The Gremlins is a children's book, written by Roald Dahl and published in 1943. It was Dahl's first children's book, and was written for Walt Disney, optioned for a film that was never made, in part because no one could establish exactly who owned the word "gremlin" and in part because they could not figure out how to make creatures who destroyed Allied aircraft lovable enough for a cartoon. On 25 September 2006, a reprinted edition of the book was released by Dark Horse Comics.
The story concerns mischievous little mythical creatures, the Gremlins of the title, that were often used by Royal Air Force pilots as an explanation for mid-air mechanical troubles and mishaps. In Dahl's book, the gremlins' motivation for sabotaging British planes is the destruction of their home, a forest, which was flattened to make way for an aircraft factory. The principal character in the book, Gus, has his plane destroyed over the English Channel by a gremlin, but is able to convince the gremlin as they parachute into the water that they should join forces against a common enemy—Hitler and the Nazis—rather than fight each other. Eventually, the gremlins are re-trained by the Royal Air Force to help repair, rather than sabotage, aircraft, and they also help restore Gus to active flight status after a particularly severe crash. (This was a kind of autobiographical reference for Dahl, who had flown as a pilot in the RAF, and was barred from flying after serious injuries sustained in a crash landing in Libya. He later returned to flying.) The book also contains picturesque details about the ordinary lives of gremlins: baby gremlins, for instance, are known as widgets, and females as fifinellas, a name taken from the great "flying" filly racehorse Fifinella, who won both the Epsom Derby and Epsom Oaks in 1916, the year Dahl was born.