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Literature / The BFG

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"I is not like the others, I is a nice Giant, I is a freaky Giant. I is the Big Friendly Giant. The BFG, that's me."

NO! Not that kind of BFG! Not to be confused with The Notorious B.I.G. either. The BFG is a book by Roald Dahl. "BFG" in this case stands for Big Friendly Giant, and is the name of one of the protagonists. He is a Giant, the magic mythological kind who lives in Giant Country and is the only member of his race who doesn't eat humans. The other protagonist is Sophie, a little orphan girl who the BFG kidnaps (an action he later regrets) because she catches a glimpse of him for fear that she will tell the outside world of his presence— she's terrified at first, but, once she learns he's nice, she's actually quite glad to be out of the horrible orphanage she lived in.

The other nine Giants are child killers, and downright terrifying. Sophie is very nearly eaten by one (the Bloodbottler) but survives when he spits out the disgusting vegetable she's hiding in. The BFG lets Sophie in on his secret job — catching dreams from Dream Country, then mixing them up and distributing them to children (blowing them through a big trumpet). He also locks away any nightmares he finds, to make sure they don't find a way to kids by themselves.


Sophie comes up with a plan to capture the other giants: Making the Queen of England dream about the Giants and also that they can be stopped by a little girl called Sophie and a friendly Giant. Thus, when she appears on the Queen's windowsill, Sophie is instantly believed (with the additional backup of a recent ring of child massacres that the Queen also dreams about on the same night that they happen). The Queen calls on the Army and the RAF to capture the Giants, which they do with the help of the BFG and Sophie.

An Animated Adaptation was made by Cosgrove Hall for The Cannon Group in 1989, with its own trope page here. A new live-action adaptation by Disney directed by Steven Spielberg was released in July 2016, with its own trope page here.


