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The Landlady by Roald Dahl: Summary & Themes

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  • 0:46 Summarizing 'The Landlady'
  • 1:24 Finding a Bed and Breakfast
  • 2:09 Finding a Room
  • 2:52 Stuffed
  • 3:43 Themes in 'The Landlady'
  • 4:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

The landlady isn't exactly all she's shown herself to be! In this lesson, we'll summarize this creepy Roald Dahl story about a young man looking for a place to rest his head, and see what themes we can find.

Don't Judge a Book by Its Cover

What do you know about the diamond mining process? Anything? Most jewel experts agree that diamonds in their original form look nothing like the finished product you see under the case at your local jewelry store. It would be easy to misjudge a beautiful diamond as just another rock, wouldn't it? Casting it aside because of how it looks could be a big and expensive error.

The example of a diamond in the rough is a good reminder for us not to judge a book by its cover, meaning, the way something first appears may not be how it actually is. Unfortunately, the protagonist, who is the main character in a story, may have found that out the hard way. Let's meet Billy and look at his experience with the landlady.

Summarizing 'The Landlady'

As the story opens, we meet 17-year-old Billy Weaver, who has traveled alone from London to Bath on an afternoon train. By the time he arrives in Bath, it's quite cold outside and late. Weaver asks the porter, a person who transports luggage, where he might find a nearby hotel. The porter suggests a pub, telling Weaver, 'Try The Bell and Dragon. They might take you in.'

The author continues the story by telling us how young Billy is and that he's never traveled to Bath before. He knows no one in town. He's a rather ambitious young man, though, and he looks up to the 'big shots up at Head Office' for their briskness in all their tasks.

Finding a Bed and Breakfast

Before Weaver can come upon the pub recommended to him, he encounters a quaint bed and breakfast, which is lodging and meals typically housed in someone's residence. He looks through the window and notices the nice curtains, a roaring fire, and a sleeping dog. The author tells us that Weaver takes all these things into account as proof that the bed and breakfast is a good place to stay. Still, Weaver is somewhat hesitant and decides that he should perhaps go ahead and check out the pub.

Despite his concerns, Weaver is unable to break away from the idea of the bed and breakfast and decides to go ahead and ring the bell. The woman of the house, described as 45 or 50 years old with a 'warm welcoming smile' and a 'round pink face and very gentle blue eyes' answers the door almost immediately.

Finding a Room

The landlady takes Weaver up to the second floor to an available room after discussing the price for lodging. Weaver notices that the establishment is prepared for guests, yet there don't appear to be any other people in the home.

As he settles in, the landlady asks him to venture back downstairs to sign the ledger book as a guest. When he gets back downstairs, he notices two other names on the register: Gregory Temple and Christopher Mulholland. The names strike him as familiar, and he tries to remember where he might have heard of them.

As he joins the landlady for tea, which the author tells us tastes 'faintly of bitter almonds,' the pair discuss where Weaver might have heard of the two other men. The landlady tells Weaver that, in fact, both men are still upstairs in the bed and breakfast.

Stuffed

As they're sitting by the fire, Weaver notices that the parrot he spied in the window from outside is not real. Neither is the dog positioned in front of the fire. He asks the landlady about who has stuffed them, which is a skill known as taxidermy, and she replies, 'I stuff all my little pets myself when they pass away.'

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