Literature / The Landlady

"The Landlady" is a short horror story by Roald Dahl. It starts out with Billy, a young British man, looking for a place to stay. He finds the BED AND BREAKFAST INN and a quaint old woman inside, who welcomes him to stay, just like the other young men she's been fond of.

The story was adapted for a 1961 episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

Tropes used in "The Landlady":

  • Affably Evil
  • Ambiguous Ending: What it might seem to those not very attentive to details or simply unfamiliar to Bitter Almonds trope. If you belong to neither of these, however, the ending is unambiguously Downer.
  • Bitter Almonds: Billy thought to himself that his tea tastes like bitter almonds, which was cyanide that the landlady used to poison him so she could stuff him.
  • The Collector: The old woman herself freely admits to stuffing her old pets that have passed on. She collects other things too...
  • Crapsaccharine World: The hotel appears nice, but really isn't.
  • Creepy Housekeeper
  • Dirty Old Woman: She's really got a thing for young, handsome men.
  • Fridge Horror: If you don't know about the Bitter Almonds trope before reading the story and later learn about it, the landlady's offering of tea will become much, much more horrifying.
  • Genre Shift: Until the very end, it appears to just be a little Slice of Life story.
  • Hell Hotel: What it actually turns out to be, although it appears pleasant.
  • Mummies at the Dinner Table: It's what the eponymous landlady does to her dead pets, as well as the guests she murders.
  • Mundane Horror: A nice small hotel with a friendly host, where nearly every small detail implies something creepy. It has only two guests who are still there though they checked in more than a year ago, and are "known for one and the same thing" (having gone missing); the host gives her guests tea which tastes like Bitter Almonds. Guess the implications?
  • Nice Guy: Billy
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: Although you can eventually realize what the landlady's problem is, you can't understand the true horror of the story unless you're familiar with the Bitter Almonds trope.