Roald Dahl's reflections on February

Posted by
Tilly Burn, Archive Assistant at the Roald Dahl Museum
Posted on
11:00am, 6th February
The trees in Angling Spring wood

We take our monthly look at My Year, to see what Roald Dahl believes February has to offer.

According to My Year, February in Roald Dahl’s eyes was a month that required you to batten down the hatches and wait it out. The “bitterest and fiercest month of all” wasn’t one to be welcomed!

But despite the chill, rain and wind February definitely brings with it some “small blessings here and there” that are worth celebrating, such as catkins on hazel bushes and hearing the blackbirds begin to sing.

But, the thing that seemed to most excite Dahl in the month of February was the peak of an errant molehill sitting in his front lawn. Dahl was a keen gardener, growing orchids and prize onions as one of his many hobbies, and so you’d think that this discovery would be an annoyance. However, Dahl writes:

I love seeing molehills because they tell me that only a few inches below the surface some charming and harmless little fellow is living his own private busy life.

Roald Dahl, My Year


Above:  Roald Dahl in his garden © Sanjiro Minamikawa

Dahl describes these little moles’ private networks under his garden with great pleasure in My Year, very much like his glee in writing about Fantastic Mr Fox, bounding around his burrows evading the Farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean. 

Early draft copy of Fantastic Mr Fox, illustrated by Roald Dahl

Above: early draft copy of Fantastic Mr Fox, illustrated by Roald Dahl.

In fact, his inspiration for Fantastic Mr Fox came from his own village of Great Missenden, and you can take a walk around the countryside that inspired some his most-loved books. It’s entirely possible that his own beloved backyard moles were the very ones that were invited to celebratory dinner with the winning foxes. Moles, along with the badgers and the weasels, are solidified as true, welcome countryside dwellers.

Dahl’s interaction with his February moles is careful and considerate, and we’ll leave you with his expert gardener’s advice for getting rid of moles – should you want to turf them out!

“Moles cannot stand noise of any sort. It makes them even more nervous than they already are. So when I see a molehill in the garden, I get an empty wine bottle…and I bury it in the ground close to the molehill, leaving only the neck of the bottle sticking up. Now when the wind blows across the open bottle it makes a soft humming sound…The constant noise just above his tunnel drives the mole half-crazy and he very soon packs up and goes somewhere else.”

Join us on a Roald Dahl walk

Throughout 2019 you can discover more about Roald Dahl's book, My Year, and the local countryside that meant so much him, on our monthly walks and afternoon teas. Find out more about our Roald Dahl walks.

Go on a My Year walk