The BFG Summary

The BFG is a novel by Roald Dahl in which a young orphan named Sophie meets the Big Friendly Giant one night when she can't sleep.

  • Sophie is unable to sleep one night, and she encounters the Big Friendly Giant (BFG). The BFG is kind to Sophie, but he admits that the other giants are cruel and eat humans.

  • Determined to stop the other giants, Sophie and the BFG decide to implant a nightmare about the giants in the Queen of England's head.

  • The Queen decides to capture the giants. Sophie and the BFG are rewarded for their services to the country.

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 2418

As The BFG begins, Sophie lies in bed in an orphanage, unable to sleep. She creeps to the curtains to shut them against the moonlight. It is the Witching Hour, the time when everything is quiet and still, and she is curious about what the world looks like at this time. She sticks her head outside and sees a giant walking toward her carrying a suitcase and a huge, trumpet-like object. He puts something into the trumpet and inserts it into a window. Then he looks up and sees Sophie watching.

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Sophie runs back to bed and covers herself with her blanket. After a moment, she peeks out and sees the giant’s eye peeking in. He grabs her out of her bed, blanket and all, and starts to run. His legs have some kind of magical power that makes him travel extremely fast, as if by flight, across the land and maybe the ocean, too. Eventually he comes to a big mountain. He pushes a round stone away from the side of the mountain and goes inside, rolling the stone to close the opening behind him.

When the giant sets Sophie down, she cowers in fear and begs him not to eat her. He laughs. “Just because I is a giant, you think I is a man-gobbling cannybull!” he roars. He explains that she is almost right because most giants are cannybulls. His neighbor, Bone-Crunching Giant, loves eating “human beans” from Turkey because they are juicy and delicious. He launches into a long explanation of the flavors of people from around the world. People from Greece taste greasy, people from Wales taste fishy, and so on. Sophie tries to change the subject, but when she fails she decides to face her fate. She asks the giant what kind of people he likes best. He roars:

Me gobbling up human beans! This I never!....I is the BIG FRIENDLY GIANT! I is the BFG.

Sophie demands to know why the BFG snatched her if he is so friendly. He says he had to prevent her from telling people that he exists. Otherwise people would hunt him down and lock him up in a zoo. Sophie admits that this is probably true, and the BFG says that she will have to live with him forever. He warns her never to go outside without him, or the other giants will eat her up. To prove this, he gives her a peek of his nine cannibalistic neighbors, all of whom eat several people every night. The BFG thinks this is wrong, but he cannot stop them because he is far smaller than the others.

The BFG worries that Sophie’s parents must be missing her by now, and she says she is an orphan. He cries when he hears about her grim life in the orphanage and the punishments she suffered at the hands of Mrs. Clonkers, who runs the orphanage. To change the subject, Sophie asks what he was doing when she first saw him. The BFG explains that he is a dream-blowing giant who spends nights giving children nice dreams. Dreams are invisible creatures that live wild in the air. The BFG uses his enormous ears to hear them flit past. He catches them with a net, “the same way you is catching buttery flies,” and puts them in jars to take to children at night.

Tasty vegetables do not grow in giant country, so the BFG has nothing to eat except snozzcumbers. A snozzcumber is the most disgusting vegetable imaginable. It is black and white, lumpy, and longer than an ordinary man. When Sophie tastes it, she says it tastes like “frogskins” and “rotten fish.” She suggests that the BFG steal better vegetables when he goes dream-blowing at night, but the BFG says he is an honorable giant who does not steal. Sophie points out that he stole her, and he says, “I did not steal you very much.... After all, you is only a tiny little girl.”

