Alluding to Childhood Growth and Desire in Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot

Conference: The European Conference on Arts & Humanities (ECAH2020)
Title: Alluding to Childhood Growth and Desire in Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot
Stream: Literature/Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Ji-Eun Kim, Yonsei University, South Korea


Roald Dahl's Esio Trot is a peculiar story for children's literature since there are apparently no children in the main storyline. Rather than casting nonchalant children as protagonists, Roald Dahl features a love story between middle-aged Mr. Hoppy and Mrs. Silver with the go-between of the pet tortoise, Alfie. Alfie's "growth" can be read in two ways. First, Alfie's slow growth and Mr. Hoppy frequent replacing of Alfie by other tortoises can be read as children's desire of wanting to grow faster and become an adult more quickly. Roald Dahl addresses children's longing to physically grow taller and bypass the slow passing of time in childhood. Second, the subsequent replacing of Alfie with other larger tortoises read as the growing sexual desire of Mr. Hoppy and his unrequited love for Mrs. Silver. There have been folktales including a Korean version that have tortoises read as a phallus like symbol. By addressing these two readings, this article argues that Dahl's story resonates with readers spanning from children to adults.