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"The Landlady" is a short horror story by Roald Dahl. It initially appeared in The New Yorker, as did other short stories that would later be reprinted in the 1960 anthology, Kiss Kiss.[1]

Plot


Billy Weaver, a 17-year-old, travels from London to a hotel in Bath for business. But along the way, he catches sight of a bed and breakfast and is strangely charmed by the sign outside the door and the cosy setting within, so he decides to put up there for the night. He is greeted by a talkative landlady, who insists upon conversing with the young man and serving him tea (Dahl refers to the tea tasting of "bitter almonds", implying it contains cyanide). Billy is slightly perplexed by the names of the guests registered in the guest book; he has seen two of the names in a newspaper report, but the landlady insists that they are still staying with her in a room upstairs. She also mentions her fondness for stuffing her deceased house-pets. The story ends with Weaver having drunk the tea, implying he will die because of the poison and be stuffed to be added to the landlady's collection.

Origin


In the introduction to Roald Dahl's Book of Ghost Stories, a collection of fourteen stories by other writers that he chose as the genre's best, Dahl states that he's always wanted to write a ghost story but never quite been able to. The closest he came was with "The Landlady", but after reading it through he decided that he hadn't "brought it off", so changed the ending to make the twist non-supernatural.[2]

Reception


"The Landlady" won "Best Short Story Mystery" at the 1960 Edgar Awards. This was the second time Dahl was honoured, the first having been for his collection of short stories, Someone Like You (Best Short Story, 1954).[3]

Screen adaptation


In 1979 Siobhán McKenna appeared in the title role of The Landlady in an episode of the British TV series 'Tales of The Unexpected' where she played a seemingly charming, maternal but eccentric landlady who subsequently murders her male tenants and adds them to her collection of stuffed creatures.[4].

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