Roald Dahl Wiki
The Magic Finger
Author Roald Dahl
Illustrator William Pene du Bois
Pat Marriott
Tony Ross
Quentin Blake
Original Publication date 1 June 1966
Publication Order
Preceded by
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964)
Followed by
Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970)

The Magic Finger is a children's story published by Roald Dahl in 1966. Different editions were illustrated by William Pene du Bois, Tony Ross, and Quentin Blake.


The story is about an unnamed eight-year-old girl who hates hunting, particularly from the neighbouring Gregg family. She tries to talk the Greggs out of it, but either they laugh at her, or they ignore her completely. What they don't know is that the girl has a magic finger. With this magical finger, she can curse people and disfigure them by blasting out a beam of energy. The girl only does this when provoked or angry at someone and usually the punishment is ironically suited to how they've upset her or something that they were doing at the time. For example, she turns her teacher into a cat for being rude to her because at the time the class was learning how to spell the word 'cat', and she didn't know how to spell it. After this, she swore that she would never use the finger again. However, she gives in to temptation and uses it again when she finally has had enough of the Greggs' mocking of her hatred for hunting.

The next day the Greggs wake up as tiny people with bird wings replacing their arms and their house is taken over by four human-size ducks with human arms instead of wings. The Greggs are forced to leave and build a nest in one of the trees in their garden where they spend the night. The next morning they wake up to find the large ducks with the Greggs' guns standing under their tree, threatening to shoot in the same way that they have shot ducks. Mrs. Gregg begs the ducks not to kill her, her husband or their children, right before one of the ducks speaks to them, revealing that her own children were killed by the Greggs on their last hunting trip. The Greggs promise never to hunt again and the spell is broken, with the Greggs changed back into normal humans and the ducks returning to normal.

The next day, the girl goes to their house and finds the family smashing up their guns and setting up graves for the birds that they killed. They have even changed their surname to "Egg". The girl feels that things may have gotten a little out of hand but then hears a gun fired by another neighbouring hunting-mad family, the Coopers. She thus sets off, telling the Eggs that the Coopers will be nesting in the trees that night; in some versions of the book, an illustration at the end shows the Cooper family sitting in a nest, having fallen victim to the Magic Finger's same curse as the Eggs before.