The Twits
story by Roald Dahl, narration by Simon Callow, illustrations by Quentin Blake

 

No Bird Pie for Mr Twit

 

The next morning when Mr Twit came out with his huge basket to snatch all the birds from The Big Dead Tree, there wasn't a single one on it. They were all sitting on top of the monkey cage. The Roly-Poly Bird was there as well, and Muggle-Wump and his family were inside the cage and the whole lot of them were laughing at Mr Twit.

 

 

Still No Bird Pie for Mr Twit

 

Mr Twit wasn't going to wait another week for his Bird Pie supper. He loved Bird Pie. It was his favourite meal. So that very same day, he went after the birds again. This time he smeared all the top bars of the monkey cage with sticky glue, as well as the branches of The Big Dead Tree. 'Now I'll get you,' he said, 'whichever one you sit on!'

The monkeys crouched inside the cage watching all this, and later on, when the Roly-Poly Bird came swooping in for an evening chat, they shouted out, 'Don't land on our cage, Roly-Poly Bird! It's covered in sticky glue! So is the tree!'

And that evening, as the sun went down and all the birds came in again to roost, the Roly-Poly Bird flew round and round the monkey cage and The Big Dead Tree, singing out his warning,

 

'There's sticky stuff now on the cage and the tree!

If you land on either, you'll never get free!

So fly away! Fly away! Stay up high!

Or you'll finish up tomorrow in a hot Bird Pie!'

 

Mr and Mrs Twit Go Off to Buy Guns

 

The next morning when Mr Twit came out with his huge basket, not a single bird was sitting on either the monkey cage or The Big Dead Tree. They were all perched happily on the roof of Mr Twit's house. The Roly-Poly Bird was up there as well, and the monkeys were in the cage and the whole lot of them were hooting with laughter at Mr Twit.

'I'll wipe that silly laugh off your beaks!' Mr Twit screamed at the birds. 'I'll get you next time, you filthy feathery frumps! I'll wring your necks, the whole lot of you, and have you bubbling in the pot for Bird Pie before this day is out!'

'How are you going to do that?' asked Mrs Twit, who had come outside to see what all the noise was about. 'I won't have you smearing sticky glue all over the roof of our house!'

Mr Twit got very excited. 'I've got a great idea!' he cried. He didn't bother to keep his voice down because he didn't think the monkeys could understand. 'We'll both go into town right away and we'll buy a gun each!' he shouted. 'How's that?'

'Brilliant!' cried Mrs Twit, grinning and showing her long yellow teeth. 'We'll buy those big shotguns that spray out fifty bullets or more with each bang!'

'Exactly,' said Mr Twit. 'Lock up the house while I go and make sure the monkeys are safely shut away.'

Mr Twit went over to the monkey cage. 'Attention!' he barked in his fearsome monkey-trainer's voice. 'Upside down all of you and jump to it! One on top of the other! Quick! Get on with it or you'll feel Mrs Twit's stick across your backsides!'

Obediently, the poor monkeys stood on their hands and clambered one on top of the other, with Muggle-Wump at the bottom and the smallest child at the very top.

'Now stay there till we come back!' Mr Twit ordered. 'Don't you dare to move! And don't overbalance! When we return in two or three hours time, I shall expect to find you all in exactly the same position as you are now! You understand?'

With that, Mr Twit marched away. Mrs Twit went with him. And the monkeys were left alone with the birds.

 

 

Muggle-Wump Has an Idea

 

As soon as Mr and Mrs Twit had disappeared down the road, the monkeys all flipped back on to their feet the right way up. 'Quick, get the key!' Muggle-Wump called out to the Roly-Poly Bird who was still sitting on the roof of the house.

'What key?' shouted the Roly-Poly Bird.

'The key to the door of our cage,' cried Muggle-Wump. 'It's hanging on a nail in the workshed. That's where he always puts it.'

The Roly-Poly Bird flew down and came back with the key in his beak. Muggle-Wump reached a hand through the bars of the cage and took the key. He put it in the lock and turned it. The door opened. All four monkeys leapt out together.

'We are free!' cried the two little ones. 'Where shall we go, Dad? Where shall we hide?'

'Don't get excited,' said Muggle-Wump. 'Calm down, everybody. Before we escape from this beastly place we have one very important thing to do.'

'What?' they asked him.

'We're going to turn those terrible Twits upside down!'

'We're going to what?' they cried. 'You must be joking, Dad!'

