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|“||In this classroom, in this school, I AM GOD!!!||„|
|~ Principal Trunchbull's most famous quote.|
Agatha Trunchbull, more commonly known as Ms. Trunchbull or simply the Trunchbull due to her nasty disposition, is the main antagonist of the 1988 Roald Dahl novel, 1996 film, and musical versions of Matilda. She is the former headmistress of Crunchem Hall Elementary School, Miss Jennifer Honey's aunt, and Matilda Wormwood's arch-nemesis. She is also the stepsister of Miss Honey's deceased mother, Mrs. Honey, and is the stepsister-in-law (and murderer) of Miss Honey's deceased father, Dr. Magnus Honey, Mrs. Honey's husband.
She was portrayed by Pam Ferris in the 1996 film adaptation, who also played Marge Dursley in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. In the musical adaptation, she is portrayed by Bertie Carvel. In the upcoming film adaptation of the musical, she will be portrayed by Ralph Fiennes, who also played Amon Goeth in Schindler's List, Rameses in The Prince of Egypt, Dennis "Spider" Cleg in Spider, Francis Dolarhyde in Red Dragon, Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter film series, Victor Quartermaine in Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Hades in Clash of the Titans, Raiden the Moon King in Kubo and the Two Strings and Barry in Dolittle.
Her full name is Agatha Trunchbull, and she is 48 years old, 5'7" (170 cm) in height, and about 195 lbs (88 kg) in weight, black hair and bluish-green eyes. She harbors an intense hatred and total distrust of all children for unknown reasons, and thinks nothing of literally hurling them vast distances or confining those who dare to oppose her into a medieval torture-device that resembles an iron maiden called the Chokey. She has a build to back up her overbearing personality, as in her youth she was incredibly muscular, and while she gained some fat as a result of her gorging of cake and chocolates from the stress of managing a school, she still retains the horsepower, agility, and quick reflexes from her time spent as an olympian and would exercise in her spare time.
Her tortures were so extreme that they could easily have been fatal, (though the only person that she is confirmed to have killed is her brother-in-law, Magnus) every child in the book and film she punished survived. In the novel, Matilda Wormwood believed that part of the reason why her tortures and punishments were so extreme was in order to make the stories about how she punished the children absolutely impossible to believe for a reasonable person; that way, nobody (except whoever saw the Trunchbull executing her punishments) would do anything to stop her, for the simple reason that they would think those stories were simply a product of the children's uncontrolled imagination.
She also berates, torments, and orders around a selfless and innocent teacher named Ms. Jennifer "Jenny" Honey, who is actually her niece. The Trunchbull raised Miss Honey, and broke her arm at some point. She was very abusive and manipulative towards Miss Honey, squandering her privileges throughout her education, and when the time came for Honey to go to college, the Trunchbull was so vile that she demanded Honey surrender her family estate to her, thus giving the Trunchbull effective dominion over the woman.
When Honey was frantically searching for another place to live in, she came across an old abandoned shack. The farmer who owned it said that she was absolutely mad, but gave it to her for 10p. Then the Trunchbull was furious that Honey was leaving her and said she would amount to nothing.
In the book
In the book, the Trunchbull is mentioned in passing by Dahl as the evil headmistress of Crunchem Hall. She is then glossed over by Miss Honey. However, she is first given a detailed description by a girl named Hortensia, who has been an adversary of the Trunchbull throughout her time at school. Hortensia tells Matilda and her friend about the Trunchbull's cruelty, including her extreme punishments and torture. Hortensia even goes as far as to say many children get "carried out on stretchers screaming, I've seen it often."
Matilda then sees the children in the yard fall silent as the Trunchbull approaches a girl named Amanda Thripp and yell at her about her pigtails. When Amanda feebly protests saying her mother loves them, the Trunchbull yells that her mother's a twit and literally picks up the terrified girl and whirls her round and round, yelling "I'll give you but!" and throws Amanda over the fence into the vegetable garden in an attempt for her to be impaled there. Fortunately, Amanda is physically unhurt, though undoubtedly scarred for life.
The Trunchbull then sent everyone to the assembly room, and called up a boy named Bruce Bogtrotter. She accuses him of being a "vicious sneak-thief" by eating her favorite snack, chocolate cake. As punishment, she forces Bruce to consume an enormous chocolate cake in front of the whole school afterwards. After Bruce devoured the entire cake, the Trunchbull was furious that he won and she punished all of the students for cheering him on by making them stay for five hours after school and copy from the dictionary afterwards.
