Roald Dahl’s parents, Harald and Sofie, were both Norwegian. Harald previously married, but following the death of his young wife he met and married Sofie. She emigrated to Wales to join her husband. They had 5 children between them, with Roald being the middle child. They sadly lost their first daughter at a young age, whilst the last child was born shortly after Harald’s death. Sofie was an inspiration throughout Roald’s life. Read on for key facts and titbits about Roald Dahl’s mother and father…
Above: Portrait of Harald Dahl, Roald Dahl’s father.
1863 – the year in which Roald Dahl’s father Harald was born, in Norway.
1900 – the approximate year in which Harald Dahl arrived in South Wales, having initially travelled to Paris (and possibly spent some time working at sea before this). Upon arriving in Wales he moved to Barry, a seafront town just along the coast from Cardiff.
1901 – the year Harald Dahl married his first wife, a young Frenchwoman named Marie Beaurin-Gresser. They wed in Paris, sometime in the summer.
15 – the age difference between Harald and Marie.
2 – the number of children born to Harald and Marie; daughter Ellen Marguerite (born 1903, and named after Harald’s mother) and son Louis (born 1906).
16 October 1907 – the date on which Marie Dahl died.
29 – Marie’s age at her death.
Did You Know?
After Harald Dahl fractured his arm one day, a drunken doctor misdiagnosed the injury as a dislocated shoulder and attempted to relocate it. This merely worsened the damage to the fracture, with the result that Harald’s arm eventually had to be amputated.
4 – the number of years after Marie’s death that Harald met and married Roald Dahl’s mother Sofie Magdalene Hesselberg.
1885 – the year in which Roald Dahl’s mother Sofie Magdalene Hesselberg was born, in Norway.
Above: Portrait of Sofie Magdalene Hesselberg, Roald Dahl’s mother.
1911 – the year in which Harald married Sofie and she moved away from her parental home in Norway to join her husband in Cardiff.
22 – the age difference between Harald and Sofie.
5 – the number of bedrooms in Villa Marie, the large house (set in half an acre) into which Harald and Sofie moved, and which Harald had built to his own specifications.
53 – Harald Dahl’s age at the time of Roald’s birth in 1916. Sofie was 31.
1918 – the year in which Harald purchased a grander property, Ty Mynydd, a farmhouse and large farm of 150 acres in Radyr, a little further out from Cardiff.
Above: Roald with his mother Sofie (and pet dog) in the garden of Ty Mynydd, circa 1919.
March 1920 – the month in which Roald’s father died, succumbing to pneumonia a matter of weeks after losing his daughter Astri (who had died of appendicitis, aged 7, in February the same year).
57 – Harald Dahl’s age when he died.
35 – Sofie’s age at the time of her husband’s death.
3 – Roald’s age at the time of his father’s death.
6 – the number of children Sofie was left to raise alone; Alfhild, Roald, Else, Asta (with whom Sofie was pregnant at the time of Harald’s death) and her step-children from Harald’s first marriage, Ellen and Louis.
Did You Know?
In 1921, unable to afford to keep Ty Mynydd following her husband’s death, Sofie moved the family into a smaller home back in Llandaff, called Cumberland Lodge (the building is now part of Howell School).
17 Nov 1967 – the date on which Roald’s mother Sofie died, after a long illness. She passed away just a few hours after speaking to Roald on the telephone, whilst he was in hospital following surgery on his back.
47 – the number of years by which Sofie outlived Roald’s father. Following her funeral, which Roald was too ill to attend (being hospitalised still), her ashes were scattered alongside Harald’s grave in Radyr churchyard.
Did You Know?
Roald’s mother passed away exactly 5 years after the death of his eldest daughter Olivia
82 – Sofie’s age at the time of her death.
51 – Roald’s age at the time of his mother’s death.