'I'm not joking,' Muggle-Wump said. 'We're going to turn both Mr and Mrs Twit upside down with their legs in the air!'

'Don't be ridiculous,' the Roly-Poly Bird said. 'How can we possibly turn those two maggoty old monsters upside down?'

'We can, we can!' cried Muggle-Wump. 'We are going to make them stand on their heads for hours and hours! Perhaps for ever! Let them see what it feels like for a change!'

'How?' said the Roly-Poly Bird. 'Just tell me how.'

Muggle-Wump laid his head on one side and a tiny twinkling little smile touched the corners of his mouth. 'Now and again,' he said, 'but not very often, I have a brilliant idea. This is one of them. Follow me, my friends, follow me.' He scampered off towards the house and the three other monkeys and the Roly-Poly Bird went after him.

'Buckets and paint-brushes!' cried Muggle-Wump. 'That's what we want next! There are plenty in the workshed! Hurry up, everyone! Get a bucket and a paint-brush!'

Inside Mr Twit's workshed there was an enormous barrel of hugtight sticky glue, the stuff he used for catching birds. 'Fill your buckets!' Muggle-Wump ordered. 'We are now going into the big house!'

Mrs Twit had hidden the key to the front door under the mat and Muggle-Wump had seen her doing it, so it was easy for them to get in. In they went, all four monkeys, with their buckets of sticky glue. Then came the Roly-Poly Bird flying in after them, with a bucket in his beak and a brush in his claw.

 

 

The Great Glue Painting Begins

 

'This is the living-room,' announced Muggle-Wump. 'The grand and glorious living-room where those two fearful frumptious freaks eat Bird Pie every week for supper!'

'Please don't mention Bird Pie again,' said the Roly-Poly Bird. 'It gives me the shudders.'

'We mustn't waste time!' cried Muggle-Wump. 'Hurry up, hurry up! Now the first thing is this! I want everyone to paint sticky glue all over the ceiling! Cover it all! Smear it in every corner!'

'Over the ceiling!' they cried. 'Why the ceiling?'

'Never mind why!' shouted Muggle-Wump. 'Just do as you're told and don't argue!'

'But how do we get up there?' they asked. 'We can't reach.'

'Monkeys can reach anywhere!' shouted Muggle-Wump. He was in a frenzy of excitement now, waving his paint-brush and his bucket and leaping about all over the room. 'Come on, come on! Jump on the table! Stand on the chairs! Hop on each other's shoulders! Roly-Poly can do it flying! Don't stand there gaping! We have to hurry, don't you understand that? Those terrible Twits will be back any moment and this time they'll have guns! Get on with it, for heaven's sake! Get on with it!'

And so the great glue-painting of the ceiling began. All the other birds who had been sitting on the roof flew in to help, carrying paint-brushes in their claws and beaks. There were buzzards, magpies, rooks, ravens and many more. Everyone was splashing away like mad and with so many helpers, the job was soon finished.

 

 

The Carpet Goes on the Ceiling

 

'What now?' they all said, looking at Muggle-Wump.

'Ah-ha!' cried Muggle-Wump. 'Now for the fun! Now for the greatest upside down trick of all time! Are you ready?'

'We're ready,' said the monkeys. 'We're ready,' said the birds.

'Pull out the carpet!' shouted Muggle-Wump. 'Pull this huge carpet out from under the furniture and stick it on to the ceiling!'

'On to the ceiling!' cried one of the small monkeys. 'But that's impossible, Dad!'

'I'll stick you on to the ceiling if you don't shut up!' snapped Muggle-Wump.

'He's dotty!' they cried.

'He's balmy!'

'He's batty!'

'He's nutty!'

'He's screwy!'

'He's wacky!' cried the Roly-Poly Bird. 'Poor old Muggles has gone off his wump at last!'

'Oh, do stop shouting such rubbish and give me a hand,' said Muggle-Wump, catching hold of one corner of the carpet. 'Pull, you nitwits, pull!'

The carpet was enormous. It covered the entire floor from wall to wall. It had a red and gold pattern on it. It is not easy to pull an enormous carpet off the floor when the room is full of tables and chairs. 'Pull!' yelled Muggle-Wump. 'Pull, pull, pull!' He was like a demon hopping round the room and telling everyone what to do. But you couldn't blame him. After months and months of standing on his head with his family, he couldn't wait for the time when the terrible Twits would be doing the same thing. At least that's what he hoped.