In a scene from the book, she holds up a boy by his hair because it was too long, while in the film, she instead holds up a similar boy by his leg for not emptying his pockets fast enough.
In the book, she is defeated by her superstitious and ridiculous fear of ghosts. Matilda sees her about to torment a small boy, and Matilda, having enough, yanks up the chalk with her mental power and she uses it to write out a "message" from Magnus, the man whom the Trunchbull murdered. The message cleanly states "Yes it is Magnus and you had better believe it," and "Give my Jenny her wages, give my Jenny back her house, then get out of here, if you don't, I will come and get you, I will get you like you got me, I am watching you Agatha," and then Matilda breaks the chalk. Because the Trunchbull sees the chalk floating and writing on its own, she really does believe it to be Magnus's ghost and she has a panic attack and faints. The children and staff revive her but she storms out of the school the next day, scared out of her wits, and having had enough of the place.
In the film
In the film, Trunchbull first appears talking to Harry that she needs an inexpensive car and buys it. Harry makes a deal saying that he will give Trunchbull the car if Matilda goes to her school.
On Matilda's first day of school, Trunchbull appears outside the yard, making the kids stand still. She approaches Matilda, and calls her "fresh meat". She then spots another girl named Amanda Thripp, and insults her pigtails. She grabs Amanda's pigtails and tosses her in the flower patch, with the latter also collecting flowers for Miss Honey.
Trunchbull attempted to drive to the Olympics, but the defective car ran out of gas, much to the villainous and argumentative principal's fury and anger. When she entered the house, she angrily called Mr. Wormwood and threatened to sue and kill him. She then went on a rampage, trying to find Matilda and Miss Honey after discovering someone has entered her house. Luckily, Matilda and Miss Honey have escaped from the evil woman's house, greatly infuriating her.
Thankfully, the Trunchbull was toppled by Matilda's quick thinking and magical powers, who tricked her into believing she was being haunted by the ghost of her brother-in-law (who, it is implied, may have been murdered by the Trunchbull in order to inherit his estate) - upon being convinced of this haunting, she fled in terror. However, she soon found Matilda's red hair ribbon and was now convinced somebody did enter her house.
She showed up at school to teach the children a lesson about who was responsible for intruding in her property. Matilda was now fed up with her torturing, abuse, and cruelty, so she used her power to manipulate a stick of chalk, creating a message on the chalkboard from her deceased brother-in-law, which frightens the Trunchbull. Matilda sent two chalk erasers to assault her, knocking her out onto the floor. When she came to, she threw a boy out the window for sneaking up on her, but Matilda's psychic powers sent him flying back at her, causing the Trunchbull to crash onto a globe.
At Miss Honey's silent suggestion, Matilda then made the globe spin around and around, and the Trunchbull went flying off and collapses onto the floor unconscious. After coming to, she attacks Lavender by charging like a bull, but she was saved by Matilda's power, sending the Trunchbull crashing right through the door into the hallway. Matilda then summoned the lunchboxes of all of her classmates and used her powers to pelt the Trunchbull with their lunches. Seeing this, the students in other classes suddenly lost all of their fear of her. Before she knew it, she was being pelted by lunch food by all of the children in her school, as they were all fed up with being abused by the wicked principal. The Trunchbull, fled in her sputtering car in defeat, and she was never seen or heard from again after this, but it's likely that she either moved to another place to start a new life or killed herself out of fear for Magnus' "ghost". With the Trunchbull's defeat, Miss Honey then adopts Matilda and gets her true home back as well as being promoted into the new principal of the school.
In Dennis Kelly's musical adaptation of the book, Trunchbull sings two songs; "The Hammer" and "The Smell of Rebellion". Some of the themes are different in the musical from that of the film and the book, such as the theme of rebellion and conformity. Because of this, the Trunchbull is portrayed more as an delusional formalist than an adult bully.
In her first song, The Hammer, she expressed her inner thoughts about how the world should be run, and likens it to hammer throwing. In this song, she explains how the only way to be successful in life is to obey the rules and the only way to inspire people to be better is to force them to follow the rules. Empathy and kindness are very poor tools for achieving this goal, according to her.