The book provides examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: Sophie righteously declares "whizzpopping" to be extremely rude; yet when the BFG demonstrates "whizzpopping" with a force akin to rocket propulsion, as the result of drinking Frobscottle, she cannot contain her laughter.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: Three drunk men become the last victims of the giants when they climb over the fence surrounding the giant pit and fall in. Then they put warning signs on the fence that say "Do Not Feed The Giants" — though how this will stop any more drunken idiots from climbing the fence is anyone's guess.
  • Always a Bigger Fish: Compared to other giants, the BFG is a runt. The other Giants use it as a sort of nickname.
  • Ape Shall Never Kill Ape: Even though they bully him and beat him up regularly, the BFG insists that the other giants would never actually threaten his life. Giants is never killing their own kind; only humans is. In fact, the BFG claims that humans are the only species on the planet that kill their own kind.note 
  • Ascended Extra: The BFG originally made a one-chapter appearance in Dahl's previous book Danny, the Champion of the World, as a character in a bedtime story told by Danny's father.
  • Big Damn Heroes: The BFG bursting in to save Sophie from Fleshlumpeater during the climax.
  • Big "NO!": Sophie, when the Fleshlumpeater is implied to eat a young boy.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The Malaproper BFG repeatedly mispronounces Charles Dickens as Dahl's Chickens. This is given a Shout-Out in the film version of Matilda.
  • Broken Aesop: Although the BFG likens the Giants' eating of humans to the humans' eating of animals, it doesn't stop him tucking into ham and eggs. Even though he brings up pigs as a specific example.
  • The Butcher: One of the giants is named "Butcher Boy".
  • Call a Pegasus a "Hippogriff": There are of course early examples of child-eating giants, but the evil giants (BFG aside) look much more like ogres than giants, being less humanlike.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Queen gives Sophie a sapphire brooch to wear. Later, she stabs the Fleshlumpeater with it to distract him from eating a soldier.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Good dreams are green, stable ovoids. Nightmares are thrashing red storms.
  • Cultural Translation:
  • David vs. Goliath: The BFG and the humans against the evil giants.note 
  • Does Not Like Spam: The only people that giants won't eat are Greeks, because "they taste greasy".
  • The Dreaded: The only human bean giants fear is the legendary Jack and his giant-killing beanstalk.
  • Dream Weaver: The BFG is a benign example, mixing up good dreams for the children of the world from the bottled small dreams he captures, and locking away nightmares. He's reluctant to mix up the dream for the Queen in Sophie's plan because, as it's about the horror of the giants, it's naturally a nightmare.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: The BFG is first mentioned as one of Danny's father's stories in Danny, the Champion of the World, written six years earlier.
  • Eldritch Location: Giant Country is a mild example, not being on a map but being quite reachable by helicopter. The Land of Dreams is an even weirder place, but appears to be less dangerous.
  • The Evil Genius: Compared to the Fleshlumpeater who is dumb enough for the BFG himself to defeat, the Bloodbottler is apparently the smartest of the bunch. In his first scene, he barges into the BFG's cave, having overheard him talking to Sophie and correctly assumes that there is a "human bean" around. Furthermore, it takes the BFG a great deal of persuasion and lies to trick the Bloodbottler into tasting a snozzcumber.
  • Evil Is Bigger: Subverted by the BFG himself, but played straight in that his murderous neighbours are much larger than he is.
  • Expy: The design of the bad giants are from the Badfort Gang of Uncle, another book illustrated by Quentin.
  • Femme Fatalons: Male example: Fleshlumpeater has a single long, sharp nail on each index finger, which he uses to pluck children out of their beds to eat them.
  • Foreign Queasine: Snozzcumbers, which tastes absolutely repulsive. As he refuses to eat humans, or steal their vegetables, it's the only thing that the BFG can eat, as it is the only thing that grows in Giant Country.
    The BFG: I is a very honourable giant. I would rather be chewing up rotsome snozzcumbers than snitching things from other people.
  • Gentle Giant: The giant named "The Big Friendly Giant" note , though he does have some Deadpan Snarker-ish moments.
  • Heroic BSoD: The BFG has a mild one when he accidentally catches a particularly nasty nightmare while fishing for dreams, which upsets him so much that he immediately decides to go home. He quickly gets over it by deciding to give the nightmare to one of the other giants.
  • Hobbling the Giant: Sophie sticks the pin of her brooch into the Fleshlumpeater's ankle, to incapacitate him when he is about to eat a soldier.
  • Hollywood Atlas: Let's see... the Queen of England runs everything and can overturn any decisions that her military commanders try to make... Sweden is such a small community that everyone notices if three of them suddenly disappear... and Baghdad (and likely the rest of Iraq as well) is run by a Caliph.