With the monkeys and the birds all pulling and puffing, the carpet was dragged off the floor and finally hoisted up on to the ceiling. And there it stuck.

All at once, the whole ceiling of the living-room was carpeted in red and gold.

 

 

The Furniture Goes Up

 

'Now the table, the big table!' shouted Muggle-Wump. 'Turn the table upside down and put a dollop of sticky glue on to the bottom of each leg. Then we shall stick that on to the ceiling as well!'

Hoisting the huge table upside down on to the ceiling was not an easy job, but they managed it in the end.

'Will it stay there?' they cried. 'Is the glue strong enough to hold it up?'

'It's the strongest glue in the world!' Muggle-Wump replied. 'It's the special bird-catching bird-killing glue for smearing on trees!'

'Please,' said the Roly-Poly Bird. 'I have asked you before not to mention that subject. How would you like it if it was Monkey Pie they made every Wednesday and all your friends had been boiled up and I went on talking about it?'

'I do beg your pardon,' said Muggle-Wump. 'I'm so excited I hardly know what I'm saying. Now the chairs! Do the same with the chairs! All the chairs must be stuck upside down to the ceiling! And in their right places! Oh, do hurry up, everybody! Any moment now, those two filthy freaks are going to come rushing in with their guns!'

The monkeys, with the birds helping them, put glue on the bottom of each chair leg and hoisted them up to the ceiling.

'Now the smaller tables!' shouted Muggle-Wump. 'And the big sofa! And the sideboard! And the lamps! And all the tiny little things! The ashtrays! The ornaments! And that beastly plastic gnome on the sideboard! Everything, absolutely everything must be stuck to the ceiling!'

It was terribly hard work. It was especially difficult to stick everything on to the ceiling in exactly its right place. But they got it done in the end.

'What now?' asked the Roly-Poly Bird. He was out of breath and so tired he could hardly flap his wings.

'Now the pictures!' cried Muggle-Wump. 'Turn all the pictures upside down! And will one of you birds please fly out on to the road and watch to see when those frumptious freaks are coming back.'

'I'll go,' said the Roly-Poly Bird. 'I'll sit on the telephone wires and keep guard. It'll give me a rest.'

 

 

The Ravens Swoop Over

 

They had only just finished the job when the Roly-Poly Bird came swooping in, screaming, 'They're coming back! They're coming back!'

Quickly, the birds flew back on to the roof of the house. The monkeys rushed into their cage and stood upside down one on top of the other. A moment later, Mr and Mrs Twit came marching into the garden, each carrying a fearsome-looking gun.

'I'm glad to see those monkeys are still upside down,' said Mr Twit.

'They're too stupid to do anything else,' said Mrs Twit. 'Hey, look at all those cheeky birds still up there on the roof! Let's go inside and load our lovely new guns and then it'll be bang bang bang and Bird Pie for supper.'

Just as Mr and Mrs Twit were about to enter the house, two black ravens swooped low over their heads. Each bird carried a paint-brush in its claw and each paint-brush was smeared with sticky glue. As the ravens whizzed over, they brushed a streak of sticky glue on to the tops of Mr and Mrs Twit's heads. They did it with the lightest touch but even so the Twits both felt it.

'What was that?' cried Mrs Twit. 'Some beastly bird has dropped his dirty droppings on my head!'

'On mine too!' shouted Mr Twit. 'I felt it! I felt it!'

'Don't touch it!' cried Mrs Twit. 'You'll get it all over your hands! Come inside and we'll wash it off at the sink!'

'The filthy dirty brutes,' yelled Mr Twit. 'I'll bet they did it on purpose! Just wait till I've loaded up my gun!'

Mrs Twit got the key from under the doormat (where Muggle-Wump had carefully replaced it) and into the house they went.

 

The Twits Are Turned Upside Down

 

'What's this?' gasped Mr Twit as they entered the living-room.

'What's happened?' screamed Mrs Twit.

They stood in the middle of the room, looking up. All the furniture, the big table, the chairs, the sofa, the lamps, the little side tables, the cabinet with bottles of beer in it, the ornaments, the electric fire, the carpet, everything was stuck upside down to the ceiling. The pictures were upside down on the walls. And the floor they were standing on was absolutely bare. What's more, it had been painted white to look like the ceiling.

