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Wilson, David Henry

Entry updated 13 May 2024. Tagged: Author.

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(1937-    ) UK translator, teacher, playwright and author, resident in Europe and Africa for many years, latterly in the UK again; father of JJ Amawaro Wilson. Much of his work comprises picture books for younger readers, like the Jeremy James sequence beginning with Elephants Don't Sit on Cars (coll 1979) [series not listed below]. The Superdog sequence beginning with Superdog (1987), spoofs Superhero Clichés.

As an author of complexly taxing Fantastika, Wilson is perhaps best known for Ashmadi: Ein Märchen (1985; trans by Wilson of his own German text as The Coachman Rat 1987), an adult tale narrated by its protagonist, who has been born as a Rat in the Wainscot-Society interstices of a small medieval town, and who longs to associate with humans, despite family warnings that the human race rules the world because it is murderous. He soon arranges to be captured by a Cinderella figure, and (obedient to the tale he has become part of) is transformed into a coachman in human shape. But after everything else returns to the status quo ante after midnight, the rat retains his powers of speech and cognition (though not his coachman shape), and longs to make his new grasp on the world permanent. After picaresque adventures, during which a Scientist attempts to dissuade him from belief in Magic, he is taken over by a humane student; but both are tricked by a revolutionary agitator, with the result that Robert (as the rat is now known) inadvertently betrays Cinderella, who is burnt at the stake. Transformed back into coachman shape, Robert enacts a savage revenge upon the agitator, who has become a corrupt tyrant. But his inhuman savagery, and the Pandemic which now devastates both rat and human worlds induces him to star in the legend immortalized in "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" in Dramatic Lyrics (coll 1842) by Robert Browning (1812-1889). He drowns his fellow rats to save the human world; and, himself stricken with plague, prepares to die.

The Castle of Inside Out (1997) depicts with allegorical intensity an Underground world into which, led there by a black rabbit, the tale's young protagonist attempts to free the green-skinned underclass (see Race in SF) from the tyrannical oligarchs whose castle is full of riches, but which emits constant Poisons (see Pollution).

Wilson's work as translator includes several titles by Kirsten Boie. For a fantasy-related presentation of his work, see David Henry Wilson in The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below. [JC]

David Henry Wilson

born London: 26 February 1937

works (highly selected)



  • Superdog (Sevenoaks, Kent: Knight, 1987) [chap: Superdog: illus/pb/Linda Birch]
  • Superdog in Trouble (Sevenoaks, Kent: Knight, 1988) [chap: Superdog: illus/pb/Linda Birch]
  • Superdog the Hero (Sevenoaks, Kent: Knight, 1992) [chap: Superdog: illus/pb/Linda Birch]

individual titles

  • Ashmadi: Ein Märchen (Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Krüger, 1985) [binding unknown/]
    • The Coachman Rat (Taunton, Somerset: Hope Corner, 1987) [trans of the above: not established if German text is original or translated from manuscript: pb/]
  • The Castle of Inside Out (London: Macmillan Children's Books, 1997) [illus/hb/Chris Riddell]


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