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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.
    • She also can't help but smile when the BFG talks about Jack, the only human giants fear, as she's fully aware that Jack is a fictional character.
  • 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.
  • All Just a Dream: When Sophie reads the labels on the dream bottles, many of them include the dreamer waking up to being told breakfast is ready, or that they will be late for school.
  • 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 
    • At least threatened to be averted at the end. When trapped in the pit, the Fleshlumpeater says that if they can't guzzle human beans, they will guzzle him. Whether it was an idle threat that they ultimately wouldn't have followed through on, or they were so furious that they would have, is unknown (but would you really put your trust in those nine bloodthirsty brutes?).
  • 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, Stupid Doodoo-Head: When the Bloodbottler unleashes a string of insults to the BFG, he finishes with a meaningless one.
    Bloodbottler: You is an insult to the giant peoples! You is not fit to be a giant! You is... a cream puffnut!
  • Borrowed Without Permission: At one point, the giant explains the reason he knows how to write is because he has a book by Charles Dickens which he borrowed from a human boy. When asked how long he's had it for, he responds "Only about eighty years. Soon I shall be putting it back."
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Child Eater: One of the giants is named "Childchewer", although all the giants probably donít care about the age of the humans they eat.
  • Closet Punishment: Children at the orphanage are punished for being out of bed at night by being locked in the cellar for a day and a night, without anything to eat or drink.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Good dreams are green, stable ovoids. Nightmares are thrashing red storms.
  • Container Cling: Subverted when the BFG's cave is invaded by the man-eating Bloodbottler giant, and Sophie hides behind a snozzcumber (a giant foul-tasting vegetable). When she realises that the snozzcumber would not hide her if the Bloodbottler picked it up, she hides inside it. The Bloodbottler does indeed pick it up, and bites a huge hunk off it, while Sophie is still inside.
  • Cultural Translation:
    BFG: He's got something called blow and he once killed seven giants with it. (Seven with one blow.)
    • In the Dutch version the BFG owns a copy of Oliver Twist, rather than Nicholas Nickleby.
    • In German the book is Simplicissimus by Grimmelshausen who the BFG calls Himmels Grausen (heaven's horror).note 
  • David Versus Goliath: The BFG and the humans against the evil giants.note 
  • Dissonant Serenity: Slightly downplayed with the Queen of England's reaction to her nightmare about man-eating giants, finding Sophie on her window sill, the realisation of That Was Not a Dream, meeting a giant for the first time, and the BFG's demonstration of a whizzpopper. Although gasps and wide-eyed disbelief do escape her, she takes it much more calmly than her maid.
    The Queen glanced across at the window. Now it was her turn to freeze. She didn't scream as the maid had done. Queens are too self-controlled for that.
  • Does Not Like Spam: The only people that giants won't eat are Greeks, because "they taste greasy". (The Greek translation of the book says that Greeks taste like olive oil.)
  • Dramatic Drop: When Mary the maid hears that Queen dreamed about boys and girls being eaten by the giants on the same night that it actually happened, she drops the Queen's breakfast tray.
  • Dramatic Sit-Down: Just after the Queen's maid dropped the breakfast tray, the Queen tells her that she ought to sit down; normally it would be unthinkable for a servant to sit in the presence of the Queen.
  • 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.
  • Evil Orphanage Lady: Mrs. Clonkers is this to a tee.
  • Expy: The design of the bad giants are from the Badfort Gang of Uncle, another book illustrated by Quentin.
  • Fooled by the Sound: Just before capturing the giants, the head of the army hears a sound like gunfire, and orders his men to turn back; but it is only the giants snoring.
    Head of the army: I am a military man, and I know a gun when I hear one! Turn back!
    The BFG: That is just the giants snortling in their sleep. I is a giant myself, and I know a giant's snortle when I hear one.
  • 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.
  • The Hidden Hour: The first chapter of the book is called "The Witching Hour", during which Sophie looks out of the window, and sees the BFG.
  • 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 twenty-six 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.
  • Humble Goal: The BFG dreams of riding on an elephant and picking peaches off trees. He gets his wish at the end when all the countries of the world send gifts to thank him and Sophie for getting rid of the giants, including an elephant.
  • I Choose to Stay: In the book, Sophie and the BFG stay in Windsor Great Park 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 donít tend to look upon him fondly.
  • Improvised Weapon: When the Fleshlumpeater is about to devour a poor soldier, Sophie takes the pin of the brooch she's wearing and uses it to stab him in the ankle. The Fleshlumpeater howls in pain, and the BFG tricks him into thinking he's been bitten by a poisonous viper and needs to grab his leg with both hands to stop the poison going into his heart, which makes it easy to tie him up.
  • 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."
  • Jar of the Bizarre: A notable feature of the BFG's cave is the many thousands of glass bottles filling every nook and cranny. These contain the dreams which the BFG collects, although this is not revealed for several chapters after the bottles are first mentioned. Even an enemy giant's curiosity is tickled by the bottles.
    Bloodbottler: You and your pibbling bottles! What is you putting in them?
    BFG: Nothing that would interest you. You is only interested in guzzling human beans.
  • Karma Houdini: Mrs. Clonkers, owner of the Orphanage of Fear Sophie is living in at the beginning, who imposed all sorts of petty rules on the orphans and would lock them in a rat-infested cellar as punishment for breaking them. She isn't mentioned again after Sophie tells the BFG about her, and as far as we know is still abusing the kids in her care at the end of the story. (Averted in the 1989 cartoon film, in which the Queen has her orphanage shut down and makes her the giants' keeper.)