'Look!' screamed Mrs Twit. 'That's the floor! The floor's up there! This is the ceiling! We are standing on the ceiling!'

'We're upside down!' gasped Mr Twit. 'We must be upside down. We are standing on the ceiling looking down at the floor!'

'Oh help!' screamed Mrs Twit. 'Help help help! I'm beginning to feel giddy!'

'So am I! So am I!' cried Mr Twit. 'I don't like this one little bit!'

'We're upside down and all the blood's going to my head!' screamed Mrs Twit. 'If we don't do something quickly, I shall die, I know I will!'

'I've got it!' cried Mr Twit. 'I know what we'll do! We'll stand on our heads, then anyway we'll be the right way up!'

So they stood on their heads, and of course, the moment the tops of their heads touched the floor, the sticky glue that the ravens had brushed on a few moments before did its job. They were stuck. They were pinned down, cemented, glued, fixed to the floorboards.

Through a crack in the door the monkeys watched. They'd jumped right out of their cage the moment the Twits had gone inside. And the Roly-Poly Bird watched. And all the other birds flew in and out to catch a glimpse of this extraordinary sight.

 

 

The Monkeys Escape

 

That evening, Muggle-Wump and his family went up to the big wood on top of the hill, and in the tallest tree of all they built a marvellous tree-house. All the birds, especially the big ones, the crows and rooks and magpies, made their nests around the tree-house so that nobody could see it from the ground.

'You can't stay up here for ever, you know,' the Roly-Poly Bird said.

'Why not?' asked Muggle-Wump. 'It's a lovely place.'

'Just you wait till the winter comes,' the Roly-Poly Bird said. 'Monkeys don't like cold weather, do they?'

'They most certainly don't!' cried Muggle-Wump. 'Are the winters so very cold over here?'

'It's all snow and ice,' said the Roly-Poly Bird. 'Sometimes it's so cold a bird will wake up in the morning with his feet frozen to the bough that he's been roosting on.'

'Then what shall we do?' cried Muggle-Wump. 'My family will all be deep-freezed!'

'No, they won't,' said the Roly-Poly Bird. 'Because when the first leaves start falling from the trees in the autumn, you can all fly home to Africa with me.'

'Don't be ridiculous,' Muggle-Wump said. 'Monkeys can't fly.'

'You can sit on my back,' said the Roly-Poly Bird. 'I shall take you one at a time. You will travel by the Roly-Poly Super Jet and it won't cost you a penny!'

 

 

The Twits Get the Shrinks

 

And down here in the horrid house, Mr and Mrs Twit are still stuck upside down to the floor of the living-room.

'It's all your fault!' yelled Mr Twit, thrashing his legs in the air. 'You're the one, you ugly old cow, who went hopping around shouting "We're upside down! We're upside down!"'

'And you're the one who said to stand on our heads so we'd be the right way up, you whiskery old warthog!' screamed Mrs Twit. 'Now we'll never get free! We're stuck here for ever!'

'You may be stuck here for ever,' said Mr Twit. 'But not me! I'm going to get away!'

Mr Twit wriggled and squirmed, and he squiggled and wormed, and he twisted and turned, and he choggled and churned, but the sticky glue held him to the floor just as tightly as it had once held the poor birds in The Big Dead Tree. He was still as upside down as ever, standing on his head.

But heads are not made to be stood upon. If you stand on your head for a very long time, a horrid thing happens, and this was where Mr Twit got his biggest shock of all. With so much weight on it from up above, his head began to get squashed into his body.

Quite soon, it had disappeared completely, sunk out of sight in the fatty folds of his flabby neck.

'I'm shrinking!' burbled Mr Twit.

'So am I!' cried Mrs Twit.

'Help me! Save me! Call a doctor!' yelled Mr Twit. 'I'm getting the dreaded shrinks!'

And so he was. Mrs Twit was getting the dreaded shrinks, too! And this time it wasn't a fake. It was the real thing!

Their heads shrank into their necks . . .

Then their necks began shrinking into their bodies . . .

And their bodies began shrinking into their legs . . .

And their legs began shrinking into their feet . . .

And one week later, on a nice sunny afternoon, a man called Fred came round to read the gas meter. When nobody answered the door, Fred peeped into the house and there he saw, on the floor of the living-room, two bundles of old clothes, two pairs of shoes and a walking-stick. There was nothing more left in this world of Mr and Mrs Twit.

And everyone, including Fred, shouted . . . 'hooray!'

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