The Landlady is a short story by Roald Dahl. It was first published in ‘The New Yorker' magazine in 1959, and has since appeared in many anthologies of Dahl's stories, the first of which was ‘Kiss, Kiss' (published by Michael Joseph). The story is used here by kind permission of Penguin Books.

About this BritLit kit

Billy Weaver, a young man visiting the City of Bath for the first time, is looking for accommodation. He is inexplicably drawn to a house where the landlady seems to be expecting him. The house and the landlady seem friendly and welcoming, and he looks forward to staying there. Signing the guest book, two names disturb him. Where has he heard them before? Why aren't there any other guests? What actually happens is left very much up to the reader, but Roald Dahl, the master of this kind of story, gives us all the clues we need to concoct a grisly ending.

The themes drawn from this story include poisoning, embalming and taxidermy as well as a look at witches.

The kit, originally written in 2003, was updated in 2007 and 2013. The editing process has been the result of a continuing trend for shorter kits. The materials in this BritLit Kit are available to download in the Attachments box below. To download pdf files and audio, right click on the file and save to your computer.

You can also listen to the audio included in the attachments below.

How to use this BritLit kit

The material is divided into three sections: Pre-reading, After reading, and Word Work.

  • Landlady Pre-reading (pdf) examines who Billy and the landlady are and asks the students to speculate on what they might look like. This is an essential activity to do before the task of reading the story.
  • After Landlady text (pdf) has been read - or the Landlady Audio 1-4 (mp3) listened to - there are some activities in Landlady After reading (pdf) which look at some of the issues that can be explored from the story:
    1. The year in which it was set (1959), embalming, taxidermy, witchcraft and a look at some famous poisoners!
    2. Landlady Word Work (pdf) takes some aspects of language in use from the text - the use of reflexive pronouns and a ‘glossary' of words and phrases used in the story.
    3. You can find the answers to activities and exercises plus some suggestions in Landlady Intro+Key (pdf).


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