Bloodbottler, one of the BFG’s giant neighbors, hears the BFG’s voice through his stone door and barges in. Sophie jumps out of sight behind the snozzcumber. The BFG distracts Bloodbottler, and Sophie scrapes some seeds out of the awful vegetable and climbs inside. Bloodbottler decides to try a bite of the snozzcumber, and Sophie soon finds herself in his mouth. Luckily for her, he hates the taste and spits the whole mouthful right out. She sails across the room, and the BFG’s cloak prevents her from being smashed against the wall. She hides in its folds until Bloodbottler leaves. The whole scene horrifies the BFG. He says he now hates the other giants more than ever and wants to “find a way of disappearing them.” Sophie promises to think up a plan.

Sophie is thirsty, but the BFG does not know what water is. He only has frobscottle, a delicious liquid full of bubbles that move down instead of up. Sophie objects that bubbles traveling downward from the stomach will inevitably produce a very rude noise, and the BFG insists that this rude noise, which he calls a whizzpopper, is fun and wonderful. He demonstrates by taking a sip of frobscottle and waiting until he emits the loudest, rudest sounds Sophie has ever heard. He is actually lifted him off the floor “like a rocket.” Sophie tries it out and finds she loves it as much as the BFG does.

When Sophie is refreshed, the BFG puts her in his pocket and takes her out to collect dreams. On the way, the other giants bully him. They toss him around like a ball while Sophie clings to the inside of his pocket. Fortunately the giants tire of the game before she falls out or gets squished. Afterward, Sophie says it is terrible that the mean giants eat people. The BFG agrees, but adds:

Human beans is squishing each other all the time....They is shootling guns and going up in aerioplanes to drop bombs on each other’s heads every week. Human beans is always killing other human beans.

When they arrive in Dream Country, the BFG tells Sophie to be very quiet. She watches his ears swivel around, listening for dreams. He catches them in his butterfly net, and Sophie helps him shut them up in jars. He catches a phizzwizard, the best kind of dream that exists, and also a trogglehumper, a terrible nightmare. When it is shut up inside the jar, the trogglehumper loses some of its invisibility, and it looks like a faint scarlet cloud of gas. Back in Giant Country, he blows it toward Fleshlumpeater, the leader of the giants. Fleshlumpeater has a nightmare about Jack and the Beanstalk. He strikes out in his sleep, and the nine mean giants have a horrible brawl, beating each other to a pulp while Sophie and the BFG sneak back into the snug cave.

As Sophie watches, the BFG writes a label for the good dream he has caught, which is about a child saving a teacher from drowning. He lets Sophie read the labels on several other dreams. They are about kids who can put their teachers asleep or turn invisible. After she reads several dreams, Sophie asks how the BFG learned to write if he never went to school. He says he learned from a little boy’s book, which he “borrowed” eighty years ago or so, and which he soon plans to return. He used the book, Nicholas Nickelby, to teach himself to write.

As night falls, the mean giants set out for England, where they plan to eat children from their schools. Sophie demands to go after them and fight them, but the BFG says it is no use. They cannot defeat the big giants without help, and they cannot ask for help because people would simply end up in the zoo or the orphanage. Sophie says not all people are so mean. She insists that the Queen of England is kind and that she can convince the Queen to help them.

The BFG knows how to mix dreams together to create new dreams. Sophie suggests mixing a dream for the Queen. She says it should be about nine mean giants sneaking into England, snatching children from their beds, and “popping them straight into their mouths like popcorn.” Sophie says the BFG can give this dream to the Queen and put Sophie in the Queen’s window to explain that it is real. The BFG objects that he does not want to be “shooted at” by the Queen’s soldiers, but Sophie promises she can find him a safe hiding place on the palace grounds. She used to live at an orphanage in London, so she knows all about the place. She is certain that the Queen will treat the BFG like a hero if he helps save England from nine man-eating giants and that she will reward him so that he never has to eat a snozzcumber again. This finally convinces the BFG to go along with her plan.

The BFG dumps all the dreams he needs into a big jar and mixes them up with a giant eggbeater. When Sophie sees it turn into a horrible trogglehumper, she has second thoughts. It seems wrong to her to give a nightmare to the Queen of England, but the BFG says the Queen will thank Sophie if the nightmare helps her save lives. Sophie gives in, but she balks at the idea of sitting in the BFG’s pocket with such a ghastly creation. She asks permission to sit inside one of his big ears instead. Sophie settles comfortably into the ear. While in there, she finds that she has to speak extremely quietly to avoid hurting the BFG’s sensitive eardrums.

