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George’s Marvellous Medicine (Marvelous – US)

A children’s book by Roald Dahl based on the following remarkable premise : a young boy is bothered by his ailing, demented grandmother. He decides to fix her ‘grumpiness’ and ‘selfishness’ once and for all. He mixes a large quantity of veterinary medications and toxic household chemicals in a vat and forces her to consume them by insisting it is her ‘medicine’. Hilarious antics ensue, including one scene in which the grandmother ‘collapses in crippling pain because her insides are literally on fire.’*

The grandmother at first swells, then shrinks and ‘disappears’. George’s father is delighted. Although George’s mother is ‘sad’ at first, she is convinced ‘by lunchtime’ that all was for the best. George and his father embark on a program of animal experimentation to see if variants of the medicine can increase yield. The scheme is abandoned after producing a number of maimed and deformed animals.

How the apparent demerits of such a tale - marketed for the under-12s - escaped the censor’s eye I don’t know. The absence of a reported surge in home-euthanasia and hospital admission for poisoning suggests that few took the tale at face value and fewer acted it out. Fears of a sequel in which an older, jaded, state-sponsored George mass-produces his ‘medicine’ for forcible administration to the mentally ill, physically disabled, political dissidents, homosexuals, criminals and racial undesirables have proven unfounded.

First published in 1981, George’s Marvellous Medicine remains popular with children today. A recent reviewer on Amazon UK notes that his children “laughed at every antic of George and at every reaction of the grandmother, cheering him on to give her more and more of her medicine.”**

* BBC Review of the Birmingham Stage Company’s adaptation (here) ** Amazon UK Product Review (here)


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