In The Smell of Rebellion, she punishes the children through physical education and makes clear her distaste for rebellion, which leads to a decline in the morals of society. When the children arrive to the school, she used some teens students to scare and bully the students in "School Song" has them telling the children to wait for Phys.Ed. One of them explains that it is the "Trunchbull speciality", meaning that it is how she punished children or put them in the Chokey same if they seem to warn them to be careful, one students always asks why, more to their annoyance.
In the musical, she is more menacing, vituperative, obnoxious, and cruel over the kids and her niece. At the school, when she said that she would make more Chokeys for locking up all of the children, Matilda uses her powers to write a message from Magnus's ghost on the chalkboard. Subsequently, Trunchbull is chased by a bunch of children who told her to run, and she fled away from the school. It is unknown what has happened to her afterwards, but it is most likely that she left the town, because any person of the town never heard something about her after this. In some stage adaptations, it is said she was arrested after, during a panic attack, letting it slip she killed Magnus.
Agatha Trunchbull is incredibly, almost inhumanly strong. She performs incredible feats of strength such as lifting up a boy named Julius Rottwinkle and throwing him out the window, hammer throwing Amanda Thrip and sending her on a trip spanning several yards, above several stories of Crunchem Hall, and can kick a cat high in the air and make it fly several yards. She has been shown ripping a metal chain apart with her bare hands, and can even lift up a car to reposition it and push it along. By far one of Trunchbull's greatest physical feats is when she vaults over a railing, dropping almost twenty feet and landing unscathed, the impact of said landing triggering a small earthquake.
Trunchbull also has a sense of smell superior to regular humans and can identify faint odors and identify who they came off of. She is very skilled at olympic games, such as the Hammer Throw, Shot Put, and Javelin. Being superstitious, her only fears are ghosts and black cats. Her intelligence is relatively high, but her arrogance is easily exploited.
In the original book:
- Murdered her brother-in-law Magnus to inherit his house (and not even take very good care of the house).
- Broken Miss Honey's arm at some point.
- Made Miss Honey poor by paying her cheaply and also stole all of her possessions and family fortune.
- Verbally abused students and even swore in front of them.
- Swung Amanda Thripp around by her hair and tried to impale her on a fence by throwing her towards it (Amanda narrowly missed the fence and landed in a flower bed),
- Locked countless kids including Matilda in the Chokey.
- Threw Julius Rottwinkle out a window for eating in class.
- Forced Bruce Bogtrotter to eat a third of his own body weight in chocolate cake for stealing her snack. But when he succeeded, she smashed the plate that had the cake onto Bruce's head, and then knocked him out and cursed him.
In the film:
- Killed her brother-in-law Magnus just as in the novel; and let his house fall into disrepair
- Squandered all of Jennifer Honey's possessions; including her family chocolates, Liccy doll, and the portrait of Magnus.
- Verbally and physically abused students and staff.
- Assaulted Amanda Thripp by throwing her into the flower garden.
- Bought a defective car from Harry Wormwood.
- Threatened to murder Harry when she found out his criminal business.
- Made Bruce eat an entire chocolate cake many times his body weight.
- Held a boy upside down.
- Threw a boy out of a two story window.
- Attempted to attack Matilda and Jennifer Honey.
In the musical:
- Killed Magnus, who was her brother-in law.
- She had some teen students to work for her to scare and bully the kids. (They realised she was just using them, by making the kids suffer like they did in their childhood.)
- Swung Amanda Thripp for wearing the pigtails and throw her into the air. (Only for her to fall on the ground or in the other students arms to be cheered)
- Forced Bruce to eat an entire cake, but when he did finished with the help of his friends, she then put him in the Chokey and made him wear a sign saying "I Got Put In The Chokey" to humiliate him even further.
Described as spending much of her time in a "steroidal rage" by Pam Ferris herself, Trunchbull is an explosive, highly-strung, paranoid, wrathful, overbearing, rotten-tempered, and highly erratic thug who takes absolute delight in the amount of fear and intimidation she instills in those around her. Two of the most central aspects of Agatha Trunchbull's personality are her scorn for children and deviants, and cruelty towards the people that she believes are less than herself. In addition, as stated by David Leonard (one of the actors portraying her on the West End), that she is a deeply jealous and competitive individual. As such, Agatha is very quarrelsome, cantankerous, argumentative and unwilling to accept defeat in most circumstances.