  • 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.
  • Large Runt: Despite his name, the BFG is the smallest of the giants, and often bullied for it. Of cource, he is four times the size of a regular human...
  • Little Miss Snarker: Sophie has many moments of this in her dialogue with the BFG, and sometimes in the narrative.
    (Pondering the BFG) What a strange and moody creature this is. One moment he is telling me my head is full of squashed flies, and the next his heart is melting because Mrs Clonkers locks us in the cellar.
  • Luke Nounverber: Not counting the BFG himself, all but one of the giants have this type of name: Fleshlumpeater, Bloodbottler, Gizzardgulper, etc. The only exception is one called the Butcher Boy.
  • 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!").
  • Manly Facial Hair: Played for Laughs. One of the dreams in the BFG's storage is about a little boy who is only eight years old but is already growing a splendid bushy beard, making all the other boys jealous. In keeping with Dahl's famous dislike of beards, the evil giants are all drawn with filthy and scraggly beards contributing to their disgusting appearances.
  • 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 Appearance: 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.
  • 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 understand that if one of them is spotted then they might all be hunted down, 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 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.
  • Nobody Poops: Zigzagged. Despite extensive mention of "whizzpopping", it is never mentioned how or when the giants relieve themselves. As they believe that "burping is filthsome", perhaps it is not polite for them to talk about it. However, at the beginning it is mentioned that the children in Sophie's orphanage are punished if they go to the lavatory at night.
  • 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.
  • Noodle Implements: The cave is lit by "brilliant blinding lights which seem to come from nowhere", the nature of which is never explained.
  • No True Scotsman: The other giants essentially disown the BFG for not eating humans, though neither party does anything to patch the ties.
  • Not the Fall That Kills YouÖ: Downplayed when Sophie is spat out of the Bloodbottler's mouth, from a height of fifty feet. Instead of hitting the stony wall of the cave, which would certainly have killed her, she hits the soft folds of the BFG's cloak hanging up, and then drops to the ground, half-stunned.
  • Odd Name Out: Bloodbottler, Bonecruncher, Childchewer, Fleshlumpeater, Maidmasher... and The Butcher Boy. And, understandably, the BFG.
  • 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.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Sophie has a moment of this, just after she has been taken away by the BFG. Even though she is terrified that she is about to be eaten, she is angry when she learns that the Bonecrunching Giant will only gobble Turks.
    Sophie: Why Turks? What's wrong with the English?
  • 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.
  • Pretty Butterflies: As the BFG can hear animals talking, he says the only thing caterpillars talk about is who is going to be the prettiest butterfly.
  • Product Placement: When the BFG asks Sophie about human drinks similar to Frobscottle, she mentions that there is one called Coke and another one called Pepsi.
  • 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.
  • Single Tear: When the BFG hears about Sophie being locked in the cellar at her orphanage, he sheds a tear that would fill a bucket, making quite a puddle.note 
  • 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 subtle example in the book. When the BFG is visiting the queen, the butler reasons that, since the BFG is four times as tall as a human, he'll need four times the food when they go to cook breakfast for him. This turns out to be far from sufficient, as he's four times the size in every dimention, not just height—the 4x breakfast they serve him gets eaten in one bite, and trying to feed him as much as he actually needs ends up emptying the kitchen.
  • 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.
  • Talking in Your Dreams: Subverted in that the BFG and Sophie create a dream for the Queen of England about the man-eating giants, since she would never believe them if they simply told her. To make the "dream come true", the dream includes Sophie sitting on the Queen's window sill, which the Queen then sees in real life when she wakes.
  • That Was Not a Dream: A central part of Sophie's plan to catch the man-eating giants once and for all. Since the Queen of England would never believe a story about the giants, Sophie and the BFG decide to make her dream about them; and to avert All Just a Dream, the dream includes Sophie sitting on the Queen's window sill; and as planned, Sophie is indeed there when the Queen wakes. The Queen is further convinced when she reads the newspaper about children disappearing from school dormitories that very night.
  • Too Spicy for Yog-Sothoth: The one kind of human that no giant will ever eat are ones from Greece, because they taste too greasy.
  • 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.")
  • 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.
  • Virtuous Vegetarianism: BFG's diet consists primarily of snozzcumbers, a cucumber-like vegetable, and he is the only good giant in the setting. All the other giants are evil, and eat children.
  • Wake Up Fighting: Justified. When the Fleshlumpeater has a terrible nightmare given to him by the BFG, his flailing limbs accidentally hit two of the other sleeping giants, who then wake up and pound him with their fists and feet, causing the wretched Fleshlumpeater to wake up, and start fighting back; and soon all nine giants have the most almighty free-for-all.
  • Wall Crawl: One of the dreams collected by the BFG is about a boy inventing suction boots, enabling him to walk up the wall and across the ceiling. When the boy's sister comes in and yells at him, he says that he told her she was driving him up the wall, and now she has done it.
  • Weird World, Weird Food: The only food that grows in Giant Country is the icky-poo vegetable, the snozzcumber; and the only drink to be had is Frobscottle, which fizzes downwards instead of up, and causes rude "whizzpopping" noises from the drinker's bottom. This might explain why the giants eat humans; their homegrown stuff is too gross.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: All the Giants are terrified of only one human — the legendary Jack (see Cultural Translation for other languages). 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".
  • Would Hurt a Child: The giants will eat children as readily as adults. True to his name, the Childchewing Giant prefers snacking on children because they're "not so tough to eat as old grandmamma."
  • 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!").