  • Honor Before Reason: The BFG would rather subsist on disgusting snozzcumbers than steal food from humans.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The BFG is disdainful of humankind in general, but realizes by the end that not all humans are bad.
  • I Choose to Stay: In the book, Sophie and the BFG stay in Buckingham Palace in the end.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: While Sophie at first doesn't like the idea of giving the Queen a nightmare of giants eating children, she and the BFG agree that it has to be done if they want to save everyone from being eaten by the giants once and for all.
  • I'm a Humanitarian: The other nine giants, who all travel into the world and eat humans on a daily basis. The BFG is too polite to do this, so the other giants don’t tend to look upon him fondly.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Used by one of the British pilots to understand where Giant Land is located; he turns to the blank page at the back of the atlas and explains it must be there. Of course, in this world, The Cuckoolander Was Right.
  • Invisible President: Averted; the Queen is not only seen, but is a major character and plays an important role in the story, and a fairly worshipfully-written one, too. Though admittedly she's only called The Queen of England, not Queen Elizabeth II. However, she looks rather like her in Quentin Blake's extremely-stylized illustrations for the book.
  • Invisible Streaker: One dream describes a boy who makes himself invisible, while he is naked in the bath. Later he puts on his dressing gown and slippers (which are still visible) and walks in the streets, scaring people, who say "A ghost! A ghost!"
  • Ironic Name: Both played straight and averted in the BFG's name. While the "Friendly Giant" makes sense, "Big" does not. While he is a giant, he is actually much smaller than the other giants. While he is big in comparison to humans, it makes no sense to call him big and a giant, because the other giants are the big ones.
  • I Should Write a Book About This: At the very end of the story, the BFG (having become literate) tells Sophie that he's planning to write a novel about their adventures. The last line of the book is "You've just finished reading it."
  • Knight of Cerebus: The other giants; they induce Mood Whiplash whenever they appear and their Child Eater habits are played very seriously.
  • Large and in Charge: The Fleshlumpeater is the biggest and strongest of the giants, and is their unofficial leader.
  • Magical Land: Giant Country and Dream Country. The book indicates these are unexplored territories on Earth.
  • Malaproper: The BFG is a constant malaproper ("Right as snow!" {Right as rain}, "Two rights is not making a left" {Two wrongs don't make a right}). Both these cases aren't examples of the BFG being stupid, but are because (as he has no parents) he is self-taught. Quite an impressive feat all in all, given that in the original book, he managed to teach himself to read and write from a single book — Charles Dickens' Nicholas Nickleby. In the book, he eventually gets tuition and doesn't do this anymore. The evil Giants, however, aren't interested in such pursuits and play the trope straight ("I is now going to search the primroses!").
  • Masochist's Meal: The snozzcumber, a disgusting vegetable that tastes of frogskins and rotten fish. Since the BFG refuses to eat humans or steal from them, snozzcumbers are the only thing he can eat, since they're the only plants that grow in Giant County. At the end, the other giants are fed snozzcumbers after being trapped in a giant pit.
  • Meaningful Name: All the giants have very obvious names relating to their characters (e.g. Bloodbottler, Bonecruncher, Childchewer, Fleshlumpeater, Maidmasher... and the BFG himself).
  • Muggles Do It Better: The British Army and the RAF could have easily obliterated the giants (as discussed in length by the Field Marshal and the Air Chief Marshal — tanks, machine guns, bombs, artillery, fighter jets, etc). Yet, they managed to tie them up in their sleep, commando style, without firing a shot, and still come out on top. Interestingly, despite their stupidity and contempt for the Puny Humans, the evil giants are all well aware of this — they mention that if one of them is spotted there might be a "giant hunt" which none of them want to happen, and according to the BFG the Fleshlumpeater has wanted to eat the Queen of England for a while, but doesn't dare risk it because she's well protected by soldiers.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Giants are a race of violent, evil brutes who grind their teeth with human bones, especially children's. The BFG is the only good member of the race and is horrified at his cohorts' brutality and anthropophagy, which the other giants disown him for.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The villainous giants: The Childchewer, the Gizzardgulper, the Fleshlumpeater, the Bloodbottler, etc.
  • Nice Shoes: Unlike his fellow giants who are barefoot, the BFG wears "ridiculous sandals which for some reason had holes cut along each side, with a large hole at the end where his toes stuck out". These sandals were based on ones worn by Roald Dahl himself, who sent one of them to the illustrator Quentin Blake.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The one good giant calls himself the "Big Friendly Giant", even though he's by far the smallest of the giants (although at least the "Friendly" part is beyond question). Admittedly, calling himself "The SFG" probably wouldn't have sounded as good.