She is very attached to her success as an Olympic athlete for Great Britain and she considers herself to be an idol for other people to follow. She is also very bitter, aggressive, self-confident and assertive, exhibiting her dominance around the school.
Later in the book and the film, it was confirmed (or heavily implied) that Trunchbull killed her own brother-in-law to steal his house and money after he broke a contract involving large sums of money. She spared her niece, but psychologically and physically abused her. This shows Trunchbull's avarice that may not be apparent at first glance. It is also likely that Trunchbull harbored intense jealousy as to Magnus's material success, which was fueled more vigorously by her vituperative nature. She also keeps of secret of being very superstitious and naive, which is a weakness that became exploited by Matilda. Despite her strictness, she orders her students to form a crowd and stampede into the school rather than walk slowly in a que, and she shouts "pissworm" in a classroom full of kids, so she has no trouble subjecting her students to swearing.
Miss Trunchbull is also shown to be very superstitious and has an intense fear of ghosts, black cats, and the supernatural in general. Her fear is later used as a weakness for Matilda to scare her thus teaching Miss Trunchbull a lesson.
The Trunchbull has a sarcastic, sardonic and condescending sense of humor, often speaking to the children In a patronising and demeaning manner, and making berating comments about them for her own amusement. This was showcased when she callously made a note of Matilda's mathematic prowess as being made redundant and mundane by the use of calculators or how she rudely described Amanda Thrip's mother a "twit" for thinking her pigtails are sweet. Mrs Trunchbull also considers suffering a great way to build character and believes the children will thank her someday for everything she does, although whether she earnestly means this or simply stated it as a halfassed excuse to justify her actions remains unkown.
In the musical, it is very clear that she has an acutely guilty conscience after killing Magnus and stealing his possessions. She is constantly trying to make herself think that she's a "winner" and most everyone else around her is a "loser". She surrounds herself with her trophies and reminds herself that, regardless of her emotions or the emotions of others, following the procedures of life is the only way to success. At the same time, the Trunchbull believes herself to be an extremely magnanimous and benevolent person, claiming that she is the "Spirit of All That Is Right", while at the same time accusing Matilda of being the "Axis of Evil". She is also shown to be a manipulative woman, as she hired some teenage students to work for her by scaring and bullying the kids, but it was revealed that she just using them because of their own suffering she make them endure in their childhood, she is also afraid of a black cat and a ghost in the musical.
- Miss Trunchbull's role as a cruel teacher is regarded as one of the most common themes in Roald Dahl's works, featuring abusive and unkind teachers or child haters who delight on the childrens' suffering, like Captain Lancaster in Danny, the Champion of the World or the Child Catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. That said, Agatha Trunchbull is best remembered as one of the most crueler examples of evil fictional teachers.
- Maggie Kirkpatrick was originally considered for the role of Miss Trunchbull, but she was unauthorized to work in the United States. In fact, Pam Ferris was cast as the role of Miss Trunchbull instead.
- It is widely believed that Agatha Trunchbull was based off the headmistress of Liccy Dahl (who served as a producer) - who reportedly got very creative with her punishments. However, the Trunchbull was actually based on Roald Dahl's real life experiences during his childhood, where he had a teacher named Captain Hardcastle who was sadistic with him.
- While speaking to Harry Wormwood, she mentions that she was never a child. This implies a rough and/or abusive upbringing, though it could simply be out of spite.
- In the book, after her niece Ms. Honey says that she was once a little girl as well, she claims she was not a child for very long and that she became a woman very quickly which may or may not be true.
- Miss Trunchbull is arguably less evil in the film adaptation than in the book, even having some comedic moments like when she desperately dances to get rid of the salamander. This is because most of her scenes abusing Matilda's classmates weren't included. However, the implication that Agatha may have killed Magnus remains and a scene in which she expresses the idea of killing Mr. Wormwood for conning her is shown.
- Her line, "In this Classroom, In this School, I am GOD!" is one of the most controversial aspects of the movie.
- Agatha's name came from an Ancient Greek word meaning "good". However, it's very ironic for this character; Agatha Trunchbull is just about anything, but good.
- Despite being female, Miss Trunchbull has only been portrayed by a female actress in the 1996 film adaptation of the book. In the musical adaptation, she was portrayed by a male actor and will be portrayed again by a male actor in the musical's upcoming film adaptation.