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Literature / George's Marvelous Medicine

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George's Marvelous Medicine is a 1981 children's book by Roald Dahl. George is a young boy left alone with his horrible grandmother. Responsible for giving her her medicine, he decides to mix his own one using ingredients such as paint and animal pills, having no idea what the result will be. And far from poisoning her, it instead makes her grow incredibly tall. When his parents return to the farm and see that it has similar effects on the animals, his dad tries to get George to reproduce the formula. However, he cannot get it exactly right (to the misfortune of the chickens they test it on). The fourth and final batch turns out to be a shrinking medicine...which Grandma mistakes for tea and drinks a whole teacup full of. She then proceeds to shrink till she is invisible to the naked eye.



  • Abusive Parents: George's Grandma loves to terrify him when his parents aren't there. She sometimes even does it while they are there.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: "[Grandma] spent all day and every day sitting in her chair by the window, and she was always complaining, grousing, grouching, grumbling, griping about something or other."
  • Asshole Victim: Grandma's end is horrible, and it's clear that Mr. Kranky knows what he's doing when he tells her to drink it when she mistakes it for tea, but she's such of a jerk that even George's mom (her own daughter!) gets over this rather quickly.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: Grandma, and most of the animals of the farm, after some doses of medicine.
  • Balloon Belly: As part of the transformation that ultimately renders her a giant, Grandma briefly swells up in this manner (it's air — and it's "a puncture" that keeps her from exploding).
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  • Bigger Is Better: At least in the case of farm animals, according to George's father. That's why he tries to have his son produce some more of his magic medicine.
  • Blessed with Suck: Subverted. When Grandma becomes a giantess she crashes through the roof and needs to get unstuck, later she has to sleep in the granary because she doesn't fit in the house; despite this, however, she's still perfectly happy with her new size.
  • Body Horror: What happens to the second and third chickens that drink George's experimental medicines when he tries to replicate the original formula. One grows super long legs and the other gets a six foot long neck. Averted with the fourth "test subject" chicken, which simply shrinks until it's the size of a newly hatched chick.
  • Does Not Like Spam: Early on, Grandma tells George to stop eating chocolate, and to eat cabbage instead. George reacts with disgust and says he doesn't like cabbage.
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  • Do Not Try This at Home: Modern editions of the book come with warnings to children that mixing thirty odd different chemicals in a pot and giving it to your relatives to drink would probably in fact be quite poisonous. Sad thing is that there is probably at least one kid that needed to to hear it.
  • Fainting: After George's mother comes back from shopping and Grandma tells her that she and the hen in the garden were enlarged by George's medicine, George's mother comes very close to passing out.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Grandma shrinks to microscopic size after stealing George's fourth reattempt at the growth formula.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: "Horny finger" is used twice and "mighty queer chickens" is used once.
  • Harmless Villain: Sure, Grandma is a real piece of work, but due to her old age and limited mobility, she can't actually do anything worse than boss George around, insult him and frighten him with scary stories.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: Grandma's sticky end.
  • It Runs on Nonsensoleum: The premise of the book is definitely powered by nonsensoleum.
  • Jerkass: Grandma, of course. She even insults her own daughter, George's mother, behind her back.
  • Kid Hero: George continues the tradition of "little boy protagonist" in Roald Dahl books.
  • Loophole Abuse: George doesn't touch the the cabinet of human medicines because his parents very clearly warned him against doing so. However, they didn't say anything about the animal medicines...
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: George literally grabs bottles of cosmetics, seasonings, antifreeze, animal pills, etc. and dumps them into a bucket, with little or no regard for what, exactly, he's using — or how much for that matter. This is why duplicating the first medicine proves impossible.
  • Obnoxious In-Laws: George's father doesn't like Grandma (his mother-in-law) either, to the point that he tricks her into drinking an entire cup of Marvelous Medicine #4, which makes her shrink until she's completely invisible.
  • Shapeshifting: What happens to George's chickens when he tries his new formulas on them, instead of the desired Size Shifting.
  • Slasher Smile: Grandma gives George one as she's telling him a scary story. The narration describes it as "a thin icy smile, like the kind a snake might make before it bites you".
  • Square-Cube Law: Square cube what? Though Grandma is depicted as unnaturally thin in her giant form, which could have compensated for the otherwise increased mass, the chicken the same batch of medicine is used on retains its relative girth as it grows, yet is still agile enough to run around with Grandma on its back.
  • Trademark Favourite Food: Grandma is very fond of gin, and is allowed a small drink of it every evening. While initially making the medicine, George passes a bottle of gin on the sideboard, and remembering how much Grandma likes it, decides to add it to the mixture. Also, in a more disgusting example, beetles are Grandma's favourite insects to eat, because of how they crunch, especially if she has one in a stick of celery.


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