Roald Dahl is known for clever, unsettling and highly entertaining short stories. Many have a surprise ending, but whether they do or not, his stories are engaging from beginning to end.
Some of Dahl’s stories are a bit on the long side for a short story, but they don’t feel like it. Even the longest ones are well worth the time it takes to read them.
I’ve included an approximate word count and a link for easy reading where possible.
An African Story | 5,700 words
An old man thinks he hears a noise. He comes outside and listens. He hears the high-pitched yelp of a dog coming from the shed of his neighbor, Judson.
“An African Story” (Pg. 181)
Beware of the Dog | 5,070 words
Peter Williamson, an injured WWII pilot, bails out of his plane and wakes up in a Brighton hospital, but he notices some unusual things.
The Boy Who Talked with Animals | 6,700 words
When a large turtle lands on a resort’s beach, people want to kill it for the meat and shell. A boy tries desperately to save the turtle.
The Butler | 1,200 words
A newly rich man throws dinner parties, but he isn’t satisfied that they’re really working. His butler explains that the wine is the problem, so the man decides to become an expert.
Dip in the Pool | 4,300 words
A man on a cruise ship comes up with a plan to win the betting pool. He risked a large sum of money and can’t afford to lose.
Edward the Conqueror
A woman rescues a stray cat that seems to show appreciation for the piano music she plays. She comes to believe that the cat is the reincarnation of a famous composer.
Galloping Foxley | 5,600 words
A man’s morning routine commute to work is disturbed by a new train passenger. He eventually identifies the newcomer as the person who tormented him unmercifully as a child.
A celibate and repressed vicar rebuffs the advances of the many spinsters in his parish.
The Great Automatic Grammatizator | 6,800 words
Adolph Knipe has just finished building an automatic computing machine, the most advanced type ever made. His boss, Mr. Bohlen, is pleased with their success, but Adolph isn’t excited. Mr. Bohlen insists that Adolph take a vacation and relax, but he comes up with an even bigger idea.
The Hitch-Hiker | 4,200 words
A man picks up a hitch-hiker and asks him about his work, but the hitch-hiker only reveals that he’s in a skilled trade. After talking about how fast the car can go, the driver accelerates, only to be pulled over by the police. He is very worried, but the hitch-hiker isn’t.
Lamb to the Slaughter | 3,900 words
Mrs. Maloney’s husband tells her that he’s leaving her. She is dazed by the news, then gets a frozen leg of lamb and strikes her husband with it.
The Landlady | 3,550 words
A young salesman stays at an eerily quiet but seemingly perfect bed and breakfast.
Man from the South | 4,625 words
An older man bets a younger man that he can’t light his lighter ten times in a row without missing one. He puts up his Cadillac, but the young man has to risk the pinky of his left hand.
Mr. Hoddy | 2,650 words
Claud and Clarice go to her father’s place for the evening. Claud speaks in vague terms about money-making ideas. Mr. Hoddy presses him for details, making it a bit uncomfortable.
“Mr. Hoddy” (Pg. 115)
Mrs. Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat | 6,000 words
Mrs. Bixby is given an expensive mink coat by her lover, but she doesn’t know how she can explain it to her husband. She comes up with a plan to keep it.
My Lady Love, My Dove | 5,360 words
A wealthy couple has guests for the weekend to play bridge. The wife has the idea that they should bug their guests’ room.
Lady Turton behaves indiscreetly at a dinner, paying undue attention to a male guest. Her husband is aware, but he doesn’t take any immediate action.
Lionel hears that his friend Janet has said something unflattering about him behind his back. He devises a plan to publicly embarrass her.
In an English cottage, an old woman lies in bed. She hears bombers flying overhead and thinks of her son in the Royal Air Force, imagining that she’s in the plane with him.
Parson’s Pleasure | 9,300 words
An antiques dealer works a con to buy valuable items from unsuspecting country dwellers. On one trip, he makes the find of his life and tries to get it for next to nothing.
A Piece of Cake | 4,700 words
A pilot recounts something that happened to him during wartime. He can’t remember everything – not before, only when it happened. There was trouble, but he was flying too low to bail out. It continues to get worse.
“A Piece of Cake” (Pg. 123)
Poison | 4,300 words
A man lies motionless in his bed, terrified, because a poisonous snake is under the covers on his stomach. When his roommate gets home, he sends him to get a doctor.
Princess Mammalia is a plain girl until her seventeenth birthday when she suddenly becomes beautiful – the most beautiful girl in the realm. With her newfound beauty comes power. She gradually uses it more and more.
The Ratcatcher | 4,200 words
A ratcatcher is called to a farm by special order of the health department. The ratcatcher is an off-putting man, but he knows his job well. He comes up with a plan to eliminate the rats, and he shares his knowledge with the owners.
Royal Jelly | 8,000 words
A new mother is worried because her baby has been losing weight since birth. Her husband, a bee expert, adds royal jelly to their baby’s formula.
Rummins | 3,700 words
Claud tells Rummins that his hayrick is infested with rats and is drawing the attention of the authorities. Rummins enlists the help of a few men to tear it down. While they work, the narrator thinks back a few months when the rick was built and remembers a significant detail.
“Rummins” (Pg. 110)
Skin | 3,350 words
A panhandler passes an art gallery and sees a painting by a man he knew over thirty years ago. The painter’s work is now very valuable. The panhandler has a tattoo on his back, drawn by this master, so he goes inside to show the crowd.
Robert is out walking late at night trying to keep his mind on good memories. His mind goes back to earlier in the day when his wife discovered a splinter in his foot. Somehow, he hadn’t noticed it. She tests his sensation with a pin. He remembers some examinations he had at the doctor’s a year ago.
The Sound Machine | 5,375 words
A man invents a machine that captures sound frequencies inaudible to humans and converts them. While his neighbor is gardening, he tries the machine in his yard and hears shrieks.
Taste | 5,250 words
At their dinners, a wine connoisseur and his host make small bets on whether the expert can identify the wine being served. At one dinner, the betting escalates as both men feel they can’t lose.
The Umbrella Man | 2,400 words
While waiting for a taxi, a mother and daughter are approached by an older man who wants to sell them an expensive umbrella, cheaply. He explains that he’s forgotten his wallet and just needs cab fare to get home.
The Way Up to Heaven | 5,000 words
Mrs. Foster is always punctual while her husband seems to take pleasure in delaying her for her appointments. Mrs. Foster plans to fly to see her daughter and granddaughters in Paris. On the morning of her trip, her husband stresses her unbearably by making her wait for him.
William and Mary | 10,000 words
A doctor approaches a dying man with the suggestion that he keep his brain alive in a tub. The dying man is considering it, but his wife is against the idea.
The Wish | 1,460 words
A young boy tries to make his way across a carpet, imagining it to be full of hot coals and snakes.
Yesterday was Beautiful
An English pilot ejects from his plane and lands on a Greek island. He searches the deserted town for a boat that can take him to the mainland.
As I read more Roald Dahl short stories they will be added to this page.