To translate... as Roald Dahl's Esio Trot comes to BBC One, here are Twelve Fascinating Esio Trot Facts you might not know
Roald Dahl's Esio Trot was a New Year's Day treat for BBC One viewers, starring Dame Judi Dench as Mrs Silver and Dustin Hoffman as Mr Hoppy. We're still hopping with excitement.
If you want to know a bit more about this lesser-known story, here are a few facts for you:
- Esio Trot (which is the word 'tortoise' spelled backwards - obvious to anyone who has read the story) was one of the last stories Roald Dahl wrote. It was released in 1990, just before his death in November of that year, becoming the last book to be published in his lifetime. It was followed by The Vicar of Nibbleswicke and The Minpins in 1991.
- It is one of Roald Dahl's shortest books - only 60 pages long (by contrast the Puffin Books edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has 179 pages).
- Esio Trot is unusual amongst Roald Dahl's children's fiction in that its central characters are adults. There is one little girl, Roberta, who appears towards the end of the story. Roberta was also the name given to a character in the film adaptation.
- The film version was produced by Endor Productions for BBC One. It is 90 minutes long and features a few other new characters, including Mr Pringle (a neighbour of Mr Hoppy and Mrs Silver) and a narrator, played by James Corden. Paul Mayhew-Archer, who co-wrote the screenplay with Richard Curtis, refers to James's narration as their own "tale of the unexpected."
- Because of the need to adapt the story for television, certain elements of the original story have been changed for the film. Without giving too much away, as well as the additional characters, the ending is also slightly different from the published book.
- The story of Esio Trot is a favourite of Sir Quentin Blake, who described it to Roald Dahl's biographer Donald Sturrock as a "love story set in two rooms." In 2013, Quentin - Roald Dahl's principal illustrator and the first person to interpret Mr Hoppy, Mrs Silver and Alfie the Tortoise visually - recorded an audio version of the story.
- The inspiration for Esio Trot came to Roald Dahl at least twelve years before it was published. We know this because he wrote about it back in 1978, when preparing a speech for students at Wright University in Ohio. He told them about a visit to his daughter's London flat and her downstairs neighbour Mrs Shrimpton, owner of a fine tortoise she kept on her balcony. The notes for this speech are one of several highlights of the Roald Dahl archive - see for yourself.
- Esio Trot was nearly called "The Magic Tortoise" or "The Wondeful Tortoise." Again, we know this from Roald Dahl's own notes as he drafted the title page several times, and this is also kept in the Roald Dahl archive.
- Co-writer of the Esio Trot film Richard Curtis approached producer Hilary Bevan Jones with the idea to adapt the story after reading it to "a succession of children." Of Mrs Silver and Mr Hoppy, he said "this is the finished couple I think will stay together."
- Judi Dench is also a Roald Dahl fan, having ready Esio Trot to "many, many children." "I wanted to play Mrs Silver unconditonally," she said of the role.
- Roald Dahl owned a tortoise of his own when first the idea came to him which would later become Esio Trot. He tells us about it in that speech. The tortoise lived at his home in Great Missenden - now the location of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre. By coincidence, Dustin Hoffman also owns a tortoise named Seventy, so-called he was a 70th birthday gift.
- Props and costumes from the BBC One film (including Mr Hoppy's Tortoise-Catcher) will be available to view at the Roald Dahl Museum from January 2015, along with some of those notes and manuscripts written in Roald Dahl's own hand.
This blog post was updated on 02/01/2015 to add further detail following the BBC One broadcast.