall as a big boy and wider than the fattest man. The greenish-brown skin had a shiny wettish appearance and there were wrinkles in it…
…The eyes were everything. There were no other features, no nose or mouth or ears, but the entire egg-shaped body was itself moving very very slightly, pulsing and bulging gently here and there as though the skin were filled with some thick fluid.’
Nice. Way to go, Mr Dahl. I’ve just been put off my chocolate mini roll. Bleegh.
The Vermicious Knids (pronounced K’nids) are some of the horrors facing Charlie and his friends travelling in the Great Glass Elevator. This is the sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and as a child I enjoyed it more – probably due to the horrible sounding Knids – although there is much strange silliness going on throughout the story. It also was a lot darker a tale. The idea of Minusland, where people drifted around in ghostly mist waiting to be born (made into a plus), was frankly terrifying.
We’re not quite told how Vermicious Knids kill their victims. Willy Wonka gives us a lot of hyperbole about what they can do (rasp people into a thousand tiny bits! Grate you like cheese! Stretch out its neck and bite off your head!) but Grandma Georgina correctly questions how it can bite anything, since all it has are eyes.
However I knew. I knew exactly what Vermicious Knids would do. They’d squoosh you to death! They’d sit, squash and suffocate you in seconds! (It appears his hyperbole is catching.) Although it is thoughtful of them to spell out the word ‘scram’ first.
Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator
Author: Roald Dahl
Illustrator: Faith Jacques
Editor: Kaye Webb
Vermicious fact one: Although I loved Dr Seuss books, I found his world quite scary too, especially those manic oh-so-intent swished little creatures.
Vermicious fact two: The scariest book I owned was one about true life ghost stories. I have no idea where I got it from; I think I picked it up in a jumble sale when I was 13. Oh My. I gave it to a friend on the pretext that she’d like it, and then kept ‘forgetting’ to take it home with me.
Vermicious fact three: Not as scary, but still pretty damn close, were the Armada Ghost books. Yikes! These were spooky little short story anthologies designed to give children sleepless nights.
Vermicious fact four: I wasn’t that keen on ‘The Groke’ from the Moomin books.
Vermicious fact five: I always ended up being eaten by a Minotaur in ‘choose your own adventure’ books.