On the way to London, Sophie and the BFG see the nine awful giants headed home with their bellies full of children. This makes Sophie sick and sad, but she focuses on the task at hand and directs the BFG to the palace. Following her instructions, he leaps the palace wall and sneaks past a watchman. He uses his sensitive ears to listen for sleeping ladies and soon finds the bedroom of the Queen. The BFG puts Sophie on the windowsill, blows the nightmare into the Queen’s chambers, and goes off to hide in the garden.

As Sophie waits for the nightmare to do its work, she marvels that she—“a little orphan of no real importance in the world”—is visiting the Queen of England in hopes of saving countless people from a pack of murderous giants. The Queen cries out during her dream, then she describes it to the servant who brings her morning tea. The servant has read the morning papers, and she knows that many boys and girls are missing from their schools. They marvel at the coincidence. Then the servant throws back the curtains, and the Queen and the servant see Sophie sitting on the windowsill.

The Queen listens to Sophie graciously, but she has trouble believing the dream is real until the BFG strides up to her window and introduces himself as her “humbug servant.” The Queen invites him and Sophie to have breakfast with her in the ballroom, which has a ceiling high enough to accommodate the BFG’s unusual height. The Queen’s butler, Mr. Tibbs, improvises a table for the BFG by placing a Ping-Pong table on top of four tall grandfather clocks. He orders garden forks and spades for the giant’s cutlery. The BFG has to enter the ballroom on hands and knees, and his head hits the chandelier that hangs from the ceiling. He loves bacon and eggs but he hates coffee. The BFG ignores Sophie’s objections and tells the Queen about frobscottle and demonstrates a whizzpopper. The Queen is shocked by his gigantic fart. When she recovers herself, she says she prefers bagpipes.

After the BFG consumes all the eggs and bread available, the Queen makes plans with the Head of the Army and the Head of the Air Force. They want to kill the nine giants, but the Queen says they must be captured instead. Sophie translates the BFG’s odd speech as he suggests tying up the giants and carrying them back to England with helicopters. With Sophie riding in his ear, he leads the military men to Giant Country. When he travels at top speed, the helicopters can barely keep up, but they manage to make it to Giant Country safely. The military men land the helicopters and approach the giants, who are sleeping, in jeeps. When the Head of the Army hears the giants’ snores, he is so scared he wants to turn back, but the BFG insists it is safe. The men tie the giants up while they sleep.

The men easily subdue eight of the giants, but Fleshlumpeater wakes up before he is secured. Nobody knows what to do, and the Head of the Army is so scared he runs away. Sophie bravely runs forward and pokes Fleshlumpeater in the ankle with the needle of a brooch. The BFG, who sees her do this, says Fleshlumpeater has been bitten by a snake. Fleshlumpeater, who is easily frightened, agrees to hold still so the BFG can take out the fangs. The BFG ties the mean giant’s hands to his foot, and soon he is “trussed up like a turkey.”

The BFG packs up his fifty thousand dreams, and the army men help him load them into the nine enormous helicopters. Then the helicopters fly back to England carrying the nine bad giants beneath them. When they arrive home, they see that the Queen has managed to get every earth digger in London to spend the whole night digging a deep pit. The helicopters deposit the giants inside it. At the BFG’s suggestion, the Queen agrees to make the giants eat nothing but snozzcumbers for the rest of their lives.

After this adventure, the BFG and Sophie receive thanks and gifts from around the world. The Queen orders a huge house built for the BFG in Windsor Park, with a small cottage for Sophie beside it. Sophie has grown to love the BFG, and she offers to give him lessons to improve his English. Eventually he begins writing stories and essays about his life, and Sophie suggests that he write a book. His first book is The BFG.

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