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The Landlady - a short story

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.

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 your imagination, but Roald Dahl, the master of this kind of story, gives you all the clues you need to concoct a grisly ending.

Before you read or listen to the story, try these activities. You can find the answers in the Answer Key below.

There may be lots of words and expressions in the story which are new for you but don’t worry. Try to listen to and read the whole story first without checking. Then you can try to guess the meaning of unknown words from the context. Finally, if there are words that you can’t guess, check the glossary in the links below.

When you’re ready, print out the story here and listen to the first part. The Landlady Part 1

What do you think? How does the first part of the story make you feel? If you were in Billy’s situation, would you choose to stay in that house? Now listen to the second part. The Landlady Part 2

Did you spot anything unusual about the woman’s behaviour? Listen to the third part of the story here. The Landlady Part 3

Where do you think Billy might have heard the names Gregory Temple and Christopher Mulholland before? Find out if your suspicions are right in the final part of the story. The Landlady Part 4

Roald Dahl ends the story without describing exactly what happens to Billy, but gives us lots of clues. Tell us in the comments what you think happens next, and of course, tell us if you liked the story or not.

The story is used by kind permission of Penguin Books.

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Exploring English: Language and Culture

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