  • No True Scotsman: The other giants essentially disown the BFG for not eating humans, though neither party does anything to patch the ties.
  • Odd Name Out: Bloodbottler, Bonecruncher, Childchewer, Fleshlumpeater, Maidmasher... and The Butcher Boy.
  • One-Gender Race: The Giants are exclusively male and simply come into being. The Giant race is pretty small, actually — there's only 10 of them.
    'My mother!' cried the BFG. 'Giants don't have mothers! Surely you is knowing that.' 'I did not know that,' Sophie said. 'Whoever heard of a woman giant!' shouted the BFG, waving the snozzcumber around his head like a lasso. 'There never was a woman giant! And there never will be one. Giants is always men!'
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: ...except BFG himself, who's considerably smaller than the others.
  • Pajama-Clad Hero: Sophie spends most of the book in her nightdress. She gets a proper dress from the Queen later.
  • Picked Flowers Are Dead: The Big Friendly Giant comments that since he can hear the voices of plants, anytime somebody picks a flower, he can hear the plant screaming as though somebody were having their arm twisted off. Sophie wonders whether she'll ever be able to pick flowers again.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: Someone getting into the Queen's bedroom past the security? Happened the same year the book was published. Twice.
  • Really 700 Years Old: The BFG and the other giants are thousands of years old.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Queen, who is implied to be Queen Elizabeth II. Roald Dahl loves his Queen.
  • The Runt at the End: The BFG is the smallest and physically weakest of the giants. This, along with his refusal to eat humans, is why they all ostracize him.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: The BFG reveals the location of Giant Country to humans so they can defeat the evil giants and no more children will be eaten.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can:
    • At the end, the evil giants are trapped in a deep pit and given only disgusting vegetables for food... save the one occasion three drunk men scaled the fence and fell in.
    • The nightmares the BFG catches are literally in cans.
  • She Knows Too Much: Not quite. Sophie is snatched from her bed so she can't reveal the giants' existence to the human world.
  • Spin-Off: The BFG first appeared in Danny, the Champion of the World, an earlier book by Dahl, in a bedtime story told by Danny's father.
  • Spoonerism: Among the many ways the BFG speaks a bit funny: when Sophie is sitting right inside his super-sensitive ear, he says "your voice is sounding like tunder and thrumpets!".
  • Square-Cube Law: A blink-and-you-miss-it example in the book. When the BFG is visiting the queen, the butler reasons that, since the BFG is four times a normal human's size, he'll need four times the food when they go to cook breakfast for him. This turns out to be far from sufficient.
  • Starving Artist: Subverted, though the BFG has to eat disgusting Snozzcumbers. Dreams that escape from dreamland are illogical, nonsensical, and some of them are nightmarish. The BFG makes dreams have beginnings, middles, and endings, thus turning them into stories for children and adults everywhere, taking great pride in his not-for-profit work.
  • Super Senses: The BFG has super-powerful hearing, enabling him to hear ants talking to each other (although he can't understand the language), the screams of flowers as they're picked, and on clear nights, he can hear faint music coming from space.
  • To Serve Man: All the giants eat humans except for the BFG.
  • Toilet Humor: There is an entire chapter dedicated to a drink that makes one fart (or rather, "make a Whizzpopper")... in pretty epic proportions. The BFG even does one in front of the Queen, who takes it quite amusingly well under the circumstances ("I prefer the bagpipes.") However, since the book was published in 1982, before most examples of the trope were abundant in college movies, and since it really is quite funny, it's not too offputting.
  • Token Good Teammate: The BFG is the only good giant, the rest are Always Chaotic Evil.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Whizzpoppers" sounds much less crude, right?
  • Vegetarian Carnivore: Presumably, the BFG could eat humans if he wanted to, but since he won't, he has to subsist on snozzcumbers instead.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: All the Giants are terrified of only one human — the legendary Jack. In the Hebrew translation, it's David. Also, it seems that Fleshlumpeater is literally scared of snakes as well: the title character at once point scares him with "the Venomsome Vindscreen Viper".
  • You No Take Candle: All the Giants speak in broken and mangled English, including the BFG (though he has a better grasp than the others). Also, only the bad Giants have the violent element. In the book, he eventually gets tuition and doesn't do this any more. The evil Giants, however, aren't interested in such pursuits and play the tropes pretty much straight ("I is now going to search the primroses!").


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