Esio Trot title page

Roald Dahl's 1989 title page for the story that would become Esio Trot. C. RDNL. The Roald Dahl archive is housed at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre.
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This incredible page is from an early draft of Esio Trot. It is one of many treasures of the Roald Dahl archive, which is housed at the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre

Esio Trot is a story about two neighbours - Mr Hoppy and Mrs Silver - who are brought together with the help of a tortoise named Alfie.

Roald Dahl wrote Esio Trot in 1989. When it was published in 1990, it became the last of his children's stories to be released during his lifetime.

This page demonstrates Roald's process as he tries to come up with a title for the story.

It shows the words "MR HOPPY" crossed out at the top, next to the letters "m/s" (likely to refer to the word 'manuscript')  and the date, "19 June 1989," which is underlined.

Then, "THE WONDERFUL TORTOISE" (crossed out}, "THE MAGICAL TORTOISE" (first with the letters '-al' crossed out, and then the entire phrase), "THE WONDERFUL TORTOISE," which has been crossed out again, and finally "THE MAGIC TORTOISE," also crossed out.

Aside from the reference to Mr Hoppy, all four titles are crossed out in blue pencil - not Roald Dahl's typical writing implement, as he favoured a Dixon Ticonderoga - and the title he eventually chose, "ESIO TROT" is written in blue, as if for emphasis. It's clear this was his preferred choice, because he's also written the word "Title" in blue pencil, circled it and added an arrow to the words.

Beneath his chosen title, Roald Dahl has signed his name, and further down the page written "P2. (his love)". The word 'his' is underlined. Maybe this is a reference to Mr Hoppy?

Overall this is a fascinating insight into Roald Dahl's writing process - and maybe even proof, if proof were needed, that every aspect of a story takes more than a bit of care and attention.

The BBC One adaptation of Esio Trot, starring Judi Dench and Dustin Hoffman, will be broadcast on New Year's Eve, 31 December 2015.

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